Tag Archive: Machu Picchu


My Junk

someofmyjunk

There, some of my junk. Not that TSA would be interested in my junk, unless they were having an office party…

I am not planning anything today, I expect to be successful. We are into our third week of 40°+C temps, it’s so hot that I forgot to water my plants a couple of days ago and nearly killed some of them, but they recovered. The bushes that line the park in front of the house are all wilting sadly, we badly need rain.

I read a travel blog the other day. It was extolling the virtues of visiting Machu Picchu in Peru and it referred to the “Inca citadel high in the mountains”. It’s not a travel blog that I would have much faith in, because Machu Picchu is in the jungle, mountainous, but jungle. This is actually and illusion that many people have.

I took this photo in 1997

I took this photo in 1997

Yes, it looks like it’s in the mountains. But the altitude is a mere 1,700 metres above sea level.

The staring point for a Machu Picchu trip is Cusco at 3,600m asl, which is indeed high in the Andean mountains, but many don’t realise that when you travel by train to Aguas Calientes, the town below MP, you are going downhill.

maria moleMy shopping yesterday was a success, I now have food. I bought a few extras too, bottle of wine, some Camembert and Brie cheese and I bought some Maria Mole (marshmellow covered with grated coconut).

The pack that I bought, had three white and one pink. Last night I munched two of the white ones, yummy. I don’t often buy such treats, just when I have a hankering. Now, I have a problem; I have one white and one pink… which one do I save until last? Oh, life is so beset with problems!

I have pizza for lunch. Yes, I cheated, I bought a ready made one, but I will gussy it up extra cheese and some bacon. The theme of the day is simplicity.

It’s 11am, I must take a break and put my pants on.

Blogging right along until beer o’clock.

Later.

Sunday Travel Tales

Chapter 13 – Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

 

A five o’clock start, early calls for everyone. It’s a good thing we didn’t have a late night at Rosie O’Grady’s. Breadrolls and strawberry jam for an early breakfast, then it was bags downstairs and into the bus for our next trip.

 

Today we were off to the Sacred Valley, the first part of our journey to Machu Picchu. 6:30am, yawns and bags into the bus and we got underway. The city seemed strangely quiet at this hour. We briefly visited some archaelogical sites like Qenqo, and Tambu Machay and Puku Pukara on the way to Pisac, the first town in the valley.

 

atambo-machay

Tambo Machay fountains

Both Qenqo and Puka Pukara were pretty much run-of-the-mill archaeological sites, they were “ho hum” interesting. Tambo Machay, was where the action was. The action consisted of two spouts of water flowing from an Inca wall. They were ceremonial spouts and to put one’s hand under the water of the appropriate male or female spout one was assured of success in love. Okay, now we would all have successful love lives and we were again on the way to Pisac.

 

Pisac ruins looking down at Pisac - image: AV

Pisac ruins looking down at Pisac – image: AV

The attraction of Pisac is the “Sunday Market”, but today wasn’t Sunday. However we were assured that the market exists on other days too, although not as grand and less tourists, so more freedom. First we were taken to see the Pisac ruins, and after a strenuous downhill scramble we would get to Pisac. The ruins were high above the town. We were afforded a grand view of the Urumbamba Valley and river, as well as seeing some of the best preserved ruins in the area.

 

Pisac market

Pisac market

The descent to Pisac was, as promised, strenuous. We arrived in the Plaza exhausted, ready to sit and relax. Coca tea and fizzy drinks were welcome. We still had about 45 minutes to explore the market, which covered the entire plaza. We were left wondering if this was a small market, what must the one on Sundays be like? Stalls made from blue tarpaulins were every where, offering souvenirs. Alpaca jerseys, Alpaca wool wall-hangings with beautiful pictures, statuettes of everyday life and erotica (apparently even the Inca must have appreciated this aspect of life) were among the offerings.

 

aTerracesOllanta

The terraces at Ollantaytambo – image: AV

After testing our powers of bargaining we were off once again, this time to the town of Ollaytaytambo at the head of the valley, with more ruins to explore and the prospect of lunch. Again were were assaulted by people selling everything as we made our way through the township and into the ruins where again, our tourist tickets were punched like a bus-conductor. As groups or singly we explored the famous terraces of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo was famous as the last stronghold  and stand of Manco Inca against the  Hernando Pizarro’s Spanish conquistadors in 1536. So we were privileged to be at the last place on Earth where the Inca existed as a civilisation

.

Kids playing

Kids playing in the princess bath – image:AV

Besides the terraces there is also the smaller site below known as Inca Misanca, which has the Baño de la Ñusta, the “princess’ bath”. The lesser site is rather better preserved and today the bath is the playground of the many children who visit, a somewhat ignoble end to a noble beginning.

