The Last Big Ticket Of Our Epic Journey
20.09.2012 - 21.09.2012 18 °C
My apologies guys that this one has taken so long to fire off but it has been an extremely eventful and exciting couple off weeks. We successfully made it to our final destination of the Dominican Republic where we were reunited with family and friends and finally after knowing each other for 11+ years got married! Mr. & Mrs. Warren are proud to announce that the wedding was indeed a smashing success and I can't wait to share our final blog post with you. I am merely waiting on the arrival of some pictures from different sources to better help capture our overall experience.
As you know when we last left off we were in Cusco, Peru and on our way to visit one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World (our 4th and final one of our trip... + the Pyramids, but they technically count it as an Ancient Wonder Of The World - the only one left standing). Believe it or not the journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco is actually quite complicated. Below Machu Picchu lays the town of Aguas Calientes (a town built solely for the purpose of tourism to the "Wonder") which is only reachable by train, so you can probably already guess that the train companies just hose tourists to get there. From Cusco it roughly costs tourists $300 (round trip) depending on availability, BUT if you take a bus to Ollantaytambo (1 hour away from Cusco by bus) you can buy a round trip backpacker ticket for $80. Guess which option we chose lol?
Of course to get there you drove through the Scared Valley. My first time seeing it (above picture). Once in town we checked in at the train station and waited for the next leg of our journey.
Still can't believe the size of my cousin Cassandra's pack lol. Size/Capacity - Canadian: 90 litres Peru: 3 Alpacas
The train was pretty fantastic and since our travel agent butchered our booking we were upgraded above basic tourist class and received a few extra perks.
For whatever reason Aguas Calientes receives quite a bad wrap in both travel literature and within backpacker circles... yes there are WAY too many pizza joints and flycatchers on the street but it's pretty hard to beat the scenery since your completely surrounded and dwarfed by mountain peaks. To be honest the surrounding mountains reminded me a lot of China's Li River area.
That night we were all pretty tired and I'd be lying if I didn't say slightly hungover, so we indulged in pizza early (damn fly catchers) and got some much needed rest.... yep you gotta be up at 4:15 sharp if you want to catch the first bus up to Mach Picchu!
Us in the bus line up at roughly 5:00am. Now I know what some of you are thinking "with all that grand hiking experience why didn't you climb to the top?" Do you remember several posts back? We made a pledge after the Colca Canyon to never hike again lol. We could of and should of but to hop a bus to the top for $4 and not arrive all sweaty and exhausted was more important to us (trust me... we arrived at the top the same time as other people that had hiked it and they were steaming in the cold air dripping in sweat.... and don't even get me started on this one guys swass stains.... PLEASE PEOPLE NEVER HIKE IN WHITE PANTS... nasty).
The road going up/down...
After hopping off the bus it was just a short climb to the ultimate lookout point - The Guard House.
Views of the surrounding mountains... check out our Li River post and judge for yourselves the similarities.
Here it is... our first view of Machu Picchu. Words could never explain what an awe inspiring moment that was for us. Truly amazing.
I often wondered after looking at the pictures how the grass got cut...
The alpaca's just roam around freely minding their own business while constantly being harassed by tourists... yes I was one of them lol. On that note I truly thought that the amount on people at Machu Picchu would be out of control. At times it did seem a bit much (mainly when it opens) but the site itself is huge and by mid-day you can feel as though you have the view all to yourself. And besides it is one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World... it's not like they're gonna be fighting to sell entrance tickets.
A view from a bit higher up...
Machu Picchu is literally built on the top of a mountain (2430m) and although it is widely debated as to 'why' it was built, it is generally accepted that it was built around 1438-72 by the Inca emperor Pachacuti.
After the view from the top we hightailed it over to another close by sight - the Inca Bridge.
The bridge itself is barricaded off to tourists but we did see one guy cross it... pretty risky cause it would be one heck of a fall. Somehow we managed to convince Stacey to pose for this next picture... less then one foot behind us was a 2430m drop down.
