Inca central

Trip Start Sep 17, 2010
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38
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Trip End Aug 28, 2011


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

So this is where it all happened, Inca Capital.

Quaint, busy, historic and picturesque. Powerhouse of the Inca Empire that stretched from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south until the Conquistadors came along and introduced cavalry and gunpowder to the region. Now somewhat overprice, and tainted by tourists like ourselves unfortunately, but still charming in its own way. Having had a little look round we felt it was time to hit the hills and seek out some untouristic villages on our way Machu Picchu - the ultimate tourist trap in this part of the world. Good reason for it though.

We started off at some thermal baths in Lares, about three hours bus from Cusco, which was the local holiday spot for (wealthier) Peruvians and already found ourselves well away from the crowds. Here on up (and there was a lot of up!) we went further and further into the hills until we would have been well and truly lost without our guide (or I should say guides as somehow we ended up with our main guide, an assistant guide in training, the horseman and the horsemanīs son in training - all for just the two on us!)

Having chosen what the guidebook called the "Cultural route" we were pleased to come across the local villagers doing their thing. Plenty of amazing costumes to gawp at while they gawped at us foreigners. Kids were pretty funny too hunting with their toy bow and arrows - and asking us for sweets, they learn quick in theses parts who carries what.

I was glad for our other Andes training previous to this trek as we started to acsend high again and the pass we were heading for was well above the snowline (see cold pics). Having battled through this we were rewarded with a nice stroll down the valley with great views along the way. The weather also dried up which meant only the first night in a flooded tent!

At the end of the second day we decided to push along the way to the end town of Ollantytambo, an old Inca fortress and our starting point for the train to Machu Picchu. When we turned up our advanced party (the assistant guide) had scouted out a basketball court for our campsite - what? Yes, there is no campsite here - they just though weīd go gypsy-style. We couldnīt quite believe it at first as we pitched up camp right next to some houses. But apparently its just normal here, so along we went with it...

The next day we hiked up to some cool Inca ruins and got a great angle on the large fort on the opposite side of the valley. Chuffed with ourselves for choosing the free site and avoiding the extortionate entrance fees for the overcrowded-with-tourists fort we heading back down to the town to take a look at the legendary "bearded white man face" half carved into the rock overlooking the town. Then off to the train to head to the main event...

Machu Picchu rocked. I thought it was every bit as good as the hype. Perched high in the hills Iīve seen nothing like it. Perhaps not as grand in size as some of the world wonders, it plenty makes up for that in terms of location amongst the mystical cloud forests and also in respect to its completeness. Glad to avoid the uber early start of some co-travelers who must have see, well, a lot of cloud at sunrise we were lucky to time things to be there for the foggy curtain to be raise around mid-morning and the scale of the site to become apparent. Happy days. God bless you Pachamama.





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