Friday, October 23, 2009

Machu Picchu, hereafter abbreviated as MP (by Todd)

An early morning flight brought us to Cusco, where we had quite a list of tasks to accomplish for the morning - it was quite a nice little Saturday, not sure we´d have enough time to visit Home Depot...

  • Visit a doctor for Juli´s leg and get some professional assessment of the damage

  • Do laundry for the first time on the trip

  • Get some Peruvian currency (Soles)

  • Decide when and how we would be making the trip to Aguas Calientes (think of AC as ¨base camp¨for a visit to MP)

  • Buy tickets for MP and the other Incan ruins around Cusco

  • Find out if any treks to the Choquequirao ruins were scheduled anytime soon

The doctor recommended that Juli not do any intense trekking, so our plans to hike to the ruins of Choquequirao were scuttled. While Juli was at the doctor, Todd handled the laundry and currency issues, leaving only the MP tickets and visit planning to go.

MP is a bit difficult and costly to visit on one´s can be purchased in advance in Cusco (with Peruvian Soles only, exact change required) and are good only for one visit within the following three calendar days. From Cusco you have to get to a town called Aguas Calientes - the easiest way is by rail but of course, there is only one rail company so prices are pretty high (ranging from $75 to $300 one way). We found an alternative around this by taking two taxis (for $8) to reach a city called Ollantaytambo and then hopping on the train from there where it is strangely cheaper ($30) and more frequent. This also gave us the chance to visit the ruins at Ollaytantambo, the site where the Incan emporer fled after he failed to recapture Cusco from the Spanish conquistadors, despite having a manpower advantage of greater than 100,000 to 170. We´ve been reading an excellent book on the fall of the Inca Empire (see reading list to your right), which makes quite a difference in visiting these historical sites, some of which sadly may look to others like just piles of rocks.

We arrived in AC around 11PM, found our hostel, and prepped our daypack for the mornings visit to MP. From AC there are two options to get to MP - by bus or by foot, of course we chose the latter. We woke at 4:30AM, strapped on our headlamps, and stumbled out of our hostel around 5AM to begin the hour and half hike straight up the hill, about 400 vertical meters, to the gate of MP. It was pretty brutal, especially when we arrived and saw about 200 people who had beaten us there by taking the bus. But at least we were within the magic first 400 admissions, which gave us the ¨right¨to make another 700 vertical meter climb to Wayna Picchu, the peak you see in the background of all the famous photos of MP (including the one to the right on this very page).

Compared to other ruins MP is quite impressive in its scale and its state of conservation - to us it is definitely its worth its billing as one of the man-made wonders of the world. Though intially foggy, we had some sun break later in the day which allowed for some decent photo ops. Early in the day it was quite easy to move about the site, but as the crowds poured in (day-trippers on the train from Cusco) it became more difficult to walk around. We spent about 5 hours at the site before heading back down the hill (this time we took the bus!) to catch our afternoon train back to Ollaytantambo. We ´splurged´on the ´Vista Explorer´train which included some kind of cultural show and an alpaca wool fashion show, both of which Todd slept through - but Juli got some good pictures we´ll post later. Once in Ollaytantambo it was back in a taxi to Cusco where, for the first time on the trip, we had planned to spend two consecutive evenings in the same hotel!

1 comment:

Grace said...

Thanks for the education!! Glad to hear Juli got a doctor to look at her leg. MP sounds amazing, we look forward to the pictures. Very creative ways figuring out how to get to MP at a reasonable cost.:) Headlamps.....Todd's invention!:)