Backtracking to the Guard House... up this high the weather can change in an instant.
The actual Guard House where you get the best views...
I think one of the main reasons why Machu Picchu is so beloved and famous is because you can take it all in (almost) at one spot. Of course all ancient ruins around the world are amazing but Machu Picchu is built atop a mountain and again, to add to it's magnificence you can see the whole city from your very own perch at the Guard House. The other thing that both impressed and astonished me were the many terraces carved into the mountainside.
That's the Guard House above and when we arrived we all decided to park ourselves out on one of the terraces pictured above and just relax and take in the view... we may have had a little nap too. It was hard to escape the peaceful energy surrounding the site.
I'm King of the world!
After spending several hours of basically just gawking at the ruins we decided to finally venture down and explore them. You could tell that quite a lot of work has gone into restoring and preserving the site, but I really liked that some of the buildings were thatched while others were not and left in the state that they were "re-discovered" in.
As with most ruin sights the size of the stones used is mind boggling... it would take a hell of a lot of alpaca power to hoist those blocks lol.
Here are a few more views of the many terraces (one of the theories as to why Machu Picchu was built is that it was an agricultural experiment).
The terraces run down the mountain pretty much all around the city...
As always Stacey found some pretty flowers (she's gonna be one hell of a little gardener soon )
What archeologists think was a temple inside the city (can't remember the name... to many names this year... and languages lol)).
The inner part of the city... looking at these pictures makes me honestly think that everyone in Canadian suburbia should just recycle their lawnmowers and buy an alpaca. Cut/Fertilize/Family Pet... and if he does a bad job... dinner lol. What? Alpaca steak tastes pretty good.
Posing inside the city...
Here's a picture of a fairly typical building within the city. Obviously it would have had a thatched roof.
Of course being on top of a mountain there were plenty of stairs to contend with.
My research on Machu Picchu was lacking during our visit and I asked the question 'why was the site built here?', to which our travelling historian John replied 'because there is a natural spring on top of the mountain'. Damn... someone did there homework lol. And we found examples of the spring and water system throughout the city. Although we never could locate the source of the spring itself (it was roped off to tourists).
Another view of the city...
You know the mountain you see in the background in all my pictures? Well that's called Huayna Picchu and there are actually ruins located on top of it... and terraces. They only allow a certain number of people a day to climb it, it's expensive and obviously fairly strenuous to climb. Using our zoom lens you get a pretty good picture of it from afar. Can believe that the Incas were farming the terraces way up there?
We ended up spending nearly 12 hours on top of Machu Picchu and by 4pm were exhausted. The 4:15am wake up combined with all the walking and altitude had wiped us out and we made our way back down to Aguas Calientes to partake in a much deserved beer and game of Jenga (what a great game lol).
That night after dinner we caught our train back to Ollantaytambo where, long story short, we were stranded for several hours due to taxi shortages (oh the joys of backpacking). We did eventually manage to wrangle one up however after several hours of patiently waiting and finally make it back to Cusco. Lesson learned... always travel light lol... I still can't believe the size of that pack Cass!
And that concludes our travels in Peru and South America. The following day Stacey and I flew to Lima, spent one night near the airport and then flew onward to the Dominican Republic, whereas Cassandra and John spent one more day in Cusco and then flew the following day to San Jose Costa Rica. Can't wait to see the pics guys!
So before I sign off here's a map of our journey throughout Peru:
Once again a lot of km's covered but well worth it. We were sad to leave our new travel companions behind in Cusco after having such a blast and at this point I think it really began to sink in that our epic journey was coming to an end. It's really hard for me to explain what was going through our heads cause on one hand we were both super excited to be reunited with our family and friends while on the other hand we were both kind of mourning the loss of this past year. We knew that time would inevitably fly by but here we were... mere days away from our reunion and marriage. What an amazing year... we both feel so lucky and blesses and I'm so glad I got to share it with you. One post left... the grand final... Ciao.