A Travellerspoint blog

Macchu Pichu to Cusco

Up at 0500 for great (cooked even!) Breakfast and catch the MP bus @ 0600 - day looks good! Lots of other people also going up early - 30 minute switchback road beyond the museum we visited yesterday. Entrance busy as tickets checked and we started off. Trail uphill steepens in thick tropical cover bends and then you see the first of the stone terraces and lower structures of the royal estate of Pachacutec, greatest of the Inca kings (the "Thunder King", c. 1450).
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The setting is truly extraordinary, even with, perhaps especially because of the clouds drifting across the site and surrounding mountains in the now rising sun. At 9000' the air is clear and thin, and light floods the site, built on a saddle between two mountains, Macchu (old) Pichu (mountain) at 10500' and Wayna (young) Pichu (mtn) at 10000'. It is believed that the MP site was itself a third mountain that lay between that the Inca builders chiselled down to make a home for their greatest king.
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Juan gives us a great tour I can't fully relate here covering the terraces (more being recimed from the jungle each year), water systems (a natural spring at higher elevation in the area was channelled over), stone joinery work (the very best by Tejuana masons from present-day Bolivia, the King's personal/family rooms, the "Hitching-Post of the Sun" (a ceremonial mini-mountain and evidence of the commercial and spiritual significance of MP in the Inca world (lines from MP lead to Inca markers on the top of other mountain peaks within sight).
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It would leave you breathless but the elevation has already seen to that!
Ric leaves to hike up Macchu Pichu mountain (couldn't get a ticket for tightly-controlled Wayna Pichu mountain) and charms (he swears) his way past the trail guards to do that. At the top he later looks down on MP site and WP mountain - amazing! Myself and most of the others in our group toil our way to the Gate of the Sun where those who have backpacked the Inca Trail have their first view of MP. It is a reasonably tough walk uphill for an hour or so and quicker back! Saw lots of tiny orchids along the way thriving in this tropical cloud forest.
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Back, down and out to visit the cafeteria and toilets before catching the bus returning to Agua Caliente by 2, collect our bags at the hotel, catch the train back to Ollantaytambo at 3 IMG_20120328_082123.jpg
- ah, such luxury sitting while the Urubamba roars by beside us - then meeting our tour bus at the PeruRail station and back to Cusco for the night at the same hotel as before.
Everyone is quite tired from the day so after a quick light dinner at Jacque's restaurant in the area and off to bed. We are to be up at 0500 tomorrow (again!) to do a tour of The Sacred Valley of the Incas before we leave the Cusco area the next day to head south, through the Altiplano and on to Lake Titicaca. This is a trip that neither quits nor disappoints!
(Photos to come - phone camera lost charge...)

Posted by alangcampbell 18:06 Comments (0)

Cusco to Agua Caliente

Up at 0430 and on the road before 0600 to drive 2 hours over some mountains and into the Sacred Valley of the Incas to Ollantaytambo to board PeruRail's Hiram Bingham train (owned and operated by, no kidding, Orient Express) for the 90 minute ride to Agua Caliente, the town below Macchu Pichu.
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The only way in to this area is by train or trail and it is rugged with the Urubamba River in high flood right now from the rainy season.
Cool little town, catering to an international, adventurous crowd, tiny streets leading straight up from the roaring Urubamba River. Rooms and service in our little hotel are great.
I'm better (now, at Juan's suggestion,on both altitude pills and antibiotics) but still not 100%, so stay with the rest (but Ric) in AC and walk out along the road to MP to visit the site museum and adjacent orchid garden - very lovely walk in the tropical cloud forest that is this area.
Ric, keen to have 2 days at the MP site, alone of our group, takes the bus from AC to the MP entrance, and, using his personally-annotated maps, hikes around the place for about 4 hours. They close at 5 pm and it began to rain in earnest around 4 so that was a good call. What energy! Almost Inca-like, he zipped around the main site a few times to get a feel (it is labyrinthine in parts) then out to the Sun Gate (from the Inca Trail to MP) and back, the Inca Bridge and back and around a few parts of the site again! He returned absolutely thrilled and awed by what he had seen so we were looking forward even more to our group visit the next day, cruelly early of course.

