Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

The Lost City

Machu Picchu is often nicknamed the Lost City of the Incas. Due to its isolation, the existence of the ruins was unknown to all but a few local farmers until the late 1800’s.

Recently, Machu Picchu was voted one of the new [read: still existing] Seven Wonders of the Modern World in an internet voting contest. Sure, most of the winning sites were probably influenced due to marketing campaigns by their countries’ governments. But either way, Machu Picchu definitely deserves to be on the new list. Just look at it:

Machu Picchu, taken from Wayna Picchu

You can see from the location and beauty of the city why it was a sacred place to the ancient Incas. Here’s a close-up of one section of the ruins at Machu Picchu:

Close-up of one section of Machu Picchu

The guardhouse, perched high among the terraces, stands watch even now.

Machu Picchu Guardhouse (with CPL filter)

Can you imagine this view from your vegetable garden? The Incas didn’t have to… they actually farmed on the terraces of Machu Picchu. Alpaca still graze on a few of the terraces.

View over Machu Picchu ruins to Wayna Picchu on the left

Here’s the Intihuatana Stone, the ritual sacred stone of Machu Picchu. Even today it is recognized as one of the most important artifacts at the site. A warning to all camera boom operators: if you smuggle gear into the site for a commercial, then accidentally crash the boom and chip a piece off this stone during filming, you will go to jail. Yep, that happened about 10 years ago.

Sacred ritual stone of Machu Picchu

If these scenes from the ruins and the photos of the beautiful Tambopata jungle reserve haven’t convinced you to visit Peru, I don’t know what will. Maybe the surfing and paragliding? The delicious food and friendly locals? The adrenaline-pumping taxi rides? Just be careful with your wallet & passport, and you too could have the experience of a lifetime.

I recommend a minimum of two weeks for your trip to Peru – 10 days was just too short, and even a month wouldn’t be enough to experience Peru to its fullest!

Posted 11 years, 4 months ago at 3:40 pm.

4 comments

Getting Into Hot Water

May 12th. Sorry we’re a bit out of order, as this is before Wayna Picchu. Traveling to the town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is not easy. Especially when traveling there just a few months after devastating landslides damaged the train tracks, stranding many tourists at the town.

Well, the train track has been rebuilt, at least partly. But instead of taking the train directly from Cusco (roundabout 3h away by train), one must first ride a minibus for 2.5h along winding switchbacks and across dusty, bumpy dirt roads to Piscacucho. From there, the train takes you the last 2h beside the raging river, where you can see lovely views like this one:

Machu Picchu - damaged train tracks to Aguas Calientes

Yes, that appears to be the old track strewn across the river rocks. Very reassuring.

The town itself is nothing special. I didn’t visit the hot springs (because that’s not my thing). Frommer says they’re somewhat dirty, but refreshing for hikers fresh off the Inca Trail. I did have some tasty trout ceviche – raw trout slices with a strong lemon sauce. Either this or a Pisco Sour (a drink, probably made with some “local water” ice) led to some brief… errr… digestive issues the next morning. So, beware what you eat and drink.

I found these varied roofing tiles an interesting contrast, mirroring a lot of what I see in Peru: extreme poverty next to attempted modernity (e.g. Lima).

Contrasting roofs in Aguas Calientes

Huy (a.k.a. guinea pig) is a local specialty available in nearly every restaurant. I didn’t try it, though, and instead had a crispy pizza at Chez Maggy (a restaurant I can highly recommend!).I believe it was chorizo, egg, and plantain:

Pizza at Chez Maggy in Aguas Calientes

I went to sleep early to be ready for Machu Picchu the next day. Pirwa Hostel was… well, let’s just say the staff was friendly and nice. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it too highly (I had a moldy room, intermittent bathroom light, lack of lockers, just bread + butter + jam for breakfast). Disclaimer: it could be great in comparison to other hostels there… I have no idea.

Next up: one of the most amazing ancient-city-ruins on the planet, Machu Picchu. And, according to Internet vote, one of the new seven wonders of the modern world! If you’re interested to read about Machu Picchu, just subscribe via RSS or email to be notified when the article is live.

