10.11.2011 - 10.25.2011
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I've been in Cusco, Peru for around two weeks. It's a great city to spend a little extra time in. Touristy...yes, but charming in spite of that. The Plaza de Armas is lovely, exceptionally so at night! Several markets are located within walking distance so we've done a little more shopping than was really necessary, but impossible to say no to.
We're staying at Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta. The owner, Javier, is such a kind man. He and his staff are so accommodating and helpful. They organized a tour for us to visit the Sacred Valley, which was beautiful! We spent the day driving through mountains, stopping at several lookout points to take pictures and visiting the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Our tour group had the chance to climb to the top of the ruins for a beautiful view of the Sacred Valley. Up they went...all except me and Elyse. Sadly, there were people who were probably in their 60's climbing up those stairs, but not me. Whatever view they saw up there was in no way worth the risk of tripping and falling down hundreds of steps...which considering how clumsy I am, would be a likely possibility!!
On Friday, Oct 21st, we visited Machu Picchu. It is by far one of the most magical places I have ever been! Breath taking is the only way to describe it. To get there, we spent four hours on Peru Rail's Vista Dome train. The train ride seemed to add to the mystic quality of the Machu Picchu experience. Once we arrived in Aguas Caliente, we purchased bus tickets and began the 30 minute climb. My heart was in my throat the entire time! The road was so narrow and steep. Only one bus could really fit, yet several times we met a bus coming down. One bus would then back up until finding a place wide enough to squeeze around and continue on its way. Finally, that nightmare of an experience was over and we were finally at Machu Picchu and I found myself having to walk up a steep trail that was far too close to the edge of the mountain for my tastes. Although everyone that I've asked and everything I've read has said that it's lower than Cusco, I'm not sure if I believe it. Machu Picchu felt SO high...all you could see was the tips of mountains and clouds all around it. Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE heights! Still, I made myself climb to the top of yet another path to get the classic Machu Picchu picture. It took a huge effort not to cry and/or grimace as I had my picture taken.
Once I calmed down and no longer felt like I could easily fall off a cliff, I found myself mesmerized by the sight before me! We spent the next several hours exploring. How amazing that I was climbing up and down stairwells that were once occupied by Incas! We had decided against hiring a guide...in hindsight we probably could have used one to help us keep our balance on the uneven stairs and paths. However, I often stopped to listen in on the information shared by the guides leading around huge tour groups. The ruins are amazing! So many different buildings and terraces--most of which historians are still uncertain of their true use.
The highlight of the day occurred right before we left. We were sitting on a few rocks on one of the terraces that offered the first glimpse of Machu Picchu. We saw a family--adult daughter, mom, and dad approaching the steps to climb up to where we were. The father had to be close to 80, if not older, and was being pushed in a wheel chair. They must have hired to guides to assist him because there is no way to manipulate the different levels in a wheel chair. As he slowly began the climb up, being half carried by one of the guides, we wondered about the story that must be behind the huge effort of getting him there. The look on his face as he finally made it to the top and took his first look at the ruins brought tears to my eyes. He was in absolute amazement! We stayed for a few minutes, not wanting to interrupt this moment, but unable to leave without experiencing it with them for at least a moment. It was his lifelong dream to see Machu Picchu and I'm so very grateful that I was able to witness him fulfill his dream!!