Machu Picchu to Cusco

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We stayed on Machu Picchu until after lunchtime.  We caught our train back to Cusco late that afternoon.  This time we were on the Vistadome.  The difference?  A glass ceiling so you can see the mountains overhead, a small meal and beverage service and, of all things, a fashion show.  Our two seats faced Tristan and Tessa’s seat, across from a small table, so we were able to play a few rounds of cards on the way back.  Most of the time though we just looked out at the scenery and the snowpeaked mountains overhead.

mp-dpg  Tessa and Tristan enjoying the train ride

 

mp-j  View from the train

Our train arrived at a stop near Cusco and Peggy from Torre Dorada had made sure a taxi was waiting for us.  When we got back to our room, we were tired but a little hungry.  Danny, ever thoughtful, asked if we wanted to order some pizza.  We did and we also wanted a Coke Zero.  The pizza place didn’t have Coke Zero, so Danny went to the corner market and got some for us. Ok.  How many hotels have you stayed in that have that kind of service?  He didn’t do it because he expected something, (he wouldn’t take a tip), he didn’t do it because it was his job, he did it because that’s just who he is and who everyone is at the Hotel.  In fact, Peru has a reputation for having the friendliest, most accommodating people and we were lucky to be a recipient of that.  But truly I think the staff at Torre Dorada is exceptional.  We really felt that they took care of us like family.  When the pizza came, Danny brought it to our room, along with napkins, plates and glasses.  It felt like coming home!

 

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We woke up late the next morning.  On the schedule today?  More touring of Cusco.  There were a few places we hadn’t gotten to see  yet, plus we loved Cusco.  First on the list was Qorikancha, the fabled City of Gold, the most famous temple in the Americas.  It was the Incas principal astronomical observatory.  When the Spanish first saw it, they found the walls lined with sheets of gold, which they subsequently stole.  Before the Spanish could return, the Incas took down the huge gold disc of the sun and the platinum disc of the moon.  It’s said the Incas threw them into Lake Titicaca to protect them.  After defeating the Incas and destroying all their religious artifacts, the church of Santo Domingo was built right on top of the ruins.  

 

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This is a shameful period in Spanish history.  Not only did they annihilate an entire race, they set about to destroy any trace they had ever existed.  Thankfully, most of the stonework and walls remain, but the Inca’s beautiful works of gold were melted and recast into religious relics for the Catholic Church. 

Our last Inca site was Sacsaywaman, the site of a major Inca/Spanish battle.  Of all the Inca sites we toured, including Machu Picchu, Sacsaywaman and Qorikancha held the most energy.  You could really feel the presence of the Incas at both sites.  Standing in one of the Inca rooms in Qorikancha you swear you could see an Inca priest disappearing around a corner.  At Sacsaywaman, standing across the field from the site, you could easily imagine the Incas and Spaniards involved in a fierce battle.

 

s2  Sacsaywaman

 

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aabb  Dan taking a break

 

aaab1   Moon over Sacsaywaman

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aa  Walls are set in zig zag pattern.  The theory is that this was to honor the god of lightening

The next  afternoon it was time for our sad goodbye to Torre Dorado.  I had tears in my eyes as I gave Danny and Peggy a hug goodbye.  We were really sad to leave, but it was time for us to catch our bus and head to Puno (Lake Titicaca).  Danny and Peggy walked us out to the taxi, and waited by the curb until we pulled away.  We couldn’t have been better taken care of.

Machu Picchu

The next morning up at 4:30 am, breakfast at 5:00 am.  We checked out and left our bags in a big pile, with everyone elses bags and headed to the bus stop at 5:30 am.  The guidebook warns you over and over about getting a receipt for your luggage, making sure the place they keep it is secure, blah blah blah.  Reality, that rarely happens. You just have to have faith in the goodness of people.  We always do and have never been disappointed. 

The line to get on the buses for the sunrise trip was starting to get long.  We were so excited.  This was one of the moments you always say you want to do, but are never actually sure if you’ll get to do it.  We were lucky to get on the first set of buses, so we would make it to the top for sunrise.  The bus trip takes about 20 minutes, winding up switchbacks to the top of Machu Picchu.  From there you stand in another line to get in.  Through the check in point you are on your own. Most people, like us, head up to the caretakers hut, straight up, for the best view.  Here is where you take your Machu Picchu picture, the one that most people are familiar with.  We huffed and puffed for about 10 minutes finally reaching the top.  What a view!! 

As you stand on the edge and look down, the clouds and mist slowly start to part.  Machu Picchu slowly begins to reveal herself to us.  You almost feel like your back in time with Hiram Bingham, discovering the site for the first time.  It’s really breathtaking.

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An incredible thing started to happen as we watch the sun rise over the mountain across from Machu Picchu.  There were several wild  Llamas and Vicunas which had been grazing in the dim light, on top of Machu Picchu.  As soon as the sun started to come over the mountain, they stopped grazing, headed over to the edge, and stood there, watching, until the sun completely rose over the mountain.  I have never seen an animal watch the sun rise.  On one side you had a group of humans doing sun salutations as the sun rose, and on the other,  the animals in a sense doing the same.    After the sun was up, the animals went on their way.  I just watched them in awe.  It made me think of all the sunrises I had failed to stop and watch and appreciate.  Even the animals know and respect the power of the sun. 

