Hello, ye readers! Today is exciting because I get to introduce you to Alison. Alison is a recent graduate who, instead of buckling down and getting a job, ran off into the wilds of Peru to, you know, hike, eat chocolate, and hang around. Woman after my own heart, she is.
Alison will be contributing about twice a month here on Of Revolt, and I’m stoked to see her photos and read her tales of journeying across South America. Here’s the first installation – enjoy!
Hola amigos! My name is Alison Nabatoff and I will be stopping in time and again as a guest writer here on Of Revolt. I was raised in a suburb of Washington, DC, and this past spring graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Anthropology. While many of my fellow Princeton grads took the first train to Wall Street after graduation, I had a slightly different destination. Whether it was my strong desire to travel and explore the real world outside what is known as the “Princeton Bubble,” or my acquisition of a degree in a field that employers don’t find particularly practical, I’ve decided to travel through South America for the next eight months with my friend Claire. Though Claire and I may not have any marketable talents and are pretty much unemployable, we make great travel buddies (maybe I’ll add that to my resume when I get home in 8 months).
First things first, for those looking to take a trip to South America, flights can be incredibly expensive. Since I am a recent college grad traveling the world for eight months on my life savings, an expensive ticket wasn’t in the cards. After some intense research I came across TACA/Avianca airlines which had flights that were about half the price of the competitors. While the prices are very dependent on when you choose to travel, I was able to buy a one-way ticket to Cusco, Peru for $450 as opposed to $900. I should also note that that not only were there no checked baggage fees, but there were also full-fledged dinners, blankets, pillows, and even free alcohol! Lets just say I am now a walking spokesperson for TACA/Avianca.
After arriving in Cusco, Claire and I started our adventure by traveling to the small town of Ollantaytambo, which is in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Many travelers may have heard of Ollantaytambo, or Ollanta as the locals call it, because you must pass through the town to catch the train to Machu Picchu. Anyone seen the movie Cars? Ollanta mirrors that town in the movie. If you haven’t seen Cars, this probably makes no sense, so go watch it, it’s a great movie.
Anyway, we took what is called a “colectivo” which is the most popular and by far cheapest means of travel in Peru. Unfortunately, since our attire and totally clueless facial expressions screamed tourist, we were charged about double the actual price for transport from Cusco to Ollanta. Learning the costs of various things like market food, transportation, and clothing takes a bit of time, but we have adopted the motto of “live and learn,” which we revert to every time we are ripped off.
While there are some struggles when it comes to transportation, once you arrive in Ollanta you are immediately surrounded by beautiful Ancient Incan culture. The town itself sits in a valley with the Incan fortress on one side, and ruins of a storage facility on the opposite mountainside. While guarded by these two marvelously maintained sites, much of the town within the valley is also built using old Incan structures and rock walls. Beyond incredible Incan architecture and ruins, the nature within the sacred valley is, for lack of a better word, majestic. The rolling Andes mountains stretch to the horizon in all directions and the sky is a pure blue that is unmatched in the States. Incredibly enough, you can drive about two hours up the mountains from Ollanta and be in a glacier, and then descend down for two hours to a town called Santa Teresa and be in the jungle. In no more than 5 hours you will have worn long sleeves and pants, a winter coat with a hat and gloves, and a bathing suit. Let’s just say the packing for a trip like this, which many more adventurous travelers take as the way to Machu Picchu, is quite a challenge.
Claire and I have found the best way to take advantage of the absolutely incredible history and geography of the Sacred Valley is to hike. There are countless hikes at varying degrees of difficulty, almost all of which promise a combination of mountains, glaciers, lagoons, Incan ruins, ancient terraces, and much more. If I were to tell you there were multiple photo moments that would be grossly understating it. I usually return with hundreds of pictures, documenting each and every moment of the hike because there really isn’t a view that doesn’t deserve capturing. The photos you see here are from the hikes I have been on thus far, all of which started in the town center of Ollantaytambo.
Since I will be stationed here in Ollantaytambo for the next two months, there is much more to come about this peaceful town. Before signing off though, I have to take a moment to draw attention to La Esquina, a small cafe located within the town square, or “Plaza de Armas.” La Esquina features a menu somewhat catered to tourists passing through to Machu Picchu, which includes a peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich, falafel sandwich, a combination salad bowl, and most importantly some incredible deserts. As a food lover, I don’t think it gets much better than the falafel sandwich with the warm chocolate bread to finish the meal off.
Until next time!