Sunday, April 9, 2006

April 9, 2006 - Peru

As the fresh bread, tomales and boiling maiz first hit the
streets before sunrise, we too made our way to the rail to
head from cusco to the famed aguas calientes and machu
pichu. Out of the city the train did not circle up the
mountain, rather it zig-zagged its way out of town, and
down into the valley. The Andes creeped in on all sides and
the topography of the land rolled from farmland and small
villages to a ferocious river with the mountains hugging
in. The trip was gorgeous and after about four plus hours
of observing the hardworking peruvians on their land and
the rushing waters we came to the end of the line at Aguas
Calientes (hot waters). This was a town that reminded me of
many skiing villages in the Rockies out west...mountains on
all sides, a rushing river with many pedestrian bridges
connecting both sides, and the excitement that travelers
bring. We we able to take in the hot springs shortly after
our arrival and then settled into the hostel as the
following morning we set out for machu pichu. We awoke
before dawn and made our way the 8km to the entrance area
to machu pichu. As the moring dew was still upon the area
and the clouds we still forming a luminous fog, our climb
decended upon our first view of the legendary inca empire
city of machu pichu. As many pictures as you may have seen,
they never would do justice to seeing it in person.
Although you may think that it is a place to just see, it
is actually a huge area that has hours upon hours of hiking
and exploring. We hiked to the surrounding area to see the
Inca bridge hanging from the rock face, we explored the
never ending ruins and then made the big pluñge. You have
the opportunity to hike the mountain next to machu pichu
and up to waynapichu. This is certainly not for everyone.
It is a 70 degree (truthfully, according to the
guides...reminded me of climbing your attic stairs) incline
up natural steps in zig zag patern for a minimum of an
hour. You are watching every step as your heart races and
the air thins. You finally come upon waynapichu and are on
the edge of dropping off the edge, winding up inca block
steps, through a small cave among the mountaintop ruins and
then finally hopping to the very pinnacle of wayna pichu.
Here I sat at the crux of the mountain feet dangling where
any false step would mean about a 9000 foot drop. With
Andes all around, the clouds lazily passing by, and a full
view of Machu Pichu below. A site I will never forget. Upon
walking about the ruins, getting up close and personal with
the alpacas, we finally said goodbye. We decided to hike
down the 8km back to the village and I have to admit that I
don´t think I have ever walking up or down so many steps in
6ish hours or so in my life. After taking in some 'fuel' we
finally borded the train and wound our way back through the
mountains, the pastures, the rushing river at sunset and
back to cusco.
This morning I awoke before dawn and even with sore
muscles, I hiked to the 40ft stutue of Jesus Christ that
overlooks the city with open arms. I took in some time with
the locals as they rode their horses and played morning
games of soccer and then went into the plaza de armas as
Palm Sunday was in full force. The beutifully handcrafted
palm crosses in multiple design were flying as the huge
cathedrals Quechua men and women chanting floated out of
the giant doors. The Peruvian guard marched and raised the
flags as the clear skies were in full effect.
All of these scenes, the sights, the smells never stop
delighting me.
Off to Puno tomorrow morning on the train....