I went over a little of Lima and Cusco in the first installment of my trip report. Unfortunately, we only had 7 days in Peru, and wanted to see several different sights, so I didn’t really get immersed that much in the cities. For more thorough looks at these places, check out Scott at Milevalue’s post about top 10 things to do in Peru.
The next morning after our day in Cusco, we awoke early, got another OK breakfast buffet w/ lots of coca tea, for the altitude headaches, then we were off to the Sacred Valley. The roads in Cusco are still Inca-era, so two-way roads that barely fit one car are the norm…it makes for an interesting ride to say the least!
Along the way, we stopped an a llama/alpaca farm, and got to see how local Peruvians created textiles and other handicrafts. It was a brazen attempt to get us to buy stuff, but entertaining and informative nonetheless. We got to feed alfalfa to llamas which was pretty cool!
you have to pay 1 Peruvian sole (~30cents) to take a picture with them
a friend we made during the trip
We made a stop after that in Pisac, again ostensibly to “visit an authentic Peruvian market”, but it was nothing more than another attempt to get us to buy tourist tchochkes…it was the most annoying part of our entire tour, but at least I got to try some of their chicha, which is corn beer whose recipe predates the Incans.
tasty, but not very strong. our guide said it’s about 1% alcohol
After lunch at a beautiful hacienda, it was on to Ollantaytambo, which is probably the most impressive Incan archeological site outside of Machu Picchu. It always amazes me, when I asked the guides where the quarries for the rocks were, to find out how far they dragged the rocks to create these huge and beautiful cities.
although impressive, this was just a warm-up for Machu Picchu!
After we were done there, we were taken to our accomodations for the night, which was at The San Augustin Urubamba. It was beautiful hotel with a large garden, pool (it was too chilly to go swimming), and restaurant. Unfortunately it’s about a 20 minute walk to downtown Urubamba, which truthfully I didn’t find was worth the walk anyways. The restaurant was decent, not delicious, and unfortunately the hotel’s wifi only worked in the lobby, but the rooms were comfortable and it was amazingly quiet and peaceful at night, which was good because we needed to wake up early for our trip the next day to Machu Picchu! We boarded trains for a 2 hour ride on Perurail from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, right below Machu Picchu and the staging point for buses up the mountain.
the overhead viewing windows were clutch for viewing the towering mountains!
The ride there is very beautiful, along the roiling Urubamba River through amazing precipices. There is one stop along the way, for those who wish to do the one day hike up the mountain to the Inca Trail and on to Machu Picchu. Also, there are 4 day hikes along the Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu. My wife didn’t want to hike, but I might come back with my son to do the hike once he’s old enough.
Upon reaching Aguas Calientes, we were shepherded onto buses, and thus began a very harrowing, multi-hairpin turn climb on a surprisingly narrow road up the mountain to Machu Picchu’s gates. After checking our ticket, we walked up a small walkway, and then:
I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures, but they honestly do not do it justice. In pictures, you can really see all the surroundings, feel and smell the air. I think other than Ankgor Wat, this is the most amazing place I’ve ever been. Our tour lasted around 3 hours, taking us all around the ruins, and our tour guide, Edgar, who’s been there over 1000 times since 86’ and speaks 7 languages, was incredibly knowledgable. Unfortunately, we were unable to get tickets to Wayna Picchu, on the opposite peak, but it was still an amazing trip. It is very crowded at peak hours, and if you can make it there at sunrise when no one is there, I’m sure it’s better, but we just couldn’t accommodate that on this trip.
After our tour, we had a huge lunch back at Aguas Calientes, got another Incan massage, boarded the train back to Ollantaytambo, then caught a ride with Condor Travel back to the Maytaq Wasin Hotel again to rest after our long day.
In my next report, I’ll go over Lake Titicaca, and then our trip onto Cartagena, Colombia. After that, I’ll go over how to book the award flight.