Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
77Trip End May 21, 2011
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Cusco was a place that we both had been looking forward to visiting. It was the historic capital of the Inca Empire so there was a lot to explore in and around the city. You have to buy an expensive tourist ticket when you are there to access some of the main sights so we went a bit mad with ours and visited several museums, the cathedral, the Inca sun temple turned into a Spanish monastery and went to the complementary show of traditional Andean dancing which we really enjoyed
After much indecision, we decided to ignore all of the tour touts and to make our own way to see the famous Machu Picchu. We set off on our journey to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. So after a short but very expensive train journey that wound through the mountains, we arrived at our destination, welcomed by hostel touts, endless amounts of Mexican restaurants and lovely sandflies. We relaxed in the natural thermal baths before settling down for an early night in order to rise early to catch the buses up to the "lost city".
We left the hostel at 6.30am and caught the bus. It was great arriving early as it was not very busy and we managed to get great pictures of the ruins without swarms of tourists. We even managed to get a picture of a llama in front of the ruins who seemed to sense what tourists wanted and was happy to oblige. With the Danish couple, we decided to walk up the less crowded Machu Picchu mountain which offered a crystal clear overview of the ruins
After some well-earned refreshments after our mountain hike, we hired a guide called Felix to take us round the ruins. This was a good decision as we learned a lot about why and how Machu Picchu was built. For instance, the Incas knew exactly where the fault lines were in the mountains so, to avoid pending earthquake damage, they carefully constructed their buildings to withstand any damage. Impressively, the ruins have successfully withstood several earthquakes which have devastated other cities in the area. The Incas also made water channels that ran into various wells at differing levels, serving the King first, and they created sun dials perfectly aligned with the surrounding peaks. Whilst we learnt a lot about the Incan civilization, it was interesting to learn that there is much still unknown as they did not leave a written record and much of their knowledge and understanding of the world, especially their astronomical understanding, was destroyed as when the Spanish tried to diminish their power they targeted the Incan intellectuals first.
We managed to see the ruins just in time. What seemed to be in an instant, masses of American tourists rolled up, filling the landscape in a red sea of waterproof jackets and sun hats. The climate was perfect and we felt very fortunate to be there on such a perfect day to view this famous sight. It did live up to our high expectations- it was a fascinating place which frequently surprised us. The beauty of the ruins and the surrounding mountains was more than we had expected and made this a truly memorable day.