Backtracking out of Aguas Calientes was the reverse of arriving, but still a fun area to backtrack in! On the hike back to the hydroelectric dam we were a bit more aware of our surroundings after seeing them from above.
(can you find Machu Picchu? Hint: Machu Picchu mountain is peak at top center, Huayna Picchu at top left. No wonder this site was undiscovered for so long...)
(between Sta Teresa and Sta Maria)
(it was a bit dusty following Mark)
(we had a nice clear ride this time over the Abra de Malaga)
(managing to pull into the famous Ollantaytambo market on a Sunday afternoon. Busy. Super busy. With a silly traffic jam caused by one-lane bottlenecks on each side of the market. Mark made it through a crucial opening before the trucks closed the gap, so we met him in the plaza a little while later)
("Prohibido Estacionar" where? Over there?")
(Ollantaytambo is a cool little town to explore, with ruins basically in town)
(sunset from one of the many small pedestrian walks surrounding the main streets.)
(Mark had taken advantage of the market to find a souvenir hood ornament. Here at the machine shop getting it fitted for its zip-tie mounting)
(here ready for the road)
From Ollantaytambo we headed down to Pisac, another well known set of ruins in the Sacred Valley. We had heard you can drive/hike above them for a good view without having to pay the entrance fee (which sounded perfect because we were having a hard time justifying the S/130 or 150 fee to enter all of these other ruins, especially given that in northern Peru - in fact anywhere that isn't easily reachable from Cusco - the entrance fee is S/10). Turns out they just meant from the road, but the view was still pretty good.
(Pisac from afar)
We had a nice, cheap (only S/4) menú del día with Mark in Pisac before saying our good byes (for now).
From Pisac we motored to Pikillacta, a sprawling pre-Incan ruin that is much less visited than many sites. We timed our arrival perfectly to pay our S/10 entrance (ahh) and wait out a strong thunderstorm in a bus shelter. We had the place entirely to ourselves.
(the site covers nearly 2 square kilometers, with some walls running almost 1 km long. It was apparently only ever used intermittently, never as a permanent settlement.)
After an hour or so we continued on down the road to Sicuani where we eventually found a place to stay the night. That town was not a highlight. The next day was fun, though as we worked our way through some small towns towards Arequipa.
("Spring breaker". Within 50 km we saw 3 other names for the everpresent speed bumps: the classic "reductor de velocidad", "giba", and "resalto". But "rompe muelle" is the best.)
(we even ran into Will, who we hung out with in Lima, on the way. He ended up sticking in Peru for more time rather than heading down to Chile right away, but we may see him again in Bolivia...)
(pulling into Arequipa was a bit busy. This is the usual state of traffic near the plaza)
(but at least they have cops at almost every corner who blow a whistle but don't change much. Lady cops often wear cowboy hats. So many different styles of hat exist throughout the Andes. But not cowboy hats. Except on lady cops in Arequipa.)
Arequipa was a nice town to explore for a few days. The downtown area has a nice colonial feel, there are lots of good restaurants with plenty of variety (favorites included Mediterranean and Mexican, of course), and the people super friendly (including the lady who randomly offered to help us start a business there). However, it was not a good city for our errands. In fact, we went 0 for about 7. But in short, Bolivia does not have a consulate there, even though Bolivia's consulate webpage lists a specific address and phone number. We found the address but the door man was insistent that it never used to be there. Wikitravel listed a coffeeshop as having a book exchange, but when we asked the employees they thought we were crazy. Mike could not find a moto shop to buy an oil filter (but he did get the air filter blown out, so 1 small errand was accomplished). And some other smaller tasks just didn't get done. Leaving aside specifics, Arequipa was cool to check out. But don't do it from the Point Hostel. That place sucked.
(Arequipa's famous rocoto relleno = stuffed pepper. Served with pastel de papa = potato cake (literally), it's a layered potato casserole. Too much food, but sooo good. We had this upstairs at the public market.)
(Plaza de Armas at night)