 

After our individual explorations, lunch, and then off to the train station. We had to get the train from here to Aguas Calientes. The train was due to arrive at 3pm from Cusco. Our travel agency had bought the tickets from Cusco in the morning, so we were guaranteed of seats. Most tourists tour the Sacred Valley on one day and catch the train from Cusco to Aguas the next, our company combined the two events to save time and an unnecessary trip back to Cusco. At the station we waited amongst the locals who were waiting for the same train. This was the local train, not the tourist railcar which would have whisked through here much earlier in the day without stopping. This was the train that served local communities from Cusco to Quillabamba much further along the tracks.

 

The train arrives at Aguas Calientes

The train arrives at Aguas Calientes – image: AV

The train arrived, along with the commotion, people disembarking, people (including us) embarking, all through the same doors at the same time with much pushing and shoving.

 

Again we found our seats occupied by locals, this time, however, we didn’t make such a fuss, we accepted places dotted about the carriage and left the invaders in peace; we were becoming culturally accustomed. For the rest of the journey we looked at the scenery going past our windows. It was interesting to note that the vegetation changed, from Altiplano to more tropical types. Something that people aren’t generally aware of, knowing that Machu Picchu is also a mountain, people expect to go up to Machu Picchu, in fact, Machu Picchu is down, at only 1,800m a.s.l. We passed many small villages, kids waiting for the train, we stopped briefly at some stations until we found ourselves in the deep gorge of the Urumabmba River and chugging to a stop at Aguas Calientes. Our signal to get off. We did, amongst tourists with backpacks and locals, all pushing and shoving in every direction again.

 

The steep main street in Aguas Calientes - image: AV

The steep main street in Aguas Calientes – image: AV

We were pleased to be out of the station and found ourselves in a small plaza, a neat fairly modern church and our guide led us off to our lodgings. The street wasn’t a street in the general sense of the word. It was a series of steep steps and slippery concrete slopes up the hillside, we seemed to be going up and up forever with our bags. Finally we reached our hotel, it was with a collective sigh of relief that we dropped our bags where we stood sweating in the humid atmosphere.

 

We were in the entrance to the hotel, it served also as the lobby, reception and in the morning we discovered also the dining room. It was a quaint place, colourful with lots of plants in the central courtyard off which were our rooms. We settled in quickly and gathered again in the lobby-reception-dining room were we met our guide for the next day when we were to explore Machu Picchu and to dutifully receive our complimentary pisco sours.

The colourful hostel  - image: AV

The colourful hostel – image: AV

Tomorrow was to be an early start, we were to catch the first tourist bus, which left at 6:30am, up the mountain. That meant we had to be up and watered and down at the bus stop before then. Hmmmm, an early night was called for. It was already 6pm, time to explore a little and have dinner. There were hot pools at the top of the street, so I opted for those to relax. After it was group time for pizza, and more complimentary pisco sours, a local band entertained us with music from the Altiplano played on a variety of panpipes with guitar and native drums in accompaniment, followed by our early night.

 

We yawned collectively over our breadrolls and strawberry jam at 5:30 in the morning. We also enjoyed a lot of fresh fruit, paw paw (papaya) and watermelon, lots of fruit juice too and for the first time on our trip we had cereal with milk. Then it was day packs on our shoulders and off downhill for the bus.

 

A lone llama in the mist at Machu Picchu  - image: AV

A lone llama in the mist at Machu Picchu – image: AV

Once aboard our guide started his story of Machu Picchu and how it was only discovered in 1911 by Hiram Brigham, along the road with the steep sides of the gorge on one side and the Urubamba river some 30m below flowing furiously through the narrows on the other. Across the river and up the zig-zag road that took us to the top. We were surprised to find a five-star hotel up there. One look inside the lobby, which didn’t double as a dining room, told us why we were staying at the hotel in Aguas Calientes, very plush. Nilo, our guide, came and distributed our entrance tickets and we were off in the crisp morning air. It was still very foggy, which added to the mystique, as we climbed among the ruins, pausing for Nilo’s commentaries. We were the first group of tourists in the place, the people who had hiked the Inca Trail would just be coming across the last pass at this hour to descend into Machu Picchu. So we were privileged to be able to take photos without the presence of lots of people to detract from the essence of our visit.

 

The ruins at Machu Picchu  - image: AV

The ruins at Machu Picchu – image: AV

We walked, we climbed, we paused to rest and listen in this once land of the Inca. The mist and fog cleared and the day became bright and sunny, and the walking hotter and sweatier as we marveled at the once lost community and tried to imagine what Machu Picchu must have been like in its heyday. Some of the structures were massive, others were more modest and had obviously been the living areas. There was an ever present evidence that Machu Picchu was primarily ceremonial. Water courses and aqueducts ran through the place, little waterfalls and spouts making picturesque interludes. Machu Picchu was truly the marvel we had been promised, it was everything that had been written about it.

