Sushu's Travel Journal

April 13, 2012

From the Lima Airport

Filed under: Latin America — Tags: , — admin @ 12:40 pm

So I haven’t written since Chiclayo, mostly because there was a paucity of functioning wifi in our rooms in ollanta and Cusco. So on Wednesday afternoon we visited Pisac and Ollanta Inca ruins in the sacred valley with a private guide that wasn’t very good at explaining things without prompting. Then on Thursday we woke up early and made it through the chilly rain to Machu Picchu. After an unsatisfactory lunch at Agua Caliente, we made our way to Cusco. Early this morning, we took a walk around Cusco, dropping in for morning mass at the giant Cusco cathedral, checking out the mummies and khipu at an otherwise unimpressive Inca museum, visited the sun temple and Dominican church hybrid of koricancha, and bought various tchotchkes. I also tried guinea pig, but wasn’t impressed. A major hamper on our Inca experience was all the illnesses. To begin with, I was recovering from diarrhea from Chiclayo, and so was dealing with a very sensitive stomach. About an hour after landing in Cusco, Jono suddenly got hit with BOTH the diarrhea and the altitude sickness. This continued the next day in Machu Picchu and got so bad that we got medicine for Jono. To make matters worse, Jono got majorly sun burned at Machu Picchu, so by the time we got to Cusco, he was a wibbly feverish mess. :( I was slightly better, having gotten my fever out of the way in Chiclayo. Nonetheless, the altitude affects SUCKED. My heart was pounding even when I was lying down to sleep, and I was short of breath for climbing about 10 steps.

Regardless, it was stunning and beautiful and totally worth it.

Machu Picchu is absolutely amazing. The day before, we had already seen Inca ruins: Pisac that perched high up a bluff, commanding an excellent view of the Urubamba river valley. Ollantaytambo, a temple and military complex where the last Inca held off the Spanish. But Machu Picchu was at a whole new level. We took the early morning 6:10 am train to Agua Caliente, then got on a bus that took the winding switchback road up to Machu Picchu. That early in the morning, there was a light drizzle, and the mountains were shrouded in clouds and mist. As we went up the switchbacks, we alternated between views of the mountains that surrounded the valley, and the mountainside, dense with cloud forest ground cover… all I could recognize were ferns and cacti, but there was just such an intensity of green that was only broken by 2 things: rapids and streams running down the mountain, and the foot-wide staircase of the Inca trail tenuously tracing its way up. There was so much water, especially for us, who had just come from the deserts of the North coast where rain would fall about once every 11 years with the El NiƱo, where rain was so shocking that the Moche sacrificed people and our taxi driver in Trujillo still remembers the time when it rained for 15 hours straight. And yet here at every turn there are streams, Inca water channels, the mountains shrouded in mist, the Urubamba river below us… look at me, waxing poetic and we haven’t even gotten to Machu Picchu.

Pisac:

Ollantaytambo has been lived-in since the 1200s:

Road to Machu Picchu:

The entrance to Machu Picchu was rather unassuming… a long cabin to buy entrance tickets and 3 turnstiles. But once we got through and rounded the hill, Machu Picchu opened before us. That first look took my breath away. Sure, we spent the next two hours exploring specific areas with a tour guide– the sun temple, moon temple, courtyard, terraces, etc. But in that first view you see all of Machu Picchu before you, and even if you have never seen anything Inca before, it’s plain that this was a CITY, one that had multiple functions, one that was active in trade and life just 600 years ago. I got a similar feeling when visiting Bergama and Ephesus in Turkey this past summer, but what made this even better was the land that surrounded the city. The city was very high up, so there was a great view into the valleys below, but at the same time, it was surrounded by even taller mountains. Unlike in Turkey, the grandeur of the city can be taken in all at once upon entrance. The many different tiers also creates a more dynamic landscape. There is also a sense of seclusion… there is nothing else around except mountains. It was at once sprawling and expansive, but also neatly tucked away in the Andes.

First view of Machu Picchu:

View of the surrounding mountains:

Picture of the central plaza:

Okay, enough for now. It’s almost time for the plane.

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