Cusco to Machupicchu

Cusco PlazaThe ancient capital of the Incas is a beautiful vital city. Lots of impressing Inca remains in and around the city. It was very fun hanging out there, tasting special dishes and drinking quite a lot. I went from there to the famous Machupicchu through the gorgeous Salkantay trek, and also to the Manu jungle. Going paragliding is another notable experience for the intro…

Pisaq from aboveWe arrived to Cusco in the middle of the night, waking up the owner of the Royal Frankenstein. Only in the morning, we got to see the city. Our first sight, though, was the nearby town of Pisaq. The way there, through the “Sacred Valley” was beautifull.

 The town is famous for it’s market. Many tourists, especially from the US, flood the market and do lots of (Christmas) shopping. The Inca terraces at Pisaqmarket is nice, but the main attraction is not the town, but the ancient Inca ruins. Remarkable agricultural terraces, a fortress and a few temples are clearly seen. The guide said that this site is better than the world famous Machupicchu. I disagree with him, especially after he tried to sell us some paintings, but it was, with no doubt, wonderfull.

Being tourists in a touristy town, we took the city tour. This is Sachsayhuamandefinitely a senior citizen trip: 4 hours, 5 sites, get off the bus, take pictures, get on the bus. The first site, really in the city was nice: Coriquancha is a nice Inca place, abused by the Spaniards. Following that, was the most impressive site: Sachsayhuaman. A big temple made of giant rocks. The rocks were supposedly taken from some place 7 kms away. It is located well above the city, so the Spaniards stuck a cross over there. Walking around there was cool, and nowadays they have an anual beer festival.  Next were 3 additional sites. Time was already against us, so we found ourselves, just taking pictures (in bad light) of these places. It probably should be done independently.

Salkantay mountainSalkantay trek, one of the best parts in the trip followed. This trek, also considered “the backdoor to the Machupicchu” goes through gorgeous snow capped mountains, deep valleys, and finishes with the marvelous Machupicchu. I was also lucky to be part of a multinational group of inteligent people. The group does make the difference. It isn’t only about the views. Also the guide, very funny and very proud of his Quechua culture made the experience unique. Of course, his great English made it all understandable…

Along the riverThe first day consisted of climbing uphill, but on a very easy path. This allowed mingling, and comparing the price paid for the trek. Of course, Israelis pay less. As we walked, we got closer to the mountains, the real fun of the trip. The night at 3800 meters was freezing, especially when you don’t close the tent properly…

The next was hard, but exciting. It started with a hard uphill stretch at high altitude, reaching the top at 4600 meters. We honored the mountains with a traditional stone placing ceremony, and a modern group picture. Descending was also beautiful, since there were clouds below us, which Group photomade it mysterious. After scrambling downhill, we reached camp by just before dark.

The next days were much easier. Shortcuts could be made by taking buses, trains and trucks. The path went through populated areas, so it was quite wide. I got to see where coffee comes from. I still don’t understand how this country, which exports coffee to allThe end... the world, has such crappy coffee at home. A special experience was the hot springs near Santa Terressa. The springs, a 45 minute walk from camp were wonderful. Very relaxing after 3 days of walking, especially when the beer was flowing. The guide taught us some songs in Quechua. We found ourselves returning on a truck…Another notable experience was crossing a mighty river riding a manually driven cable car. At first it seemed sary, but The valley belowsurprisingly it was very stable. On the eve of finishing the pilgrimage Machupicchu, we returned to sleeping on a bed in Aguas Clientes “Pueblo Machupicchu”. The hot springs there were smelly and over crowded, unlike the special experience the night before.

 

MachupicchuMachupicchu, so famous, so touristic, but truly very impressive. Some others and myslef insisted on going early with the bus and looking for the viewpoint. Unfortunately we found ourselves struggling uphill in the wrong direction, trying to look through the clouds and find if we are there yet. After catching our breath, we joined the rest of the group to a guided tour which included being baptised at an Inca fountain. The clouds were slowly drifting away, and site became clear. That was an overwhelming moment.

From Huayna PicchuOn our free time there, we climbed the “nose”, also known as Huayna Picchu, or the mountain behind the site. The way was steep but well maintained. The top was only a few rocks. Underneath was Machupicchu. Around is a valley and then a circle of mountains. It really felt like being on the top of world. Getting down was the anti climax. The muscles were aching, and saying goodbye to all the great people in the group was emotional…

See more pictures here  That’s it for this chapter. Next is the jungle of Manu and more of the Cusco area.