Our flight to Lima, Peru left at night leaving us with a 6 hour layover in the Lima airport. Luckily, everything in the airport stayed open 24 hours so we sat in a cafe drinking beers and eating food waiting for our plane. At 545AM, we were on our way to Cusco, Peru!
|One of our multiple snacks during out layover in Lima.|
Granted it is winter time in the southern hemisphere right now and we are in the mountains with little humidity, but I did not put the two together and realize how cold it was going to be. And to top things off, the buildings did not have heat. Luckily, I brought my scarf and gloves and many long sleeve items where I could layer up to keep warm. When we arrived at our hotel, we were given delicious Coca leaf tea (apparently the same Coca leaf used to produce Cocaine).
The streets are very narrow and the buildings do not look that big. From the outside, one might think there is not much behind the door however, it is amazing how vast the area is when you walk into places. It slowly warmed up throughout the day so I could shed some layers of warmth. Almost like a dessert-like region where it's super cold during the evening/night/early morning where you wear winter coats/hats and then during the day you wear short sleeves.
|Narrow streets of Cusco, Peru.|
|A cross in the square - unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside the churches.|
We took a taxi the next morning to the town of Poroy to catch our train to Aguas Calientes which we then took a bus to Machu Picchu. We took the lazy man route and did the train because of our limited time. Both of us would like to return at some point in our lives to hike up the mountain, which takes about 4 days. We splurged and took the luxury train, Hiram Bingham, named after the scholar who decided to try to restore these ruins in 1911. We opted for this train because a ticket to Machu Picchu itself was included as well as an English tour. We had the hardest time trying to buy tickets due to the government suspending sales of tickets outside of Peru. The views from the train were gorgeous as we traveled the 3 hours to Aguas Calientes - small towns, farms, rivers and snow capped mountains.
When we arrived to Machu Picchu, I expected there to be more hiking than we actually did. But then again, we did take the lazy way. Once we got to the top of the trail and walked out to the open - there was Machu Picchu. The view was absolutely breathtaking and seemed almost fake - unreal that I am standing overlooking this beautiful Inka estate. There are many theories as to why this estate was built, abandoned, how the community functioned, etc. Restoration still continues to this day. We spent a total of 3 hours or so walking around the ruins.
|The spectacular Machu Picchu, Peru|
Since we were unable to get tickets to climb Huayna Picchu the following day to see the sunrise on the ruins of Machu Picchu, we decided to spend all day in the small town of Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley). This town also had some small ruins but we did not pay to see them. Instead we hiked up the of the other side of the valley for two reasons: one, this side was free and also had some ruins of a castle and two, it was higher which gave a amazing view of the entire valley.
|Julio and my attempt at wood carving in my hand...|
I really enjoyed the ability to interact with locals on a one-on-one level. This was organized through the group called Awamaki, http://www.awamaki.org/, which is a non-profit org trying to involve the tourists more with the local community. Their main purpose is to revitalize the weaving tradition of the local communities in that area.
Back to Reality
The entire trip was long and tiring but completely worth the effort. We woke up at 445AM to catch a taxi back to the Cusco airport to spend the day on planes, buses and taxis to eventually return home and go to work the next morning at 8AM. Cannot wait for the next long off adventure...we are thinking The Amazon!
More pictures of our trip can be found on my Picasa page, click HERE.