 

Fountains in the ruins  - image: AV

Fountains in the ruins – image: AV

The day wore on, and after being in the ruins for four hours in the now hot hot sun it was time to return to Aguas Calientes. I elected to walk down the hill and back to Aguas, so I set off alone. The others, who were not quite so adventurous waited for the bus at midday.

 

After descending down, sometimes inelegantly for the way was scree, the track that cut the zig-zags and crossing the bridge, I found myself alone in the solitude of the gorge. The steep rock sides rose far above me, dwarfing me, and the feeling of being an insignificant part of the natural order of the world was so overpowering as the river ran wildly on my right far below. It was an eerie feeling, one that I had never before known.

 

After lunch, it was back to the station to get the train back to Cusco, we arrived at 9pm, back to the hotel, dinner and bed. For tomorrow was another adventure, we were flying to Puerto Maldonado and off into the jungle.

Sunday Travel Tales

Yes, I know it’s Monday. Somehow I’ve managed to let carnaval get to me. I had a post planned for yesterday, I was going to continue the story of the Colca Canyon, but I found a story that is a little more current; like in the news this morning.

Machu Picchu & The Inca Trail

Now while I have been to Machu Picchu more times than I can count on both hands, I have never been on the Inca Trail; that is not to say that many of my tourists haven’t been. You see on the trips I accompanied around Peru the Inca Trail was an option. The tourists who wanted went with local experienced guides while I accompanied those who didn’t want on a tour through the Sacred Valley and then on to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu the next morning where we arrived to regroup with the ‘Trailers’ as they descended from the trail into MP.

So I have a pretty good idea of what the Inca Trail consists of. Here’s the story I found this morning.

Student takes on Inca Trail for charity

A TEENAGER from Goring is to attempt a nine-day trek in Peru to raise money for charity.

Student Sarah Taylor, 19, will take part in the Machu Picchu Inca Trail Challenge in August.

The trail reaches altitudes of 15,000ft as it takes in the Andean mountain range.

Miss Taylor, of Elvendon Road, hopes to raise £2,850 for the Meningitis Trust.

She said: “I’ve never really travelled and I wanted to do something for charity so I thought I would combine the two.

“With this challenge, the trekking is not the most difficult bit. The real test is the altitude as it can leave you feeling breathless, even after a couple of steps. Also there is the possibility of altitude sickness, so it is by no means going to be easy.”

Miss Taylor, who is studying for a maths degree at Nottingham University, saw the challenge advertised on campus. She will be among a group of about 20 students on the trek and will be holding fund-raising events before it.

Her parents are John, 50, a chartered accountant, and Jane, 50, a teaching assistant at Goring Primary School, where Sarah attended before going to Our Lady’s, Abingdon. The couple have another daughter, Vicky, 16.

To make a donation, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/sarahtaylor12

Source: Henley Standard

Doing the Inca Trail is not as fearsome as many imagine. Yes, it’s a slog at times, especially the second day when you climb the most in altitude.

Doing the trail you begin in Cusco, where the altitude is 3,600 in the city, although the airport altitude is a little lower and often misquoted as the city.

One of the initial impacts on going from sea-level (normally Lima) to 3,600m (10,000ft +/-) for the first time is you may/may not suffer from Sorrochi (altitude sickness). Some suffer, some just breeze through it. It normally strikes you the first time you go above 3,000m, once you have experienced this once, normally you never experience it again. Sorrochi can affect people in different ways, a simple headache to full blown nausea and dizziness to the point where some (very rarely) need to be evacuated to sea-level a.s.a.p.

Abra de Huarmihuañusca or 'Dead Woman's Pass' at 4,200m

Some groups go by bus, others by train to Km 82 where the four day trek begins. Km 82 is a lower altitude than Cusco, you climb then to 3,000m, 12 km trek to Wayllabamba at 3,000m where you stay the first night. The second day you also cover 12km, but climb to Abra de Huarmihuañusca or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ at 4,200m, from there it’s a steep descent to Pacamayo, 3,600m for the second night.

Photo credit: Naked South America, great story of the trail there.

From that point the trek is mainly down hill until you get to Machu Picchu at 2,200m.

Machu Picchu

What many people don’t realise is that from Cusco you are basically going downhill to the rain forest. Many people are under the illusion that Machu Picchu is higher in the mountains, it’s not.

While I have written about the 4 Day trek, there is another option of a 2 Day trek starting at Km 104.

Next Sunday, we’ll continue with the Colca Canyon story.

%d bloggers like this: