Inca Fitness

One of the things Sara and I loved about Ollantaytambo was the wide range of strenuous outdoor activities on offer. In addition to exploring the ruins of Pinkuylluna and Ollantaytambo fortress (see last post), we undertook two such adventures. Here’s the story about each.

We went with the divide-and-conquer approach on Saturday the 16th: Sara took care of a variety of business items and went for a peaceful walk around town, while I rented a bike and pedaled up the Abra Málaga, an Andean pass that reaches nearly 14,200 feet in elevation and crosses the South American continental divide. This was a very challenging ride, consisting primarily of an uninterrupted 23.7-mile climb that ascended just over 5,000 feet – from a starting point of 9,100 feet! Fortunately, it got less steep the higher I climbed, so it remained feasible throughout.

Beginning on the lush valley floor, I climbed up and up, through sweeping switchbacks, along an insistent stream. Though my legs ached and my lungs burned, the biggest challenge was actually the aggressive dogs I encountered along the way. (Get off and walk past the worst of them, holding the bike between them and me.) Gradually, trees dwindled, then smaller shrubs; I was making my way into a remote and desolate world of fog and wind. At the top, a pair of indigenous women welcomed me into their shack for coffee by a small but crucial hearth, amid a family of rabbits, a scraggly cat, and a couple of hens.

Then, of course, I got to enjoy an hour straight of descent back into the Sacred Valley. Here’s a Strava link and a photo gallery from this ride, one of the hardest I’ve done:

On the 17th, we decided to warm up for our upcoming Machu Picchu explorations by going on a huge and taxing hike! (This was also my idea of a recovery effort after my continental divide bike ride the day before.) Our goal was the Inti Punki, or Sun Gate, an Inca ruin located on the ridgeline of the Sacred Valley, supposedly located so as to frame the sun’s rays as seen from the Sun Temple in Ollantaytambo, on some date, at some time. Along the way, we would also pass a series of quarries used by Inca laborers to source massive stones for the Ollantaytambo complex.

This hike was not so dissimilar, actually, from my bike ride the day before. From Ollantaytambo we climbed and climbed, until there wasn’t any more climbing to be done, then we returned the way we came. In this case this meant climbing more than 4,000 feet over a 12.4 mile hike, almost all of that during the 6.2 mile outbound leg. Now imagine doing this regularly, barefoot, while hauling heavy things. The Inca must have been jacked.

Check out the Strava recording and a photo gallery, below.

Rather winded but eagerly anticipating the next day’s travels (to Machu Picchu!), we gratefully concluded our time in Ollantaytambo.

The moon rises over the Sacred Valley.

3 Replies to “Inca Fitness”

  1. Abra Malaga ride and Inti Punki hike – both EPIC! Loved the descriptions. Drew, we could practically feel your legs burning. And, yes, let’s hope the journey is the destination!

  2. I am exhausted just reading your blog entry and I’m just sitting at home sipping a glass of wine. Enjoy each moment and Sara remember that you don’t have to keep up with Drew to enjoy the journey. But, you already know that. Love journeying with you.

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