On the Trail of the Incas

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 With great excitement we boarded our plane for Cuzco. We would be going from sea level in Lima to 3,326 metres above sea level. On arrival we rested for most of the afternoon (as we had been advised to do) and drank coca tea and mostly felt OK. Some people get very sick with altitude sickness symptoms of vomiting, headaches and vertigo. We could hear people vomiting from our hotel room!!. 

Cuzco means the "navel of the earth" and was the centre of the Inca Empire. It is a beautiful city set in a valley and rising up the surrounding hills. A considerable amount of the buildings have been built on top of the Inca foundations and many Inca ruins of great importance are in the city and its surrounds. Our accommodation was in a beautiful old Spanish hacienda hundreds of years old and at $17 US a night, including breakfast, was a bargain.

Eating in Cuzco is a real delight. For a start, just when we were getting used to deciphering Latin Spanish menus, Cuzco has its own language, Quechua. The other delight is the price. Close to our hotel we found a set menu of vegetable soup, bread and salsa, and chicken with rice for 3 soles each. This is equivalent to $1US each!

We had wanted to do a 2 day trek on the Inca trail which ends up at Machu Picchu. The usual trek is a very arduous 4 day and would have been outside of our capabilities but then we found we could not do the 2 day trek either because only a certain number of trekkers are allowed on the trail at any given time and it was booked out. Reluctantly we booked the train (the only method to get to Machu Picchu other than on foot).

We arrived at the station at 6.00am for the beginning of an amazing day which didn't end until the train returned back at Cuzco at 9.30 pm. The scenery on the four hour trip there was truly amazing! Snow capped peaks, rural subsistence farmers working the terraced slopes, the beginning of the Amazon jungle, a raging river - so much to see the 4 hours just flew!

Machu Picchu itself is totally breathtaking. It is the best preserved buildings of the Inca empire as the Spanish never discovered and plundered it. When the Spanish arrived in Peru (as in all the other countries we have visited) they destroyed the existing culture, looted all the temples and pulled down the buildings to use the stone to build their cathedrals and houses. However Machu Picchu was in an inaccessible place and the Incas had long abandoned the city before the Spanish came. The jungle quickly took over and it wasn't until 1911 that an American historian stumbled upon it by accident. 

Our photos cannot even begin to show the panorama that is before you when you enter Machu Picchu. Our big regret was that we had only a few hours to take it all in. We had an English speaking guided tour for about 2 hours which helped explain many aspects of the site but much is not known as the Incas had no written history. Machu Picchu was not mentioned when the oral Inca history was eventually written down (by historians interviewing remaining Incas) so it is really a bit of a mystery.

Machu Picchu is the best known and most photographed Inca ruins however we found many other interesting sites around Cuzco and took several day tours with English speaking guides to see not only the Inca sites but to see the magnificent scenery that surrounds Cuzco and to visit little mountain villages. Our 5 days in Cuzco sadly came to an end and we caught a bus to our next Peruvian destination - Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Footnote: Machu Picchu Cuzco Region, Peru is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World Winners. The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is UNESCO World Heritage listed and features in the book Unforgettable Places to See before you die.
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