The Wonder of the Sacred Valley of the Inca and Machu Picchu
After our urban adventures we continued our trekking with an April 17th flight to Cusco in southeastern Peru. The city is at 11,200ft so upon our arrival we took some time to acclimate to the high altitude at Hotel Los Portales. We took a relaxing late afternoon tour of the Main Square, visited the Cathedral and the Koricancha complex dedicated to the “Sun”, the chief god of the Incan Empire. We visited the impressive fortress of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman” located just outside the city. Our tour also stopped at Quenqo Amphitheater, Fort Pucapucara, and the archaeological complex Tambomachay, also known as the Baths of the Inca.
The next morning we hopped on a van to The Sacred Valley of the Incas. The scenery was simply epic! A lush river valley with stepped terrace hills, jagged cliffs and glacier covered mountains. We stopped to tour Pisaq and Chinchero, famous for their colorful markets. We stopped for a local lunch and then drove on to Ollantaytambo, which is characterized by the magnificence of its buildings and the distribution of its terraces.
On April 19th we went back to the Urubamba Valley to catch a train to Aguas Calientes. We spent the afternoon exploring the little Pueblo at the foothills of Machu Picchu. There were tons of craft markets to explore and it was the first time in Peru where I heard the traditional Peruvian music that you hear in American cities. We stayed at the very modest Inti Punku Inn with it’s elaborate towel swans. The next morning we woke up very to early catch the bus up to Machu Picchu, the Incan citadel named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
The bus dropped us off at the park entrance where we met our guided tour that included the Agricultural Sector (platforms) and the Urban Sector (religious buildings, military and homes), the Temple of the Sun, the Intiwatana, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Sacred Rock. I had started reading “Turn Left at Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams, a hilarious modern day travel log that tells the story of the building of Machu Picchu, the deviation bought by Francisco Pizarro and the rediscovery in the early 1900’s by Yale Professor Hiram Bingham. Knowing more about what I was looking at, what it took to make it accessible to the world and the the full history of the whole thing made it all that more interesting and impactful. After the tour we explored more on our own and I hiked up to the Sun gate. We took the bus back down to Aguas Calientes, caught an evening train up the Urubamba Valley and a van back to Cusco.
Jessica fell ill from eating or drinking some bad mojo. We called a doctor who provided some comfort but we decided to change our plans to lay low for the day in Cusco. While Jessica healed I explored the city of Cusco. There were festivals, shops and a few museums to enjoy and learn more about the Incan culture. The next day we flew to Lima to rest some more before departing the country.