Wednesday, December 9, 2009
This is the view of Machu Picchu from the top of Wyna Picchu. In the native language Machu Picchu means "old peak" while Wyna Picchu means "young peak." They are two mountains on either side of the "Lost City of the Incas" AKA Machu Picchu. The Incas began to build it around 1430 AD but abandoned it less than 100 years later when the inhabitants were killed by small pox. The city remained a secret to the majority of the world until its "scientific exploration" in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983.
When the Spaniards invaded and destroyed they did not find Machu Picchu. As a result much of the city is still in tact. Its original beauty and majesty has survived centuries!
Last time I wrote was on Thanksgiving...after that special holiday I stayed another 3 nights in Puno with CA 1, 2, and 3 and Frenchie (Caty). Our group really didnt do much in Puno. Puno is high in altitude and subconsciously I believe when I am high in altitude I do not feel like doing much. Luckily, our hostel had a sufficient kitchen and we were right next to the Central Market! For the next 3 nights we cooked big breakfasts and dinners. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, pasta with creamy garlic sauce, breakfast smooties, quinoa pudding...we celebrated Thanksgiving for three days afterward to make up for the lack of turkey and cranberries! haha.
After Puno I headed straight to Cusco. And it is this city that I have fallen in love with. The city and the people.
On the way to Cusco my California boys got off the bus a few hours in to the trip to hike in to some tiny town in the jungle in search of a man of 125 years. Caty and I headed to Cusco. Our first night here we met a Canadian man and we all went to a bar Km 0 to eat dinner and get a few drinks. Serendipitously a local band was playing. They play indiginous music with djembays, didgeriedoos, flutes and all kinds of native instruments. About 10 guys packed on to a little stage and filled the bar with music and love. I bought one of their CD's and I hope I can share it with you...
After the concerto I met some of the guys and Caty and I ended up going dancing with some of them at a local discoteca. And thus had been my life here in Cusco--I hang out at Km 0 for live music, go dancing, and explore the city and lives of the people. My style of tourism has developed and changed over the past few months. In the beginning of my trip I went to all the museums and churches that tourists were supposed to go to.
Now I have been in Cusco for almost 2 weeks and have not set foot in a single museum or church. But I have gotten to know the people here better than any other city on my trip. I met a guy, Omar, making jewelery and selling it and ended up playing music with him for an entire afternoon and buying a beautiful set of tourquise earings to go with a necklace. I am good friends with Enrique, the drummer from the band at Km 0. He also drums at Roots, a local discoteca, which makes for an interesting mix of a new age DJ and tribal music that is fun to dance to. I met another guy and we went for a hike to the Temple of the Moon and Temple of the Monkeys above Cusco. The Temple of the Moon is significant because on equinoxes the moon shines brightly into the temple through a hole in the ceiling. After hanging out in the temple we went an set up a slackline between two trees and walked across it. I have slacklined with friends in Boulder but had no idea South Americans knew about it. It was such a surprise and pleasant reminder of home to be slacklining.
Cusco has been great and I am sure I could have stayed in the city for the remainder of my time in Peru and been happy BUT! I had to make it to Machu Picchu! So on Sunday I got on a bus to Urubamba, and another bus to Ollantantambo where I waited for four hours for a train to Aguas Calientes where I stayed the night before getting up at the crack of dawn to go to Machu Picchu.
When I figured out I had a 4 hour layover in Ollantantambo I wondered what I would do with myself for 4 hours. Then I looked at the mountain above me and saw an entire city of ruins! So I spent the next hour hiking up the ruins and played my flute as the sun set in the distance. Then it began to rain and I found a cute little restraunt where I spent the next 2 and a half hours eating pasta with pesto and writing in my journal. Then at 9 that night I got on the train to go to Machu Picchu.
On the train I sat next to a nice guy from Colombia and also 4 German guys and 4 Americans. When we got to Aguas Calientes we all went to the same hostel. I was so happy to get a private room and bathroom for 15 soles (about $6). The next morning we all woke up at about 5 to go to Machu Picchu. We ate breakfast, bought our tickets and got on the bus to visit the ruins.
Only 200 people are allowed to go hike Wyna Picchu each morning. I was determined to hike it to get a view of the entire city of Machu Picchu so I went straight to the beginning of the trail. En route I met 3 Americans and their guide who were in Peru on a mission trip. They adopted me in to their group and we ended up hiking Wyna Picchu together. On woman, Cheryl lives in Denver and is 65 years old! It was great to hike with this group of lively Americans. When I am 65 I sure hope I can do a 1 and a half hour hike as easily as she did. This is the wonderful group that I hiked Wyna Picchu with. Donna, Cheryl and Robert from the US.
Getting to the top and seeing Machu Picchu below us was breathtaking. Beyond words. We began the hike at about 7 in the morning and it was cool and cloudy for most of our hike. But just after we got to the top the sun came out and shined on the city.
Llamas in Machu Picchu. These beautiful animals ran free in the inner courtyard, eating their grass and living peacefully.
Ruins. There were so many stairs and terraces. The Incas used the terraces to grow food even on the steepest of mountain sides.
This wonderful stone has many different corners and edges. One corner points in each direction. And when the part in the middle casts a shadow over one special side it is the beginning of spring (the Spring Equinox).
Isnt it amazing how the Incas fit all the rocks together so perfectly? Every single stone was shaped and placed with love to fit like a puzzle with surrounding pieces.
Me, the city of Machu Picchu and Wyna Picchu behind us.
I spent a good portion of the day enjoying the city and ruins. Then I hiked an hour back down to Aguas Calientes and ate lunch in a cute pizzeria. My pizza was made in a wood fire oven. The woman who cooked it was 8 months pregnant!!! The pizza was delicious. Delicious! One of the best pizzas I have ever eaten.Here she is with my pizza in the oven and a little bun in her own oven!
The next day I spent 12 hours getting back to Cusco. 12 hours. This included a 3 hour hike along railroad tracks, a one hour cab ride and then a 6 hour ride in a mini van. We drove on what would not be classified as roads in the US. We actually drove through through rivers that went right over the roads. I set off on this journey alone but met a group of 2 French, 2 Germans and one Argentinian. They adopted me into their group for the day and we found our way back to Cusco together.
I set off on my journey to Machu Picchu alone but met so many people along the way. This is how my whole trip has been. I always meet people and form groups and travel together. But when I want to do something different from the group or I need time to myself I have complete freedom to do it. Independence...ahhh.
When I got back in to town it was great to see all of my friends I have made here. I ate some smashing potatoes at a cute restraunt where I went to eat alone. By the end of my meal I was sitting at a table with 2 Canadians and a French man. When I was leaving the restraunt I met a guy from Arkansas and ended up letting him buy me a glass of wine to stay and talk to him. haha. I always meet people!
One of the most interesting things about meeting foreigners is to find out their ancestry. We commonly think of America as the the Great Melting Pot. But nope! The entire world is a melting pot! Germans with Polish and Dutch heritage. South Americans who have native, Italian, African and French blood. I cannot say I have met a 'pureblood' person yet.