Saturday, April 4, 2009

Machu Picchu

This was our big day, the day I hoped for since I first saw a photo of Machu Picchu in my first year Spanish book.  To get to the site from Cusco, you have to take the train.  I took this photo from our train car across some tracks.  Our car was set up for dining, and had large observation windows at the top as well as the side.  It takes two hours to get to the town at the base of Machu Pichhu, Aqua Calientes.  So far as I can tell, the town exists to house and feed people from around the world who want to see the Inca city, a thousand feet higher.

The ride was not boring.  We were served a breakfast of rolls, cheese, meat, fruit and coffee. Good thing too, since the train left the station at seven in the morning.  We loved watching the scenery roll by, seeing the landscape change, becoming less agricultural, more mountainous. Eventually we spent our time with our necks craned back, watching the sheer cliffs and the gradual transformation of the world into cloud forest - a world where mountains trap clouds, the edge of the jungle.

Once we got to Aqua Calientes, we had to make our way through a market to the bus.  Buses run constantly, whizzing tourists up a steep, winding gravel road with hairpin curves to Machu Picchu.  It rained in the morning, March is the end of the rainy season in Peru, but we were lucky, the sun came out.  The altitude here is lower than Cusco, only 8,000 feet, and it got warm.  I was glad I brought a short sleeved shirt and capri pants.  I was also glad I brought sunscreen and bug spray.  We were much closer to the equator than we are here in Wisconsin, and despite warnings, lots of people got sunburns.  Being Wisconsinites we are used to bugs, but I was glad I had a tube of repellent.  The park people spray for the sort of mosquito that carries malaria, but they have a sort of midge that can bite if you don't watch out.

This is the entrance, and I was reminded of places like the London Tower and the Grand Canyon.  This is a place to meet people from all over the world, to hear a half dozen languages being spoken at any time.  There is also a nice restaurant, and an exclusive lodge for those who can afford to stay.

This is us.  We made it.  There have only been a couple times when I was so excited that I was moved to tears, at the Sistine Chapel, at Stonehenge, but I was moved to tears at seeing Machu Micchu.  

Photos don't tell the whole story of how huge the city is, how awe inspiring.  They don't let you see or hear the Urubamba River, silver in the valley below, or the toy town, or the little blue Peru Rail trains.  They don't show the bright song birds, iridescent blue millipedes, butterflies, or llamas grazing on the terraces.  You can't see the sun and shadow passing over the mountains, terraces or stone ruins.   Still, photos hint at the magic of the place.

I took this photo while our guide was explaining something about the history of how these massive stones were carved and moved.  This little guy is a viscacha, a critter that looks like a cross between a mouse and a rabbit.  It is related to a chinchilla.  Later, a couple lizards joined him to sun on the rocks.  Can you tell I'm easily distracted?

It was a challenge walking through this world heritage site.  There are hundreds of uneven and steep stone steps, and some are not for anyone with vertigo.  I suspect a person could visit a dozen times, read all sorts of histories and books about archeology and never learn all there is to learn.  There are several hikes around the area that we did not have time to try, although two younger women from our group did stay at the lodge overnight and hike the other paths the next day.  I am just grateful that I had the opportunity to see this place for myself.


mARTa said...

Thank you for my virtual trip to Machu Picchu this morning. I'm out of breath and guess I better go take a shower and get started in the studio today!

Shirley said...

I'm delighted to be an armchair traveler with you - a trip that I know I will never make. Thanks so much for sharing it with Superblog. Any sketching get done?

laura said...

Great pictures, Sherry, especially the one of you and your husband.
I can understand your being so moved!

Margaret Ann said...

I am moved to tears as always has been a dream of mine to visit here...but its packed way at the end of my to do list...wonderful to experience the trip through your blog and your words...the photo of you and your husband speaks volumes...What an experience of a lifetime! :) I am still wiping tears!

Sharon said...

This is amazing. How fortunate you are to finally visit this very special spot!

Chaska said...

You describe it so well by saying that it is indescribable. For me, it was even more awesome the second time with a shaman guide. Machu Picchu is my computer wall paper....I just can't get enough of it!