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Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

Finger puppets and Inca ruins...

sunny 20 °C

Cuzco - by far the most touristy place I have ever visited! From the moment you arrive you are bombarded by finger puppet, postcard, sweater, massage, doll selling Peruvians on every plaza and street corner! It is a lovely city in all its cobbled street cuteness, but the constant harrassing can be a bit much!
Still, I was of course very excited to be there, as this was the jumping point to Machu Picchu, the BIG one for most people coming to South America.
I met some new amigos on the bus from Puno, Serena (English) and Guy (Israeli). We spent the next few days hanging out together in Cuzco. Serena was doing the Inca Trail and it was nice to be able to get caught up in her excitement as I wouldn't be doing it myself. The trail now gets booked up months in advance, and not knowing when I would be in Peru (after all, I was orignally supposed to be ending my trip around about now!), I didn't get a chance to book a trip, so was missing out.
We spent days wandering the colonial streets, checking out the nearby ruins on horseback, and eating good food, including the delicious alpaca (I couldn't be tempted to try Guinea Pig though!). Then Serena went off to do the trail and Guy and I headed off to the Sacred Valley on our way to Machu Picchu. This was the cheapest way to get there by the train and it was actually a really nice way to do it.
We first went to Pisac, which has some impressive ruins of it's own as well as large markets filled with every type of typical Peruvian souvenir imaginable (more finger puppets!!) Here we ate amazing empanadas cooked in a wood fire oven and still warm flat bread typical of the area. After Pisaq was Urubamba. Not a lot to do here, no ruins to speak of, but we had to come here to get a taxi to Ollantaytambo, where we would catch our train from. Ollantaytambo is a lovely little village - still touristy, but felt more genuine. They have some ruins of their own, but we arrived too late so we saw them on our way back. We ate dinner here and caught our train at 8pm to Aguas Calientes. This is the last village you can stay at before heading to Machu Picchu. As you can imagine, it is completely set up for tourists going to the site. There are so many restaurants, hostals and souvenir shops here, I can't imagine they all can be making a good living, despite the number of tourists that flood into this village.

Serena and I

Sacsayhuaman - ruins close to Cusco
Photos for our mums!

Pisac ruins
Flute player at the ruins in Pisac
Rio Urubamba
Ruins at Ollantaytambo

Machu Picchu
There have been many pinch myself moments on this trip. But my biggest pinch myself moment so far was when I was lying on my hostal bed after just coming back from seeing Machu Picchu. I couldn't believe that I had actually seen the lost city of the Incas. I have wanted to see them for as long as I can remember (something to do with a cartoon I used to watch as a child about the Incas, I think!) and they didn't disappoint.
We got up early to catch the bus to the site and arrived just before 6am. The ruins were covered in misty clouds when we first arrived so we waited, seated on one of the terraces, for them to lift. It was quite a magical moment. There weren't too many people, (the day trippers wouldn't arrive by train for a couple of hours yet) it was relatively quiet and the sun was just rising over the mountains as the clouds began to lift, revealing the ruins in all their glory. It was one of those catch your breath, jaw dropping moments.
We spent the next couple of hours exploring the ruins and then climbed the mountain of Huayna Picchu, a one hour scramble up steep paths and even steeper steps (coming down was worse) for an unforgettable and spectacular view of Machu Picchu. The ruins of Waynapicchu are on top of the mountain and how on earth they managed to get the stones up there to build them, let alone create the steps that lead to it, is beyond me!
I was totally in awe of Machu Picchu. Seeing all the ruins leading up to this and then actual Machu Picchu itself, I couldn't help but be in wonder at how and why they built these cities. Built on top of seemingly impossible moutains, it must have taken years and huge amount of manpower. And to think, after all of this, the Inca empire only lasted around 100 years.

see that mountain in the back, well I climbed it to get these...

the path up the mountain

Posted by zedgee 11:25 Archived in Peru

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Ah, surely the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcH_ZTF6smY>Mysterious Cities of Gold</a>!!

Very jealous.

by stuarth

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