Machu Piccu 2016

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This was supposed to be a bucket-list trip for Karen. The challenges of the last year were quite enough to encourage a 'do it now' attitude. Such was not to be; medical care kept her home. So this was an unintended solo trip. A good trip.

South America is far from a frontier, but it sometimes feels like it. Out of 'town' there is plenty of space although it has a 'lived in' look. Similar to the US Southwest, the relics of former times are all about.

Because the Galapagos trip was longer, the Machu Piccu trip was 'quick' just two days: a night in Cusco, join a tour bus for the first day to Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and catch the train to Aguas Caliente.

Cusco is a busy town. I stayed close to the city center square. Lots of shops, narrow streets, good places to eat. It's a tourist economy. I was surprised to learn that I was a booking group of one person, although I certainly met some good people going the same direction: a Kiwi family, a doctor with WHO, and others. The first day, I joined a bus tour going to the Pisac ruins and Ollantaytambo.
After a rest stop at a roadside market (I resisted), we visited the Pisac ruins. Most everywhere in Peru involves going up or stepping down lots of stone steps and Pisac fits this. The site predates the Incas. The village of Pisac in the valley was built by the Spaniards. As it was Sunday, we visited the city market, more interesting than the tourist market. OK, I weakened, but it was a beautiful silver broche for Karen with traditional symbolism.
After a good but confusing buffet lunch in Rurambamba, it's on to Ollantaytambo. Yep, more steps up in the Andes. Ollantaytambo was the retreat of the surviving Inca after the Spanish ransacked the country. The water system survives although the glaciers feeding it are rapidly disappearing and hotels and development are siphoning it off.

Here, I left the bus group to wait for the train. Minor whine: my train reservation made by the Cusco agent was four hours later than the others on the bus going to Machu Piccu. I was alone in the dark with a confusing train procedure, but felt pretty safe. Just tired and irritated. My immersion in Spanish was beyond my ability also. So I was a bit irritated arriving in Agua Calientes at 11:30 pm, found my way to the hotel (a bit more whine) where I shared a wall with the desk area where the staff listened/watched something loud all night.

Up before dawn to meet Fredi, an intelligent, personable guide who spoke excellent English. I would strongly recommend his EthniasPERU. As noted above, I was his only group member. The bus up is relatively quick and we were soon at Machu Piccu.

Luckily, I did my research. Amazingly, several people I talked to hadn't cracked a book or website before arriving! Although not a guide book, I would recommend "Turn Right at Machu Piccu" by Mark Adams. It is basically the country estate of one of the first and most powerful Incas (the leader, not the people). It gives one perspective on what you are seeing. And it is lovely, dramatic, intricate, magic-feeling while natural, and lovingly restored. The stonework is exquisite.

We arrived before much of the crowds. One could wander for a long, long time here. The path to the Sun Gate or climbing the peak require separate permits; maybe twenty years ago. Would love to have made the four day walk up the Inca Road. If you can walk all the steps, you may be marathon material.

Fredi helped me to change my return train. On the bus returning to Aguas Caliente, we had the oppportunity to be human with each other. Fredi is a south american 'mensch' who gave up his extensive touring for his new baby and family. I have the greatest respect for him. That's him in the last picture.

The staff on the train are helpful and funny. The train runs on an ancient road in a river canyon and is (in the daylight) beautiful; worth the trip.

The trip back was a bit anitclimactic. The van driver (I was the only passenger again) did his best to make it exciting, rarely coming within sight of the speed limit over a high agricultural area back to Cusco. Had a nice dinner and an early taxi to the airport for Quito and the next adventure.

Continue on the the Galapagos

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