29.03.2012 - 29.03.2012
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).
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.
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).
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.
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
- 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...)