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The sunrise is spectacular and you can see why the Incas had several benches carved out of rock, facing the east, so their people could watch. 

Next we made our way back down into the site.  Here we able to see the Temple of the Sun and other sacred buildings.  The Hitching Post of the Sun, the sacred site where two times of the year, on the solstices, the sun is directly above the stone, is impressive.  Supposedly if you put your forehead on it, everything would be revealed to you.  Unfortunately, it has been getting too much wear, and is now  roped off.  You can still feel some energy.

We had a good 4 hours before the crowds came in after 10 am.  If you go with the set tour group you miss the sunrise, and you also get there when crowds are the biggest.  Fortunately for us, by the time the crowds came, we had made it through the site for the first time, and were going back to our favorite places.   The weather was fantastic, warm and sunny.  It was hard to believe it was this was their fall.  While there are lots of places to explore, it’s also great to sit and just take in the view.  No one is really sure what Machu Picchu was built for, very recently it was proposed that instead of a city, it was actually a pilgrimage site.   built as a pilgrimage, mimicking the Incas creation journey.  The Incas believed they were born of the Sun and Moon in Lake Titicaca, on the Peru Bolivian border.  From there they mingled with other humans and created the Inca race.  To the Incas, the Milky Way was a celestial river, and the Urubamba River below Machu Picchu is its counterpart.    Discovery Channel’s online site has a great explanation http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/06/08/machu-picchu-02.html.  This theory makes the most sense to us. 

Whatever the reason,  it’s a beautiful, peaceful place.  I wouldn’t say, aside from the sunrise,  that we felt an overwhelming sense of spirituality, but there was definitely a sense of peace and grace.   We were so happy to have been there, not only to see such a world wonder, but also for the fact that we did it together, as a family.  This was our own pilgrimage. 

 

 

 

mp1  Terraces at Machu Picchu

 

mp3  Looking down on the main site

 

mp4ajpg1  Temple of the Three Windows

 

mp8a  Main Plaza

 

mp12  The mountains surrounding are just spectacular

 

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mp112 Sacred Rock carved to match the mountain in the background

 

mp10ajpg  Having a great time

 

Temple of the Sun (above and below)

 

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mp151  Looking down into the valley below

 

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mp231  Carved rock representing the constellation Southern Cross

 

mp24  Hitching Post of the Sun

Peru Part 5 Aguas Calientes

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We boarded the train at 8:30pm, from Ollantaytambo.  The train was the called the backpacker’s train, as it was a no frills ride to Aguas Calientes.  On board we ran into the Canadian couple we had met in Arequipa.  Small world.  The train ride was uneventful, it was too dark to enjoy the scenery.  Around 10:30 pm we pulled into the town of Aguas Calientes.  Here again, expectation clashed with reality.  We expected to arrive at a train station but the train let us off basically on a sidewalk near the plaza.  There was no one from the hotel to meet us as promised, so we waited.  Soon there was no one there but us, and we realized no one was coming.  To make matters worse, we weren’t exactly sure the name of the hotel, since Torre Dorada made the reservations for us.  A stupid mistake on our part I will admit.  We headed into the Plaza, and where a some kind of festival was going on, with costumes, and a marching band.  Luckily there was an internet/phone cafe open and Dan called Torre Dorada explaining to Danny, that we needed help.  Danny, our savior, called the hotel in Aguas Calientes and a few minutes later, someone from La Pequena came and walked us to the hotel.   Turns out, it was only a block away on the same street!.  We were all so tired that we couldn’t understand them as they didn’t speak any English, and I was too tired to understand their Spanish.   We planned to go to Machu Picchu at sunrise and still needed to buy our bus ticket and admission ticket to Machu Picchu.  I was able to communicate bus ticket and they pointed vaguely out the window but Iwas getting too frustrated and couldn’t understand.  For the first time, I really felt the language barrier.  Finally we communicated a 4:30 am wake up call and decided we’d figure it out in the morning. 

The room was nice, our standard triple, (one double and 2 single beds).  We just fell into sleep, lulled by the sound of the roaring rapids across the street, when here comes the marching band again.  Seriously, it’s after midnight.  Who are they are where are they going?    Turns out it was the Tres Cruces festival which would go on all day and all night while we were there.  It was turning into a long night, so Dan and I decided we would not go to Machu Picchu in the morning, but wait until Monday.  It was a good decision.

Everything was much easier the next day.  The ticket office to buy our bus ticket to Machu Picchu was 30 feet from the hotel.  The office to buy the ticket to get into Machu Picchu?  Right around the corner in the Plaza.    We spent the day watching the Tres Cruces festival. We again ran into our Canadian friends who had been to Machu Picchu that day.  They told us what we could bring in and what to expect.  We were so excited for the next day!

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