Monday, 1 September 2014

Machu Picchu

Our plan on the morning of our trip to Machu Picchu was to get up early and catch on of the first buses up the mountain so that we could spend as much time as possible there before returning for the 4:30 train back to Cusco. We would leave my backpack at the hotel and take his backpack with our jackets, his camera and my can of oxygen. As we packed to leave, John realized he couldn't find the tickets for Machu Picchu anywhere.  We had purchased them the day before as they only sell a limited number each day and we didn't want to come all this way and not be able to get inside!  I had kept a black folder with all of our hotel confirmation numbers, flights, train tickets and so on but the only thing I didn't have was the tickets for Machu Picchu.  I was sure he had put them in his camera bag but the only thing he could find in it was the train tickets.  Frantically we searched everywhere with no luck.  We did find his receipt but not the tickets.

We had a quick breakfast in our hotel lobby.  It was mostly breads and some yogurt and John's coffee was a thick dark liquid coffee concentrate that he poured into his coffee mug and then had to add hot water to in order to drink.  We talked to the front desk clerk and he said we should be able to get in to Machu Picchu with just our receipt so we boarded the bus (still had our bus tickets!) and started the long climb up to the top through a series of switchbacks on a narrow gravel road. 

When we arrived at the turnstiles at the front gates, we showed the attendant our receipt and he went inside to check if we could use that to get in.  As other people handed in their tickets we noticed that the tickets looked very similar to our train tickets. John pulled them out of the camera bag - oops!  They weren't our train tickets, they were the Machu Picchu tickets.

And then, we were climbing the steps up to the guardian hut and overlooking the amazing lost city. Words can't begin to describe how big it is - truly breathtaking to be looking over the temples, the agricultural terraces, and the homes of Incas from hundreds of years ago.  We were up so high that the clouds were below us and the village of Aguas Caliente was a mere speck in the distance. 

One of the most unexpected surprises during our trip was the weather.  We were travelling during the rainy season and every weather forecast I had checked had called for cool wet weather with a high of 17C each day.  Instead we had beautiful warm weather each day.  Poor John had to carry the backpack with our jackets and sweaters and I found myself wishing I had worn shorts! 

While we had a fantastic time spending the day exploring the site, I do wish we had hired one of the many many tour guides who were waiting at the bus drop off point. I had a booklet with information about the various buildings and a map but there were very few signs inside and the bits and pieces that we overheard from the guides working with other families sounded really interesting.   If I had one piece of advise to give to other people planning a trip to Machu Picchu, it would be to hire a guide!  Hindsight .......

It was hard to choose just a few pictures to post of our day at Machu Picchu.  No matter how many pictures I post, they just don't capture the spirit and the amazing energy of this sacred place.  If you are thinking about going to Machu Picchu, if it's on your 'bucket list,' go!!!!!  It is worth every penny, every inconvenience, every minute!!!!

The clouds are below us - crazy!!!!!  My new screensaver :)


When we first entered Machu Picchu, we climbed to the Guardian Hut and then made our way past one set of agricultural terraces to the entrance for the Inca Bridge, which is about a twenty minute hike. Before you can hike on the trail down to the Inca Bridge they make you sign a guestbook, and then you sign back out again at when you return. That we they know if someone went down the trail and didn't come back.  Now you are only allowed to hike to a certain point and then you have to stop.  Years ago, you were allowed to hike onto the Inca Bridge but someone fell and died, hence the change in rules. As we were hiking to the Inca Bridge, John was backing up to take a photo and I noticed there was no guard rail, no rope, no nothing behind him, just a very very long drop to the valley floor below.  I wonder how many tourists are injured here each year?

If you look closely the dark line about three feet above the path is a piece of chain that hikers would hold onto as they hiked down to the bridge.

Close up of the 'bridge'

Signing the guest book so they know we made it back safely from the Inca Bridge trail

Temple of the sun

Even though I had to stop at many points throughout the day, we felt like we had been able to take our time and see all the sites we wanted to see.  Colleagues who had visited Machu Picchu last year had done it as a day trip from Cusco and they had advised us to stay overnight.  They had felt rushed and I'm so glad we took their advice.  The train from Cusco arrives around noon, by the time you went and got your bus tickets, got on the bus ride up to Machu Picchu, you would only have an hour or two before it was time to head back down to catch the last train to Cusco at 4:30. 

Sacred plaza with temples and house of the high priest
Sacred Rock which is almost the same shape as Huayna Picchu
Below the Temple of the Sun is the Royal Tomb, which is called that even though there is no evidence that anyone was every buried there.  Many of the buildings are simply known as the Temple of Ten Windows or the Temple of Three Doors as no one is certain what they were used for.  Because there is no written Incan language, what interpretation you hear depends on who your tour guide is.  One tour guide would describe the Temple of the Condor as a prison and then next tour guide would exclaim 'can you believe they used to think this was a prison.  Ridiculous!'


Look at the size of those rocks. And the ever present trapezoidal window.

This rock is a really big deal and the park staff are there to make sure you don't touch it or sit on it.  This is the Intihuatana which loosely translates to 'hitching post of the sun.'  Most of these rocks were found and destroyed by the Spaniards in their attempt to eliminate sun worship.  It is thought to have been used as an astro-agricultural clock for viewing the relationships between the stars and constellations. 

My new buddy :)
We caught the bus around 8:30 and stayed at Machu Picchu til around 1 pm.  Just as we got on the bus to head back downhill, it started to rain.  Great timing!

As we went back downhill, we met several buses coming uphill on the very narrow winding road and actually had to back up a couple of times.  SCARY but we made it.  We decided to have lunch at Trip Advisor's number 2 restaurant in Aguas Caliente - El Indio Feliz Restaurant.    Luckily this was one meal that didn't involve a long search - it was right across the street from the restaurant we had lunch at the day before. How sad to think that while we were suffering through that awful lunch, a fantastic restaurant was right in view.

Our booth, the kissing booth, at Indio Feliz. Awesome food!

Our lunches were amazing, the service relaxed as always.  By the time we finished a leisurely lunch the rain had stopped so we did a little last minute souvenir shopping and then made our way to the train station to begin the journey back to Cusco.  It was like the peak of Machu Picchu had been the peak of our trip and now we were starting the descent - train and bus to Cuscu, flight to Lima, flight to Detroit.  Time to start the whole process in reverse.

By the time we arrived back in Cusco, we were pooped.  We checked back into our hotel and were assigned a different room. Same price but this one was on the second floor and had a little living room area.  We grabbed some snacks at the convenience store a block away to eat in our room and then 'hit the hay.'  What an amazing day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The tip of Huayna Picchu as seen through John's telephoto lens.  You have to get a separate free ticket for access and they only have 200 tickets at 8 am and 10 am each day. Temple of the Moon is on this peak.  We didn't have the time or energy for this hike. Maybe next time????

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