Spectacular isn't a big enough word to describe rafting down the Urubamba River. Braced on all sides by the dry and dusty peaks of the Andes and lined by the ancient walls and fortresses of the Incas, the swift current carried our raft through the rapids with amazing speed. Upon my inquiry regarding the danger rating of the white water we encountered, on a scale of one to five, I was concerned to hear our guide reply that in the rainy season the Urubamba River is rated as a six which I could only assume that by South American standards meant certain death.
Our leader, Juan, navigated the rapids with the experience of a seasoned whitewater guide and kept us well positioned against the perils of the fearsome river. Ironically enough he was the only amigo in the boat that was ever in danger of falling out as he concerned himself more with our safety than his own as we hucked a waterfall that measure over a meter. His small misfortune was especially hilarious as he had just concluded several stories wherein his wards had fallen overboard only to be lugged back into the boat as their clothes were swept away. We were roaring with laughter as we chided him before pulling him into the raft about better having his swim trunks still on.
After perhaps five miles we finally arrived at our destination, a small family run restaurant by the banks of the Urubamba, where we were greeted with a much appreciated home cooked lunch which we quickly devoured. We then began our journey by van and navigated several perilous roads and bridges [which, in our estimation, were highly suspect] and over mountain passes that had our nails embedded deep into the armrests. Needless to say, renting a vehicle and trying to navigate the ''highways'' of Peru on one's own is highly unadvised.
At the time I thought surely the grandeur of the Urubamba with its golden lining of ancient roads and forts could surely not be matched, at least not during one 24 hours period, but Peru Country is surely full of surprises and the ancient city at Ollantaytambo was no exception. Upon arriving at Ollantaytambo, the grandeur and scale of these ruins steals one breath away faster than any high altitude climb we had experienced thus far and is only to be rivaled by Machu Picchu itself. We explored these ruins with mouths agape as Juan described the miraculous feat of transferring the stones from one mountain, across the Urubamba, to the other. Not only was the physical feat of moving the stones beyond comprehension but the fitting and smoothing of the massive boulders into perfect keystones and pillars gave us a newfound respect for what was once thought to be a wild and savage culture. Juan told us of the various astrological achievements and advanced irrigation techniques employed at the site, still evidenced by the small canals that ran through the streets and viewing stones that lined the observatory.