Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Rest Of The Story - Ollantaytambo Ruins

It's the rest of the phantom cab saga......

When we get the text from our cab-booking-guy that says, "Beware!  Your driver does not work for my company!"

Mr. C immediately starts to interrogate our taxi driver -- who suddenly (and conveniently) cannot speak English.   He's not getting very far, until he finally tells him to take us back to our hotel.  Once he sees an entire day's fare going out the taxi window, suddenly (and conveniently) his English improves to the point that he can negotiate.  Mr. C tells him, then writes it down to show him what we agreed to pay for the day (for the guy we actually hired, I mean); and he's willing to pay Mr. Phantom Taxi Driver the same, but no more.

Mr. Phantom wants double (he wants that fare for each of us); we repeat the take us back to the hotel if we can't agree deal.   So finally, in writing, he agrees, and we continue on our way to the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo.   The taxi story, however, is not yet complete.

It's a couple hours' drive to Ollantaytambo (known as Ollanta for short), so we settle in to watch the countryside roll by.   Mr. Phantom has a terrible cold; he is hacking and sneezing and blowing his nose all day long.  I'm hoping we don't catch it from him, closed in as we are.  It starts to rain, so we can't see much, and we can't roll the windows down to breath some fresh air.

This is known as a "living Inca town".

 There is water (and perhaps some sewage?) running through open channels in the streets; there's a sizable market; 

And a few small restaurants catering to the tourist traffic.  

I think, outside of the rain and the sewage, it would have been nice to stay overnight here, just to experience the town properly.  
I can see that it could be very charming.

But Mr. Phantom awaits our return to the taxi, so we grab a quick bowl of lentil soup (very delicious!) at Hearts Cafe, where the profits go to help pay for procedures for kids with heart issues; and then we pull out the hoodies to our raincoats and start the ascent to the top of the ancient Inca fort.

It's terraced, in true Inca fashion.  The elevation issue has been killer for me, and it makes even a flight of stairs a problem; so the climb to the top (elevation is 2,792 meters; 9,160 foot to us American's) is much more difficult.   

 But we manage, and the view is spectacular.  
(It's always amazing from the top, right??)

Even in the pouring down rain.

I'm completely enthralled.

Isn't it just wonderful???    

But now it's time to head home.  We head back to our waiting taxi. 

 But we find that now that Mr. Phantom is headed back home, he is stretching out the day as best he can.  He's being paid by the hour, remember.   So Mr. C is tracking our route on his IPhone (this is a handy travel tip -- once they know you're watching, they tend to not to jerk you around so much); and he sees that we are zig-zaging home instead of going the direct route by which we came this morning.   

Then, as we are finally getting close to town, he pulls over at what looks like a gas station, which looks to be closed, jumps out of the car with a "Uno memento" and disappears.  For something like 25 minutes!   At first I'm nervous!!   Are we being set up?  Are we going to  be robbed?   Where did he go?   When is he coming back? Is he coming back?   Then I'm verging on panic.  Oh, my gosh, that old man in front of us is taking his pants down.  He is actually taking a dump right in front of our car!   This is something I did not need to see!   What can I use to defend myself if I need to?  A pencil!  That's the best I can come up with.  Perhaps I can stab someone with my mechanical pencil.  It has a metal tip, after all.  I hide my money wallet as deep underneath my layers of clothes as I can, and I grip my pencil, and I wait.  I never want to just be the victim.

But it's been hours, and I need a bathroom.  

I'm thinking about laying on his taxi horn, but Mr. C thinks it's a bad idea to call attention to the fact that we have been abandoned here.  He's probably right.

Finally, finally Mr. Phantom shows up.   I start yelling.  "Take me home!   Right now!   Take me home!"   He might not be able to understand the words, but he understands the tone.   I clap my hands together on the phrase "Right now" just for added emphasis; and I break a nail.  That's just perfect.

But he gets the message.  And remember, he's not been paid anything yet for the day.  So he buzzes that last few miles like a bat out of hell.   We pull up at the hotel, we are ready to absolutely spring from the cab before it even comes to a complete stop.  Mr. C throws the agreed amount of sol's at him, and we sprint up to our room.

And three days later, sure enough, I catch Mr. Phantom's cold......

That's just perfect.


  1. How are these drivers able to hijack from a business? I don't envy that adventure!!!! Sorry you caught that cold, but glad you survied!!!

    1. Well, the answer is simple, Mary C. They show up at a hotel or a tourist site, knowing that the people at these places have (possibly) hired a driver -- and then they lie to you! I felt bad for the guy who we "really" hired for the day -- 'cause he got zero, and through no fault of his own. Not fair. Liars and thieves -- I detest them both!

  2. I am so happy to know you made it through that crazy adventure. Mr C is so careful with all the arrangements. I am pretty sure you and your mechanical pencil would have been the successful last man standing. Yup. My money's always on you! Great photos and insight to how we need to be careful!

    1. Thanks, KS. There was probably no need for alarm, but, because Mr. C had done everything possible to prevent "random" -- "random" ended up to be alarming! It's always good to be on guard, though.....even if your only weapon of defense is a mechanical pencil. Right in the eyeball. Just sayin'.


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