Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cusco and Machu Picchu

Let's see, how will I cram the whole of last week, including a visit to one of the Wonders of the World, into today's post?

The trip to Cusco from Lima went smoothly. I arrived and was met immediately by my new storytelling friend Maria, who kindly took me to the hostel and instructed me to rest for a couple of hours to adjust to the elevation (10912 ft/3326 m). I felt much better after doing that. I wandered around Cusco getting my bearings and arranging my trip to Machu Picchu starting the next day.

This alleyway led to the door of my hostel, where I had an absolutely spotless private room and bath. Hot water, too!
One wall of the alleyway was part of the Qorikancha museum, a colonial building on top of Incan ruins. This wall had clearly had some work done on it, as the blocks were numbered for proper placement.

This is a view down steps in the San Blas neighborhood, behind the Plaza de las Armas. One of the best museums I've been to in ages is in this neighborhood, further down the hill, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum. It's not an anthropological museum, but really an art museum, emphasizing that the anonymous artists were as creative as artists in the modern world. Here is the Plaza de las Armas, or the Plaza Mayor. I took a long tour of the cathedral.

Here's a wide view of Cusco and the hills beyond:
At the Museum of Qorichanka, I looked down on this bit of landscape art featuring a jaguar, a condor and a snake, three of the power animals of the Inca:

On to Machu Picchu. Thursday morning, I took a shared taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, about an hour and a half. I rode with a couple of Americans, Janice and Doug, who have been traveling around the world for a few years. In the way of fellow-travelers, we got along famously.

We ended up having lunch and a wide-ranging conversation after arriving in Ollantaytambo. Then I climbed up the Incan ruins,while they settled in to their hotel in town. Here's a view of Ollantaytambo from partway up the steps of the ruins:

The Incans moved massive stones to create these structures. I think the perspective is funny in this one:
After hanging around a bit more with Janice and Doug, I found my way to the train station. It was dark by then, so I was glad not to be on the fancy train with the windows in the roof. A couple of hours later, the train arrived in Aguas Calientes, where I found a private room and bath for about $10. I fell into bed immediately, so I could get up to get my ticket to Machu Picchu when the office opened at 5 a.m. Or at least that was the plan. The office opened at about 5:20 and then there was a wait, so I got to the bus stop to get the next ticket later than I had hoped. I'd read that it's wonderful to see the sun rise on Machu Picchu. What I learned later was that the site is foggy about 95% of the mornings, so only a few lucky ones see the sunrise. By the time the bus arrived, after a scary switchbacky ride where we came close to hitting the buses coming down, the sun was up anyway. After getting through the scrum at the entrance, I still couldn't see the ruins. Until I did:

The other tourists and I weren't the only creatures up there:

I spent about three hours at the ruins. I can't exactly describe it, even though I've now had days to digest the experience. Awesome, in the old sense of the word. Amazing. Breathtaking. Stunning. All I can come up with is cliches. One more: I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


Deb said...

Great, great post. It's wonderful to see where you are and a tiny bit of what you're seeing, and a huge treat to see a photo of you! Much love to you, dear sister.

Tom & Joanne said...

Great posting. I loved your pictures. I wish you weoo.