Star Date: June 2013
Family & Friends!
Machu Pichu. A lone condor circles and cries out, reverberating thousands of feet to the valley below. Undeniably one of the most remarkable sites on this planet, it is hidden away in the remote mountains next to the Sacred Valley and Cuzco. This ancient site is still shrouded in mystery. Joseph first visited here with his Mom in 1965 and I hiked in via the infamous Inca Trail in 1999 with Mariah and Kevin. Infrastructure has changed. In 1999 we just jumped off a local train, crossed a swinging bridge and started on the rigorous trail, paying the $10 entrance fee when we arrived at the Sun Gate several days later. Now you must book 2-6 months in advance to hike the Inca Trail and pay $600 p.p. A lot of money to face Warmiwahusca (4215m) "Dead Woman's Pass" or the several hundred steep Inca steps nicknamed the 'Gringo Killers". Tough trek but worth it.
Gone are the local trains. A tourist train costing $120 plus the $55 entrance fee is the only option today to visit Machu Pichu. That is unless you decide to walk in. We were discouraged by the increased fees but not going would be a little like visiting Cairo and not seeing the pyramids.
Since we were 'in the neighborhood' we decided to take a van over a spectacular 15,000 ft pass, follow a winding river valley and hike in to nearby Aguas Calientes to access Machu Pichu. This adventure started out with stunning scenery, a relaxed lunch in the mountains, followed by a risky 4 hour hike as darkness descended because of poor planning by the transport company. As often happens the 6 members of our group helped each other with flashlights to find their way along the sketchy railway bed in the pitch dark, over open rail bridges and uneven footing . We all breathed a sigh of relief as the lights of the tiny town of Aguas Calientes twinkled in the distance.
Climbing the mountain to Machu Pichu, gazing on these ruins once again we smiled and knew that we were 'Living Young'. The first glance, as the sun rises, actually steals your breath away.
Luckily little has changed at Machu Pichu. This 15th-century Inca site is located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level and although other ruins are more intricate, the location of these ruins is spectacular. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. With the people seemingly disappearing into thin air, some believe that this high energy site was an opening to another dimension for more conscious beings.Lake Titicaca in north Bolivia and S.E. Peru is the second largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. Clear and sparkling the water joins with the endless open sky to create a feeling of the top of the world. Native Americans living in this treeless region make canoes out of 'tule' or other bulrushes lashed together. Early S American voyagers also used balsa wood rafts lashed together (like we saw used in Central Africa). Thor Heyerdahl and 5 companions built Kon Tiki (named after an Inca god) in 1947. From Peru they crossed 8000 km in 101 days landing on the Raroia atoll in the South Pacific. Despite skepticism, the seaworthiness of this aboriginal raft was proven and showed that the ancient Peruvians could have reached Polynesia in this manner.
The region around
Lake Titicaca contains
architectural remains of early civilizations, some of which date to
pre-Inca times. In time of conflict the losing side is often
displaced from their land. (Not much has changed!) This is what happened with
the Uros who began constructing floating rafts on which to live.
On our way the from La Paz to Cuzco we stopped to visit these
fascinating people. Although more visited than when we were
each here 20 to 40 years ago it was fascinating to see how they cut
the blocks of roots from the buoyant 'totora' reeds, lash then together and cover them
with reeds. Voila - instant waterfront real estate property!
Several hundred Uros live on around 50 floating islands. Friendly and welcoming, the Uros, on their 'islas
flotantes' are happy to explain about
their unique life and show you their handicrafts. Smiles are
Cuzco is a remarkable colonial city situated in a
high Andean valley (3300m). The lovely main plaza and stately
cathedrals make up the center while the rest of the city climbs up
the surrounding mountainsides. Cobblestone streets and ancient
rock walls blanket the hillsides. Whitewashed walls, red
tile roofs and Quechan locals in bright colors weave an interesting
maze of life in the high Andes. Baskets move in curious
ways in the markets. Only when a sale is made of a squirming guinea
pig, do you realize the contents. In small restaurants it is
common to hear the squeals as the little guys run around on the
floors. They have such a great life until..........??
Many magnificent religious paintings line the walls of the churches
in the Andes. One of my favorite was the depiction of the Last
Supper with Jesus and his disciples enjoying a last supper of 'cuy',
roasted guinea pig!
All of a sudden in our
freezing cold colonial room in the hillside of Cusco, we decided
enough was enough. Being bonafide 'woosies' from years in
Hawaii we took a 15 hour bus ride towards the Amazon Basin in the
east. Up over a magnificent pass then down, down, down we
arrived fully decked out with everything from our suitcase and
immediately peeled away the layers as we landed in Puerto Maldonado.
On a whim I had stopped by a travel agency in Cuzco and asked prices to Machu Pichu and the Amazon. You need to bargain hard to be a
real traveler as in both cases we came up with a win-win agreement
of half the price. Like a lottery, I had submitted our names
to 3 different dates, reduced the price by removing 'extra fluff'
and 'turned it over to the Universe'. One date filled up
immediately, another had a group of 8 from Holland sign up but for
some reason the 3rd date just sat there begging. I returned
several times to talk with John and finally he acquiesced and signed
us up for half the price on this great trip down the river and 4
night stay in a jungle Lodge. This area is unique because the
tourists haven't discovered the miles and miles of jungle rivers and
forests yet. It is accessible by bus rather than our plan of
Iquitos which requires a week by boat then you have to go days into
the jungle just to get away from the big city lights. Puerto
Maldonado is a strange hodge podge of a village growing up
awkwardly. With a smile on our face and a warm breeze in our
hair we headed down river to explore the Amazon basin. We felt
And so it goes.........................................Next adventures in the Amazon basin and following the north coast of Peru. Until next month Keep Smiling and remember to Live Young! Dance, sing, laugh, love, smile, give thanks. Life is too short to do anything else! We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch! Take care!
Love, Light & Laughter,
1 US Dollar equals
2.75 Peruvian Nuevo Sol
Himalayan Rescue Assoc:
Check out the site:
El Encuentro- several vegetarian restaurants downtown - Just ask
Gaia: Calle Plazoleta Jose will make up some yummy veggie food. Just down the hill towards the Plaza del Armas, a warm, friendly little restaurant with friendly owners and good inexpensive food.
SAP Adventures: Phone # 51 084 234273 Walk around and compare prices for trips into the Amazon at Puerto Maldonado. John was good to work with but be prepared to bargain hard to get the best deal. If that doesn't happen just take a bus to Puerto Maldonado and look for a lodge and jungle trips from there.
Transport, hotel and food to Hydro Electric to hike in to Machu Pichu. Expeditions Peru, off the main square. Get everything in writing, bargain hard, and insist that they arrive by 3 pm to begin the hike! We suggest 2 nights in Aguas Calientes. That way you can spend the first day at the ruins, relax back in town, and take the train back to the hydro station to meet your van the following afternoon.
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Mysterious, stunning Machu Pichu.
Hidden in the remote mountains of Peru.
The magnificent Andes!
Village women resting.
Follow the squeal in a
local eatery and you will find guinea pigs
This couple were real
characters. Someone from our group
The Uros have certainly woven, literally, a unique lifestyle.
It was possible to sleep on
the islands but it would have required
Everyone wrapped up to keep warm!
Plaza de Armas in central Cusco.
Mary (Maria) had a little lamb.
Soon they were joined by many more groups, each wearing a different costume.
'Bambo' drum (hollowed out tree trunk with a stretched goat skin).