Sunday, December 4, 2011

One of the Seven Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu

What an absolutely fascinating past two days it has been! I´ve seen ruins, salt mines, convents, glaciers, and the unbelievably scenic Sacred Valley, first by car, then by train following the swift and menacing Rio Urubamba all the way to the town of Aguas Calientes. And from here I have taken a final bus to one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu.
It really looks like that!
I am sitting in an internet cafe in Aguas Calientes since the connection in the hotels is so incredibly slow that uploading any pictures is out of the question, and even so I´m not so sure how far I will get. So, I´ll invest a buck for an hour of access since I am bursting to tell you about how miraculous this country is. I´ve been to Ecuador and Bolivia, but what I had seen there cannot measure up to what I´ve been seeing here in just 48 hours. Here is a quick rundown of what I have been doing since leaving Cuzco 24 hours after my arrival.

A hairless Peruvian dog at the sanctuary
 Punctually at 7:00 a.m., my driver Jaime showed up at the Hotel Prisma in Cuzco. Jaime´s services had been arranged by Chrissie of the Apu Lodge where I was going to stay in Ollantataybamba last night. Jaime was from O. and must have left home early! Together we went on a grand tour of some of the finest sights of the Sacred Valley that stretches along the Rio Urubamba. On the way to our first stop in Pisac, where some of the most fantastic ruins are located that I have ever seen, we stopped at a small animal refuge where among llamas, alpacas, cougars, and condors I also saw my first pero Peruano, an almost hairless Peruvian breed. The condors with their 11-foot wingspan were impressive, and I even got to get close-up with a one-year-old condor.
Meet Alpaca (left) and Llama (right)—see the differences?
On we went, with us chatting about life in Peru, in the US, his kids, my retirement. Although I suspect that he spoke pretty good English we talked all day in Spanish, which is a good thing for me. Our next stop was the old Inca town of Pisaq, or Pisac in Spanish. Here we visited the terraced ruins that overlook the Sacred Valley. Just like at all the other places, we beat the tourist crowds by just a little bit, leaving when they arrived. It´s fantastic to have these places practically to oneself.
The Sacred Valley near Pisac
In the ruins of Pisac

After paying a short visit to the very touristy market in Pisac we drove on to Chinchero, high up on top of the world at something like 3,800 meters or so, topping 12,000 feet! There the Spaniards built a massive convent on top of old ruins, and once again the sight (and the view from up here) was spectacular. These windswept areas are barren of trees, and corn no longer grows here--it´s all potatoes, of which there are said to be 5,000 different varieties in Peru!
The old Spanish church at Chinchero

And this is where today´s entry has to stop. My time is up, and the video game that has been going full-blast inches to my right is driving me batty. For tomorrow I am planning another excursion to Machu Picchu (let´s see how badly I can hurt my legs tomorrow traipsing up and down all those steep trails) before I will take the late-afternoon train back to Cuzco. I will add more photos when possible (which could be as late as an Admirals Club on the way home), but they will come. I have some really cool ones and may have to add a slide show. There are also some very interesting videos, but they would take days to upload down here.

Also, my first entry from Peru now has a few pics. Yes, it took an hour to upload four photos!

Hasta luego,


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