This is a makeup post. I had computer battery problems and lack of time on Monday.
On Monday, we left quite early by bus and headed for Machu Picchu, the reason we came to Peru in the first place. We actually rode in small buses that could hold no more than twenty persons. In fact, there were rarely more than twelve person on the bus along with a local guide. We took a route through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Since we were in the Andes, there was very little flat land at the bottom of the valley. But there was land that was not steep by Andean standards. This is where the local farmers grow potatoes. Most on our bus had no idea what that that blooming plant was. Of course, I know a potato plant when I see it. The Andes are the home of the potato and there are numerous varieties here. The potato was served frequently in the places where we ate. I did not find them particularly tasty but then again, I am accustomed to Deb's cooking.
We ultimately arrived in the unpronouncable (at least for me) of Ollantaytambo. This place is noteworthy for two reasons. It has pre-Incan structures. It also is still laid out in the orginal Incan plan. In other words, the Spanish did not change anything. They just built on top of the sturctures that were already there. Incans almost never built anything more than one story. So the Spanish just came in and added extra stories on top of what the Incans had already built. One of the pictures already posted show the narrow streets found in this town and the dress of many of the residents. Ollantaytambo is important for another reason. It is the rail head for the Hiram Bingham Railroad that takes you to Machu Picchu in about two hour ride. Bingham was the guy who discovered the ruins but more about him later. National Geographic had paid for private train consisting of two dinning cars and a bar car.
Our group was the
only one on the train. En route, we were plied with great food and beverage. We then went through the entrance gate and were transported up the mountain by large busses. We are talking about
a steep ascent and numrous swichbacks. At the top, we were part of the group that decided to climb up to the Sun Gate. This is a small stucture in a saddle between the mountains and I understood that it was a guard station to protect the town from nasty intruders. It is on the Inca Trail that approached from the east and would be chokepoint for people who wanted to gain access to the town from that direction. I guess we climbed at least a thousand feet to get there. It was a much needed exercise after eating and sitting for most of the morning. I think I posted a photograph of Deb and me standing behind a sign. This was at the Sun Gate. Let's talk about the Inca Trail. Most people think think the Inca trail is only near Machu Picchu. That is only partially correct. The Incas had a complex series of stoned trails that extended through their empire stretching from present day Ecuador to Chile. It is my understanding that only the remaining sections are in the Machu Picchu area. I am going to post a picture of the trail that we hiked between the ruins and the Sun Gate.
What is Machu Picchu? Simply put, it is a fortifed town that was built some time around 1450. We do not know why they quit living there as the Spanish never discovered the town. The inhabitants may have fallen to the spread of the diseases that the Europeans brought with them. Or they may have been destroyed by internal fighting among the Incans. We do not really know the Incan name fo thw town. Machu Picchu is the name of the mountain which is behind you when you take the classic photgraph of the twon.
We returned to the town and began a tour. I will be posting a picture of the classic view of the town. You might to click on the picture and enlarge it. You can see pictures of the place all day long but they will not convey the real feeling that a visit gives you. I think the element missing from photgraphs is the steepness of the surrounding moutains. This just makes the view of the town even more dramatic.
2011 is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham, a National Geogrphic Explorer. He actually thought he had discovered the Lost City of the Incas. It was only later and after much clearing that it became clear that he had found a hitherto unknown town.
It was geting late in the day whn we descended to our train. Another two hour trip by train complete with dinner. Then another two hour bus trip back to Cusco. We did not arrive at the hotel until 10:00 and we were dead tired which was probably aided by several glasses of wine). We got eight hours of sleep last night but I could have used two more.
Tuesday is a travel day with arrival on Easter Island around 8:30.