Posted by alangcampbell 18:04 Comments (0)

A Day in Cusco

Two amigos down to one this morning. Alan up and down overnight with chills and toilet needs- Juan confirms likely altitude reaction (12,000') and tablets started. Some others have also succumbed but Ric is fine. He and Nat hike to a nearby Inca site, then Ric carried on to a hill with a huge statue of Jesus, then takes the central Cusco orientation walk with the rest. Very large and ornate cathedral toured, lovely central square - both rebuilt after 1650 earthquake - and another nearby square, with more local shops, old high school (which Juan attended) and yet more churches. Since Cusco was the Inca capital with many sacred sites to Inti, God of the Sun, daily animal and periodic human sacrifices, the Spaniards razed them and built churches over them.
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Cusco is much larger than we expected: population 1 million including nearby centres, but it is nice to explore the lanes and squares, except for the many fast small cars that don't give way to pedestrians! Ric very solicitous, looking in on the patient, but sleep the best medicine for now. Gatorade delivered and handmade "do not disturb - no entrada" sign on room door to ease the pain.
A light supper for Ric (Alan fasting) and early bed to prepare for 4:30 am wakeup as we leave for Macchu Pichu.
I'll add some photos of Cusco to this post later...
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Posted by alangcampbell 03:40 Comments (0)

Chalhuanca to Cuzco

Left Tamopumayu Resort at 0800 to head further up and into the mountains past Abancay enroute to Cuzco.
Lots of debris on the roads although crews are out in force to clear them away.
Stopped at Saywite to see an Inca celebration mound with a ¨blueprint¨ for a city as yet unknown and perhaps never built. The Incas harnessed the engineering-architrectural-building expertise of the Wari people whom they absorbed into their empire in the 1400s to create many new cities, all meticulously planned
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The weather clears and sun comes out as we stop for lunch, then to see the Apurimac River and the Cuarhuasi canyon with its roaring cascades.
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Another stop at Tarawasi to see a huge Inca ceremonial site on top of which the Spaniards built a large hacienda. One of Peru´s early presidents, a military dictator, took back all such lands from Spaniards in the 1970s, expelled the Spanish gentry, and distributed the land to the indigenous people. The wall stones are perfectly joined in the timeless Inca fashion.
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After another long day of driving we finally reached Hostal Apu Huascaran in Cuzco around 7 pm.
We did manage a group dinner at Pachapapa, a nearby restaurant where Ric and I enjoyed a selecdtion of Peruvian favourites including alpaca steak, potatoes and stuffed peppers.
Tomorrow we have the day in Cuzco to rest, explore and shop!

Posted by alangcampbell 14:34 Comments (0)

Nazca to Chalhuanca

Left Nazca at 0800 to visit ancient aqueducts on the way to the mountains.
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The Nazca dug underground rock-lined waterways from the Andes foothills 15 miles to their farmland and it still works today, more than 1500 years later.
We drive up the dry eastern slopes of the Andes - a perilous road leading to moist clouds and greening hillsides. IMG_20120325_101349.jpg
Saw guanacos and vicunas feeding near the road and many llamas and alpacas.
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Mostly ancient enclosures, trails and small buildings on more and more desolate altiplano. Crossed continental divide at 4800m , drinking lots of water to ease altitude adjustment. Lunch at Puqui, a small village where revellers were still drinking and dancing for a wedding the day before!
Huge boulder half-blocking the road east from Puqui as heavy rains have caused many landslides. More clouds, then rain, hail and snow as we go up, down and repeat. Spectacular views down, but rain increases and driving slows to avoid landslides on highway.
Arrive at Tumpamayu Hotel & Resort at 1930 near small town of Chalhuanca. Soup and bedin very nice room Italian/Peruvian wilderness lodge style.
A long day and another tomorrow as we head for Cuzco.

Posted by alangcampbell 20:32 Comments (0)

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