Peru Day 5: Machu Picchu

Continuing our trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

This morning, our driver picked us up from our hotel in the Sacred Valley at 6:30am and drove us to Ollantaytambo, where we caught the Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu.  Fortunately, we would be coming back by the hotel in the evening, so we were able to leave our suitcases with the hotel staff.  All we needed to bring was a backpack to hold the stuff we needed for the day, as well as anything that we didn’t want to entrust to their care.

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This train was very nice, even though it wasn’t the overpriced, super luxury one.  Midway, there was a drink and snack service, where James discovered that he liked mango juice and John discovered that he liked pear juice.

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After following the river and seeing other beautiful sights, the train pulled into Machu Picchu Pueblo, the town below Machu Picchu, where we met our guide and 4 other people who would be joining us for our tour.  She led us to the bus station, where we took a winding 20 minute journey to the main ruins.  Once there, our tour began.

Apparently, in the peak of the summer, there can be long waits for the bus, but since we came at the tail end of the summer, there wasn’t much of a wait to speak of.

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First up was a fairly steep walk to a postcard view of Machu Picchu.  Amazing!

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This is where I was very grateful to Jeremy for taking me to South America.  For whatever reason, this has always been a continent that I have not been super interested in.  I think that I always pictured a jungle with diseased mosquitos and scary anacondas, but this was quite the opposite.

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Can you imagine what Hiram Bingham, the guy who found this place and told the rest of the world about it, must have thought?  The sight is incredibly beautiful and it seems amazing that the rest of the world didn’t know about it.

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Articles like this Smithsonian one suggest that it is possible that people knew about it, but that they simply didn’t realize the significance of what they found.

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The boys were disappointed to learn that Machu Picchu is too low of elevation to find alpacas.  Apparently, in Peru, they are only found in very high elevation, typically 11,500-16,000 feet, but the boy were mollified to learn that there were 14 wild llamas that call Machu Picchu home, including several nursing babies.

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After getting quite a few photos, we continued a little higher towards the watch tower.  One nice thing about Machu Picchu, in comparison to the Sacred Valley, is that it is at a lower elevation of only 8,000 feet, in comparison to the 9,500 feet that we were becoming accustomed to.  It felt great to have more energy and not feel as sapped by the altitude.

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This area was quite rocky and we learned that it was the quarry where a lot of the stones used to build Machu Picchu came from.

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In any case, it made a nice resting area before descending into the main sites.

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As we traveled down the mountain, we encountered some everyday structures with ordinary stones.

The Incas seemed to really like terraces.  Most of the sites we visited seemed to have them.

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After walking a bit, we reached the temple, which was quite impressive.  The stones are cut so exact that they need no mortar and you can’t even fit a piece of paper between the stones.  How did they achieve this without modern tools?  The locals have a lot of theories, many of which are quite odd and supernatural.  Telekinesis is one idea a later guide suggested to us.

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Of course, some parts of the temple have fallen with time, but the majority of it was so well built that it can withstand almost everything nature can throw at it.

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After spending some time in the religious area, we wandered down into the everyday areas that included work, military, and housing areas.

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The first floor of the living areas were for living, the second was for storage.

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Our guide was fairly good and had a lot of interesting stories that kept the kids interested.  James asked a zillion questions.

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As we wandered, we found more of the llamas.

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Some of them posed quite nicely, but some were more interested in their food:

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While others were a bit aloof and camera shy, and required more effort:

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Between the llamas and the views, it was an amazing day.

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After the tour, we had a very nice buffet lunch just outside the entrance.  Even though it was a bit pricy, the other option would have been to pay for a roundtrip bus ticket back to Machu Picchu Pueblo, which would have been about the same price as the lunch, and it would have taken a ton of time.  If your tour has it as an option, definitely consider it.  The food was delicious and was a great overview of Peruvian food.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ceviche, the corn soup, the desserts, and tons of other stuff.

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At this point, we re-entered Machu Picchu without our guide and enjoyed some time on our own.  Definitely worth seeing again.

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We then wandered down to the town and wandered the market.  We were quite tired, and it was raining a bit, so we stopped for coffee.  After the rain stopped, we wandered a bit more and heard some nice music coming from a band inside the police station and stopped to listen for a bit.  Next, we found a long, steep road that seemed to take us through the main tourist part of town towards the hot spring baths.  There were a ton of shops, some advertising swim suit rentals, which sounded a bit gross.

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Once the sun set, we took the train back to Ollantaytambo, met our driver, drove back by our hotel to pick up our suitcases, then continued on to Cusco.  It was a very long day, but also one of the best days I have ever had.

 

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