Cuzco and Machu Picchu

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
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Trip End Jun 01, 2011


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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have probably been on over two hundred flights in the past few years between work and personal travel and I was only every nervous one time. I was flying through a blizzard in January in Northern Alaska on an eight-seat plane. But landing in Cuzco, Peru brought back that same feeling for a few seconds. The plane was just about scraping the tops of the Andes Mountains on the descent to Cuzco. There were a few times the plane was nearly on its side it felt like a video game. But one of the most amazing landings I have experienced. Once on the ground in Cuzco I headed for my hotel, checked in and set my bags on the bed. I was in my room for five seconds and left to explore the city. Cuzco is a beautiful town with stone streets, huge squares, ancient churches and huge mountains surrounding it. The first thing I did was walk through the city down a narrow road and found a hole in the wall restaurant to eat. I have no idea what Peruvian food is but I asked the manager to make me a typical dish. I assumed that I would not be eating that well in Peru or at least that was one of my excuses so I could eat so much in Italy. I could not have been more wrong, the manager ordered me Lomo Saltado which is tenderloin. It was a mix of beef, vegetables, rice and potato's. I never tasted beef so good, it literally desinigrated in my mouth. I didn't even need to chew. Everyone was drinking a purple drink out of a huge metal pot behind the bar so I asked to try some. It was chico morada a purple corn drink.

Following a huge lunch I walked around the city streets and came across Templo De La Compania De Jesus it is a beautiful church on the outside. I noticed it was open so I went inside and I have never seen a Christian church like this before. The alter was many stories high and it was covered in gold like many of the Buddhist temples in Asia, it had many statues of important Christan figures like the Hindu temples in India with paintings mixed in just like the cathedrals in Europe. It felt like the perfect combination of all religions I have experienced along the way. After I left I was thinking it's great to see all these beautiful sites in Cuzco but I don't really know what I am looking at. Just as I thought that I felt a women behind me and saw her out of the corner of my eye. I asked her to take my picture and we started talking for a few minutes and found out she is a Peruvian tour guide. So I walked down a busy street with my new friend Yudy and she offered to show me around the city. I wish I could properly explain the incredible people I have met along the way but it is impossible. Yudy is a Peruvian women whose family heritage traces back to the Inca's living in Machu Picchu. She has a presence about her and a deep sense of self and spirituality that cannot be explained. Over the next few hours she showed me the sights of Cuzco. We had a local coca tea followed by a few Peruvian cervices’. One point we were walking down a narrow alley and past and ancient Incan building. I would have normally walked right past it but Yudy stopped me and pointed out the bricks of the building they are huge "pillow bricks" which to this day no one knows how the Incans built using them. The brick themselves are huge and curved like a pillow but the smoothest bricks I have ever felt. One brick is huge and has 12 points to it and the bricks are used to design a Puma and Snake designed into the building.

Yudy asked if I wanted to see her home, which was in a small village about forty-five minutes away from Cuzco. It was about 10pm and I had to be at the train station the next morning by 7am to get to Machu Picchu. But my mindset for this journey is to say yes to everything. About one hour later the taxi dropped us off on the side of an empty road and I had no idea where we were. We walked up a dirt road to her home. It is a beautiful home she has designed and built with traditional Incan art throughout the home. Yudy does not have any neighbors and lives in a field surrounded by mountains. There was a full moon out so the mountains were illuminated and it was as if there was a huge spotlight on us as we drank wine. The stars were out and it was a perfect moment. One of the most important things to the Incans is there connection with nature. I felt that connection if only for a few moments. I spent the night just listening to Yudy explain her heritage, history, religion, philosophy's and just in awe and thankful for the moment. She said many things I will never forget but one thing that she said was "Life is once". Before I knew it, it was 5am and I needed to take a taxi back to my hotel to get my things and then to the train station. The sun was coming up as we left and the full moon was still in the sky. It was the perfect combination of night and day.

We made it to Cuzco and then to Poroy where the train station is, in time for breakfast. It is about a three hour and thirty minute train ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes which is at the base of Machu Picchu. Along the way the train passes through Huarocondo gorge and zigzags it way down the path into the gorge. From there it travels into Ollantaytambo the ancient Inca resting place and then into and through the Sacred Valley. The entire train ride is an incredible experience all while running along the river and surrounded by mountains. Once in Aguas Calientes I checked into a hostel and decided to walk around the town. It is a small town set on a hill with a beautiful backdrop. There are many Peruvian restaurants and handcrafts making up the streets the town. The next morning I woke up early and walked to the bottom the town to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. Once inside I had to accumulate myself to the altitude, which is over 2500 meters high. The clouds feel like there are only a few feet above your head. It is one of those places that the pictures will never do it justice.  I had no idea just how big Machu Picchu actually is. An enormous ancient Incan city when you look over it you can only be in awe. The terraces look like huge steps carved on the side of the mountain and were used for farming. The highest point is the guardhouse which has 360 degree views of the surrounding area. It was a climb but to look down from above the guardhouse down at Machu Picchu almost even with the clouds is incredible. I was able to walk through the Main Gate to the Inca's homes and temples. Once down in the Main Square there are Vicuna's and Alapaqua's grazing one the grass. The only way I can try and describe it is that it feels like you’re on an ancient mystical island in the sky.

To get to Machu Picchu I took the train from Verona to Milan and spent a night there. Then a flight to Madrid where I had to run to make my connection to Lima. A night in Lima then a flight to Cuzco. A taxi ride to wherever Yudy lives and a taxi ride back to Cuzco, then to Poroy. From Poroy, a train through the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes. Finally a bus to Machu Picchu. There was nothing better than every second of the journey.

I got back to Poroy and Yudy was waiting in the train station for me. We both headed back to Cuzco because she had to catch a bus to begin one of her tours in a few hours. We walked around the streets of Cuzco and before she left Yudy explained the souvenir I bought in Machu Picchu. The connection of the Incas to nature is the most important piece of this great culture. So I bought a little stone Chakana that is the Incan calender. On the calendar the condor represents the cosmos, the puma represents the earth and the snake represents the seas and in the center is the sun and moon always in Incan tradition representing duality. Then as Yudy was about to leave she held out her hand and gave me a present. The first was a small red seed, which she found in the Peruvian jungle which represents the female seed. Since I am a male she gave me the opposite to keep me in balance. She also gave me a piece of Peruvian volcano she found which represents strength. The two when carried together represent inner harmony and bring you what you want. She told me once I meet my soul mate to bury the red seed. I have been fortunate to receive many gifts in my life but this one was given from the most sincere place I have ever felt. It is the best gift I have ever received and I know that a present like this and that moment could never be bought in any store anywhere in the world. It almost doesn't seem fair to try and express this story because the actually sincerity of it can not be written or read.

"The more you listen the more you will learn"-Ruben Iwaki Ordonez
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