The old lady in Ollantaytambo Square

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Thu 19 Oct 2017 14:45
She sat herself at the other terrace table and smiled at me alluringly. She had handsome features and a beautiful smile but Quechua women do not smile at foreigners in Ollantaytambo unless they want to sell something. I smiled back but didn't linger, I'm hardened to their technique. She had two shopping bags like the one I bought at the Puno market, one was full of knotted 'friendship' bracelets that she knocks up herself in five minutes and the other contained narrow locally woven fabrics, the width of a belt.

Franco and I glanced at each other. If that was all she was selling, she couldn't be doing very well, the competition is fierce with stalls everywhere selling this kind of handicraft and more.

"Maybe I should buy one of her woven fabrics, it would work well as a hat band," I said to Franco.

"Good idea," he replied.

A Brazilian couple came out of the store with a bottle of beer and sat at her table. She asked if they wanted to buy a bracelet. They didn't. 

An American couple passed by and stopped. The lad wanted to buy a couple of her 'friendship' bracelets. I heard a price, it sounded like 'forty'.

"Forty-what?" I wondered, 40 centavos would be too little but 40 Soles far too much.

The customer pulled out two 20 Soles notes from his wallet, we hadn't misheard. By now, he was no longer smiling, he was beginning to realise he was being cheated. Instead of handing over the bracelets, our extortionist grabbed his money and demanded five Soles more which he reluctantly gave her. Only then did she hand over the goods. 

We were shocked / amazed by the woman's bare faced daylight robbery. The American had just paid US$14 for a couple of bracelets he could have made himself. No doubt he can afford it but it certainly spoilt his day and it will be some time before he trusts an old Peruvian lady again. To put it in a Peruvian context, the 'official' daily minimum wage is 31.15 soles and our friends in Puno were earning even less, 26 soles for a day's work that started at 7am and finished at 6pm. In half an hour, the old hag of Ollantaytambo had extracted more money than most of her fellow countrymen could ever earn honestly in a day.

Photos of Ollantaytambo

Most streets had water running down the centre or the side

The Inca fort ruins seen from the town

View of Ollantaytambo from the fortress

Some of the terracing

Guinea pig kennel?

Demonstation potato crop to show how the terraces could have been used

Monument staff practising the Condor Dance for the next fiesta