Traveling on vacation (aka “tourist”) , vs. being “a traveler”: now I get it. In the past, I’ve had several weeks in a country (Turkey, South Africa. Ecuador) before friends joined me for their 3 week vacation. This time, in Peru, Bev and I arrived in Peru the same day, with my arrival preceding hers by a mere 11 hours.
It feels like a Peru sampler. We’re following the main tourist routing because, well, that’s the best stuff to sample, and when you’ve only got three weeks (Bev still works), there’s no time for messing around with “maybe’s”. Here’s a sampling of our sample:
Lima – you basically must fly into this flat city of nine million people. So we did. Our hostel host took us and 4 other guests to an amazing water park (Parque de la Reserva) where they do light shows – the Magic Water Show is accurately named:
After 1 day in Lima in which we came to admire their public transportation system, we flew to Cusco, jumping off point for Machu Picchu (MP), and it also happens to be about 2 miles high.
Cusco is gorgeous. Colors are intensified in the thin air. Every day had pure sunshine (it’s the dry season). It’s a city of hills, i.e. views.
We stayed only one night before heading off for Macchu Pichu.
This part of Peru is all about the Inca’s. We were to catch a train in the ancient Inca town of Ollantaytambo (OTO). The train would get us to the town nearest the MP ruins, Aguas Callientes. So, we hired a taxi to drive us to OTO, stopping at major ruins along the way, timing ourselves to get to our 3 p.m. train.
We stopped at Moray, where the Inca’s experimented with differenct microclimates:
and Maras where they collected salt (and Andeans still do):
and we simply admired the views in the Sacred Valley as we drove through. Here are wheat fields, which we have a lot of in Spokane, but somehow they don’t look quite the same:
Mission accomplished: we caught our overpriced train and were delivered to Aguas Callientes, where next day we set off to MP on the overpriced bus you must take if you’re not going to walk there.
Yes, MP is wonderful, and we spent two days there. First day, walking around the main ruins,
second day hiking up the 100 million steps to the summit of Machu Picchu Montana (2000 ft elevation gain). Here’s a view from way up on this sacred mountain:
MP: things I wish I had known before I went:
- Getting the bus to the MP entrance from Aguas Callientes is not worth stressing over. The buses continually take people up the mountain, and only start leaving at intervals when there’s no longer a line. We got to the first bus, a 5:30 a.m. departure to get us to the MP entry at opening time, 6 a.m. We got there at 5:10 a.m. and waited on line for the first bus to leave. Did not need to be so crazed. Especially since the purpose of getting there so early was to see the sun rise. On the 2 days we were there, the overcast sky didn’t clear until well after sunrise, like 10 a.m. It was gorgeous and dramatic having the scenery slowly revealed. But, did not need to get there at 6 a.m. to have that experience.
Here’s what it looked like as it was revealed:
2. The rule is that you can’t bring in food. They do NOT check back packs and no problem bringing in your food.
3.The only bathrooms are outside the entry gate, a very long and arduous walk from most parts of MP. I sure stressed over this in advance. Then I discovered there actually are bushes and trees and nooks and crannies – but please bring a baggie for your TP.
After three nights in Aguas Callientes – unique in that it’s a town created by tourism – we returned to OTO on the $45 one way train, which took 1 ½ hours. We visited the ruins there, and the town, before taking a combi (shared mini-van) back to Cusco. Here’s some of what Ollantaytambo looks like:
Two more nights in Cusco so we could visit more of the Sacred Valley about made me nuts, feeling like I was participating in a National Geographic special, but not really touching life in Peru. It was pretty, though, no doubt about that. And the Inca’s were an interesting group. Here’s one factoid about them no one ever mentioned before: their practice of, get his:
“A few days after birth, the head of the newborn would be placed into a splint where it would remain” until the child was 9 or 10 years old. “By putting pressure on the cranium, the Inca’s were able to double the volume of the cerebral mass.” (from the museum at Quispicanchi – www.Quispicanchi.es.vg).
Was this part of what made them so smart?
Today we took a tourist bus from Cusco to Puno, starting point for Lake Titicaca. The bus was luxurious and immaculate and made 4 stops at: more Inca ruins.
Plus a really good buffet lunch was included in the $50 price.
So, tomorrow more rapid touring, which I’ll tell you about in my next blog.
Here are a few final pretty pictures of these amazing Andes:
This is a view from the train between OTO and Aguas Callientes:
So you see, you don’t have to be a “traveler” to have a knock-out experience. More from this temporary tourist in my next blog.