|s/y Nine of Cups
|From Marcie's Journal...
"There were maybe a dozen people total when the fog finally burned off by about 0845. Everyone was quiet or speaking so very softly, and there was
a collective "ahhh" when Machu Picchu first came into view far below. It was mystical, awesome, inspiring, breathtaking ... beyond description. The
fog would drift back, then, wisp by wisp, dissipate, finally rendering a crystal clear Machu Picchu far below us. It is a place of contemplation and
meditation. I write these notes as we sit atop Huayna Picchu and what I see is so magnificent, so beautiful, it literally brings tears to my eyes."
We remained there for nearly two hours, taking it all in, desperate to remember every detail and etch it into our minds. I took photo after photo,
knowing I couldn't possibly capture all the beauty and emotion I was experiencing, but trying nonetheless.
|From LaPaz, Bolivia, we bussed back to
Cusco, Peru. The scenery was awesome
and I woke up at one point to see huge
snow-covered mountains in the near
distance and snowflakes swirling outside the
bus window. Cusco, capital of the Inca
Empire, is our last stop on this trip and our
most anticipated destination.
To the right, as always, the cathedral asserts
its presence in the plaza...day or night.
|Cusco...Gateway to the Incas
|Cusco reminded us lots of Cuenca, Ecuador. Red clay roofs, large cathedral and distinctive roof toppers
to protect the homes from evil spirits. To the far right, taking an alpaca for a morning walk.
|We had picked up a great book,
Exploring Cusco by Peter Frost
which David had been reading to
learn more about our self-guided
tour. We decided to take a trek to
some Incan ruins close to town.
. The book called for an hour’s
trek and though we got lost once,
we made it to Sacsayhuamán
(gringos pronounce it “sexy
woman” much to the chagrin of
the locals) in about 40 minutes.
Lots of stone steps and my legs
were killing me, but breathing
wasn’t nearly as labored as it had
been in Bolivia.
|Sacsayhuamán (which means speckled falcon in Quechua) is a combination sacred city and fortification
overlooking Cusco. Francisco Pizarro, famous Spanish conquistador, defeated the Inca king, then held him
hostage till the Incas paid a huge ransom in gold. He then executed him anyway. Pizarro appointed another
Inca, Manca Inca, as king, but Manca Inca, realizing the Spanish were here to stay, raised a huge army and
|rebelled against the Spaniards. The deciding battle was fought here at Sacsayhuamán. The ruins of this fortification exemplify the superior
engineering talents of the Incas. The “fit” of the huge boulders, some with a multitude of hand-cut facets, is extraordinary, even today. In some
places, even a razor blade could not be inserted between the stones. They’ve stood for over five centuries withstanding earthquakes that razed later-
built Spanish buildings. We toured several other Incan sites by horseback enjoying the views, knowing we were riding on the famed Inca Trail and
soaking in the energy of the hundreds who had passed this way before. We visited the sites of Qenqo, Temple of the Moon, Puca Pucara and
Tambamachay. This is the second most important Inca ruin site, second only to Machu Picchu, and while much of it has been destroyed, enough of it
remains to get a feel for the monumental engineering expertise and feats performed by this so called “primitive” people. They had elaborate tunnel
systems, aqueducts and reservoirs, constructed huge forts and temples, devised an agricultural terracing system which efficiently used all arable,
though mountainous land and much of this is still in use today.
|The map shows the train route. Don’t make fun
of me in front of the train…it was about 0530
and even at my best I’m not that photogenic.
|The views from the train were outstanding.
|A woman sells lilies along the tracks.
|A bandito entertained on the train.
|A statue of Manco Inca graced
|Arrival in Aquas Calientes.
|We opted for a tourist hotel,
Gringo Bill’s which was
affordable and very comfortable.
|The town was all up…more steps.
|On a walk we noted thick, lush jungle
highlands, lots of bugs and prolific,
|At last, the high point of our trip…Machu Picchu.
David had done his homework. If we crossed the
ruins to the far side, we would find the trailhead
up Huayna Picchu (also called Waynapicchu), the
peak which provided the perfect spot from which
to view Machu Picchu as the morning fog burned
off. From a distance, Huayna Picchu looked
ominous and very, very steep (which it was). We
were #6 and 7 to sign out with the “guard” and
up we went. What a trek!
|Up, up, up...steps, steps and more steps! The trail was
well worn with thick, lush jungle encroaching from the
sides. We were in a cloud of mist and lost sight of the
valley as we climbed higher and higher. The trail was
narrow, single file only, and some of the steepest parts
had cable or ropes to hang on to. One area required us
to go into a cave, squeeze through a narrow, low
passage, then finally in a crouched position, wiggle our
way up narrow steps out of the tunnel. Not for the
weak or the chubby! We stopped frequently to rest
and catch our breath. With a last push, we made it to
the very top by just 0800...not too bad for old farts.
|We climbed part way down, then took a side trail to the Temple of the Moon. First, down, down, down,
then up, up, up again…steps, steps, steps and a ladder and low overhang with steps below. Reverse the trek
and down, down, down, up, up, up (and those god-forsaken steps!) and we were back to the guard
checkpoint by about 2pm for a closer look at the terraced splendor of Machu Picchu itself.
|It was pretty warm in the open sun and the place was thick with
tourists. We wandered around the ruins, David reading the guide
book aloud as we progressed from one area to another. Always
steep stairs to climb…oh, our aching legs! Llamas grazed on the
open terraces. We touched the “sacred wall” to feel its energy
and climbed to the astronomical observatory and to the guard
house. We sat on a grassy terrace and drank water and ate fruit.
We admired the fine architecture and exceptional Incan masonry.
We had to keep reminding ourselves that all of this was built six
centuries ago and has withstood earthquakes, landslides, el ninos
and the Spaniards!
|The ultimate view of Machu Picchu with the steep peak of
Huayna Picchu in the background. The majesty, the energy,
the sheer vastness of the place is almost overwhelming.
|Cant'u grew out of the cracks in the
thick, ancient walls.
|Without a doubt, this has been one of the most awe-inspiring,
fantastic trips of our lives. We wrote this list on the ride back
from Lima to Guayaquil. There was so much to see and explore,
it was hard to appreciate it all, but the highlights were:
Exploring Cusco by Peter Frost
Lonely Planet Peru
Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming