Cusco and Maccu Picchu

Trip Start Dec 08, 2004
Trip End Dec 07, 2005

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Thursday, August 4, 2005

Finally we got the better of altitude and set off to fulfill a life long dream to watch the sunrise over the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Determined not to pay the $40 dollar bill for the tourist train to Aguas Caliente (the town at the foot of the site) we disovered a back way, so we went rural.

For 15 soles ($4.50) the 5 hour bus journey to the village of Santa Maria took us through the amazing Sacred Valley and over high passes with snowcapped mountains. From Santa Maria we squashed into a mini van (Guatemalan stylee) with at least 20 other people for 2 hour ride through the jungle to Santa Teresa. Another jaw droppingly beautiful journey!

Santa Teresa is a tiny village on the Rio Urumbamba at the far end of the train track from Cusco. The original village was built right on the rivers edge but a few years ago it was completely destroyed and washed away by El Niņo. Unable to afford a complete rebuild the village is constructed out of wooden boarding, tin sheeting and whatever else they could salvage from the original village. The hostal was comfortable and truly rustic. You know you are in the country when you have to walk through the family bedroom to use the only toilet.

We planned to stay the night there and in the morning hike to Aguas Caliente. Fate had different ideas..... That night Keith developed a spiking fever/shivers, delerium and aches. Luckily there was a pharmacist in the village so we were able to buy Ibruprofen and Paracetomol to control the fever but not much sleep was had that night.

The hike to Aguas was out of the question now, Keith was suffering and hadn't any energy but we needed to get into a decent hotel. Luckily only a short walk away and a shopping basket pulley across the river (see pics) there was a truck to take us to the train track where we could get a train for 5 soles ($1.50). Bargain!

We found a cheap and good hotel in Aguas and brought some antibiotics. Keiths fevers persisted that night and day but luckily he started feeling better in the evening. We had wanted to hike up to the site before sunrise, but we decided it was best to save Keiths low energy supplies for walking around the site.

So we got the first bus up to watch the sunrise over the surrounding mountains. Watching the vibrant golden light slowly illuminating the site was magical.

Machu Picchu (Lost City of the Incas) is one of the most famous examples of Inca architecture, and is located 112 km from the city of Cusco in the District of Machu Picchu, 2,350 meters above sea level. The ruins are located in a lush jungle and are believed to have been built in the mid-15th century by Inca Pachacutec.

Even though locals knew of the ruins it was not properly discovered until 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham.

Im sure you are all familiar with the picture postcard view of Macchu Picchu that you see on telly or in magazines, with that huge peak in the background towering over the site. Well we decided to climb it!

The name of the the towering granite peak is Huaynapicchu, meaning young peak in Quechua. The climb to the top was just over an hour of solid climbing up vertical stone staircases, which are original Inca. The view from the top of Machu Picchu, the surrounding valley and the distant snowy peaks was worth every painful minute!

Not completely satisfied with our meger Inca achievement we then climbed down the other side for 2 hours to the Temple of the Moon which is a fairly recent discovery. With no safety rails and with dry crumbling soil some of the narrow passes made us think twice but we went for it, well you only live once!

Located halfway down Huayna Picchu in an underground chamber on the north side the temple was really impressive, with some of the finest stone work of all Inca sites.
At this point though I think we both realised we had bitten of a bit more than we could chew so to speak. We had hoped that the path would continue down to Machu Picchu but of cause this wasn't the case :) With only a few dregs of water left and in the strengthening sun the only wy was UP! OH JOY!!!

Two and a half hours, several ladders, thousands of steps, two lizards, one wild orchid, lots of cursing and sweat later we eventually met the orignal path Huayna Picchu back down to Machu Picchu.

We have never been so happy to pay 11 soles (normally 2) for a bottle of water!

It has been a life long dream to visit Machu Piccu and it certainly lived up to our expectations. Climbing Huayna Picchu was definately worth the effort as we got away from the hoards of tour groups, saw the lesser visited parts and were able to experience the breath taking views and soak up the atmosphere by ourselves. I'll let pictures speak for themselves.
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