We just got back late last night from a fantastic four-day trip that went through high altitude mountains and valleys near Cusco and ended in an all-day visit to Machu Picchu. I kind of chose our company on instinct and it turned out to be a great choice. The company really understood what we were looking for on our tour - an alternative to the highly-commercialized and heavily-trafficked "Inca Trail." We began at some wonderful hot springs and then walked for about four and a half hours through the mountains, camping in a small village. As I mentioned in my last post, we were considering renting an extra mule to carry our stuff. However, we were delighted to find out at our pre-trek briefing that we were only expected to carry a day bag with water and an extra layer anyway, so the mule was unnecessary. Furthermore, our tents and things were all ready for us everyday when we arrived at camp, which was followed by a sit down meal of really good, simple food. Although not particularly hard-core, even Eric admitted that it was a pretty nice way to camp!
Being the only tourist around for two of the four days of our trek, we also got a very real perspective on the life of the Peruvians living in the highlands. We saw tons of llamas and alpacas and were offered more beautiful weavings than we could justify buying (although we did pick up a few!). Overall the people were really friendly and seemed to be completely self-sufficient. They farmed on these amazing terraces where it would seem impossible to grow things and managed pretty large herds of animals which provided clothing, meat, and fertilizer (I´ve never seen so much poop!). On our third day we hiked for half of the day and then spent the afternoon at an amazing Incan site called Ollantaytambo. The masonry was absolutely spectacular. They fit the rocks together like puzzles in order to provide greater resistance to the large earthquakes that occasionally rock Peru, and given that the Inca didn´t even have iron tools, it was absurdly impressive. Pictures below.
In the evening of the third day we took a train to Aguas Calientes, which is the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. We only slept for about 5 hours because we all wanted to get there as early as possible, with the hope of seeing the sunrise. Although clouds foiled any chance of seeing the sunrise, it worked out well because there was SO much to explore. I think I can safely say that it surpassed both of our expectations, both in craftsmanship and scale. It was also really nice to have a guide to explain what we were looking at. Eric and I also decided to climb up to the top of Machu Picchu mountain, roundtrip 3 hours but well worth it. The view was spectacular and we saw a lot of really interesting flora and fauna (it´s a completely different environment than even an hour away). I´m going to stop writing now so that I have time to upload the pictures, but Eric will probably contribute more soon.
Eric stooping to buying a McFlurry.
Eric looking rather hesitant as he faces another bite of one of Peru´s national specialties, ceviche. Although the first bites were delicious, an entire meal of super limey fish became pretty unappealing.
Traffic mimes. Enough said.
A squished avocado during our LONG bus ride from Lima to Cusco. What at first seemed like a tragedy turned into a tasty treat as we squeezed avocado onto chips.
The Plaza de Armas (central Cusco)
A view over Cusco from our budget hotel.
The ruins at Pisac. They spread over quite a large area and thanks to some adventurous trail blazing by Eric, we ended up finding an Inca tunnel (below)!
And a guinea pig castle in the market. Guinea pig is another Peruvian specialty, although we´ve yet to try it.
Ahhh, I´m out of time so we´ll have to post the most recent pictures when we get back on! Sorry for the tease - I´m sure most of you just wanted to see the photos of Machu Picchu. Stay tuned.
Hope everyone is well! Love, Alix and Eric