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Urubamba River Rapids, Peru
Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes
May, 2012
Photos & text: Robyn Khorshid

See Colca River, Peru, here




After leaving Ollantaytambo the gradient is gentle, but once the rapids start they are almost continuous. This section of the river is also known as the Vilcanota River, eventually ending up in the Amazon, to the east. Much of the flow is snow melt, greatest in Spring, but in some of the headwaters of this long river there is a high rainfall, mostly in the wet season which is from December to April. This level, typical for May, is considered low, but good for photos of rapids, with all the rocks emergent and giving form to the flow of the river.


The valley floor is occasionally wide and the gradient more gentle. It also allows for settlements and agriculture. One sees much Inca terracing wherever there's the slightest chance of growing crops such as corn or potatoes, sometimes only on a piece of land just a metre wide.


My calculated guess is that the river drops more than 700m in the 40km or so from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (the end of the train line) and here forces its way through a narrow channel, resulting in this ferocious rapid! And it's not the only one!




Aguas Calientes is the town which is the meeting place to get to Machu Pichu and as far as the train goes. It has a dramatic setting, surrounded by soaring peaks and roaring rivers. Just downstream and around the bend from here the Urubamba winds around the three sides of Machu Pichu mountain and Wayna Pichu (the small mountain which is the backdrop in the most popular photo of the ruins).

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