Cusco and Machu Picchu

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
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Trip End May 2010


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Even with all the hype, Machu Picchu certainly doesn't disappoint! We made it comfortably to Cusco where we met up with Ben's Couchsurfing friend, Nico. There were two other Dutch Couchsurfers who also showed up!

Nico was amazingly helpful in getting our trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley figured out. (There are many options for mitigating the cost of the very overpriced train that goes to the town nearest Machu Picchu.)

Before heading to the Sacred Valley and eventually to Machu Picchu, we spent a day touring a few of Cusco's many sights. The cathedrals on Cusco's main square tell a tremenous history of the Inca culture, the conquest of the Spanish led by Pizarro and the intermixing of the Quechua culture and religion and the Spanish imposed Catholicism.

That evening, we met up with our new Dutch friends and created a wonderful dinner for our hosts, Nico and his family.

Dinner party in Cusco

The next day, we jetted off to the Sacred Valley, specifically the town of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is known for its impressive Inca archaeological site located at an altitude of 2,792 meters. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it also served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance.

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Ollantaytambo

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Ben looking out over the Sacred Valley and the town of Ollantaytambo

We explored the ruins at dusk and enjoyed walking the ruins with no one else while the sun dropped below the mountains of the Sacred Valley. Late that night, we took the last train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes so we get an early start for Machu Picchu.

We awoke to rain, but luckily, as our bus wound its way up from the town of Aguas Calientes to the main entrance to Machu Picchu, the clouds began to part. The ruins were still submerged in clouds, but it did mean that there were far fewer tourists than normal! We took a morning tour that was absolutely fantastic and then hiked up the mountain that the Incas named Machu Picchu (which the famous city was named after).

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Hear is Lindsey in from of Machu Picchu! This is the famous spot where you see the postcard photo of Machu Picchu... yeah, it's foggy and rainy.

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Our guide showing off a representation of what the city of Machu Picchu may have looked look during the height of the Inka empire.

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In this typical Machu Picchu photo, the mountain you see behind the ruins is named Huayna Picchu (2720 meters). Only 400 people can ascend Huayna Picchu per day and you have to on top of it to get tickets to be in this group of lucky people. (Anisa and Milar can atest to this from their Machu Picchu experience!)

We weren't on top of it so we opted to climb the lesser trodden peak of Machu Picchu (~3100 meters). The hike was great and by the time we reached the summit, the views of the ruins and Huayna Picchu had emerged. The view from Mount Machu Picchu is stunning! So stunning in fact, that we got lost in time up there and ended up rushing down the mountain to make up time. (Turned out that we spent over 3 hours just chilling at the summit and chatting with the only other person to go up that day--another adventureous soul from Boulder, CO!)

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Amazing butterflies surrounded us on the trek up!

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Flowers of Machu Picchu

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Lindsey ascending the final 300 feet to the summit

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Lovebirds at the summit

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When we finally descended back down to the ruins of Machu Picchu, almost everyone had left for the day and we enjoyed the place pretty much to ourselves!!

All our photos of Machu Picchu:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157615847175075/
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Comments

cyni
cyni on

Hi Ben and Lindsey
Hi Ben and Lindsey

Fantastic photos of Machu Picchu.We hope to visit there one day but as it's so high I think we are a bit past our prime to do it. Did you find Sal and Det
hiding in the ruins awaiting your arrival? I was really interested in your description of the time when you literally had the place to yourselves. We had a similar experience in Abu Simbel in Egypt in 2004. While all the 'sheep' followed each other in to one of the two temples, we took advantage and spent about 15 minutes on our own in the other. A truly amazing time.

We look forward so much to your visit with us later in the year and we can repay some of the overwhelming hospitality shown to us when we were in Courtenay with your wonderful Mum and Dad.

Stay safe and keep enjoying this magical time in your lives.

Cynthia and Geoffrey
Melbourne Australia

eherrera
eherrera on

Holaaa!!
Greetings from Madrid.
Thanks for show us your fantastic visits around the world. I am remenber a lot of geography, and it is very cultural :-)
I will have a look soon to follow your next steps.
All the best, take care.
Eduardo

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