Posted 11 years, 4 months ago at 3:27 pm.

3 comments

First up Wayna Picchu!

This post is for Scott, who will be proud that I made the hike in less than half the signposted time (just like the section up to the Höllentalangerhütte at Zugspitze).

Schedule for May 13th:

  • Wake up at 3:45 (15 minutes before the alarm is due to ring) because the Incas want revenge on my digestive system. Immodium: check.
  • Eat a quick breakfast of bread and jam, while meeting a cool Argentinian named Laura.
  • Get in line at 4:30am to buy a bus ticket; hop on a bus around 5:30.
  • Receive a stamp allowing me to hike up Wayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu (a privilege accorded to only 400 people per day: 200 starting at 7am and 200 starting at 10am).
  • Start up Wayna Picchu at 7:00, 8th person in line; each person signs in for safety.

Wayna Picchu as seen from the entrance gate

  • Pass the other 7 people ahead of me, booking up the trail (which is about 360m-vertical of stone staircase, straight up with NO flat sections).
  • Arrive at the top 10 minutes before the next hiker! Enjoy peace, solitude, and a slight hypoxic bliss after climbing 360m of uneven, ankle-wrenching stairs in 29 minutes.

Dave self-portrait at the top of Wayna Picchu

  • Did I mention peace and solitude at the top of the world?

Shadow self-portrait on Wayna Picchu

  • Enjoy this beautiful view of the ancient Inca city:

Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu

  • Don’t forget about peace and solitude, and beautiful sunrise views.

DSC_0318

If you have the chance to visit Machu Picchu, do not think you can do it in one day from Cusco. You must stay overnight in Aguas Calientes the night before to do this right. Some people will even want to take two days to visit Machu Picchu (which means two $40 entry tickets – but you DID come all this way!).

For those in good shape who don’t mind walking up a lot of (somewhat sketchy) stone stairs, DO get up super early and go for Wayna Picchu (also spelled Huayna Picchu). If you’re lucky like me, your jet lag (from points east) will have you waking up early anyway.

If you’re a fast hiker, make sure you’re at the front of the line of people at the Wayna Picchu gate (starting at 7am). Alone at the top, you’ll experience a peacefulness you won’t soon forget.

If you have serious hiking cojones, take the alternate route down to the Temple of the Moon, on the back side of the mountain. The trail has some hairy sections with cables/ladders, and I would NOT recommend it for those afraid of heights. It descends below the level of Machu Picchu, then climbs back up and rejoins the Wayna Picchu trail somewhere in the middle. The hike back up from the Temple feels like as much climbing as Wayna was in the first place.

A fellow blogger has his impressions here: Streets of Lima Post.

p.s. Laura, if you’re reading (and if I’ve remembered your name right), hope all is OK? Never saw you again during the day, or at the hostel before I left for a pre-train dinner of pollo a la plancha. Hope you didn’t sprain an ankle on those d*mn stairs. Incas’ revenge indeed!

Posted 11 years, 4 months ago at 2:11 pm.

5 comments

Fire in the Sky

May 12th brought me to Cusco, albeit a bit late because of (supposedly) bad weather. When we arrived the weather was beautiful, but I understand there is often fog in the morning – and no pilot in his right mind would attempt this landing on instruments.

For my skydiving friends, landing in Cusco is about like this: you fly in about a thousand feet above the mountains, which are around 12k’. Descend about a thousand feet to mountaintop level, then do a 180° hook turn into the valley and land. Considering the cruising altitude was probably 15-18k’, there was almost no descent – just one high-performance turn!

The view from my hotel room at Hostal Buena Vista

Hostal Buena Vista Cusco View

Yours truly at the Sacsayhuaman ruins at 3,701m, which have truly amazing stonework

Dave at the ruins in Cusco

A choice sunset shot (out of about 50 I took) – flaming hot

Fiery Sunset over the Ruins at Cusco

I wrapped up the day at the Inka Grill, where I had alpaca steak. But those details will have to wait, as it’s time for bed – I get up around 4am tomorrow to climb the mountain next to Machu Picchu. Will let you know how that goes in a couple of days, if I don’t fall off Huayna Picchu – hah!

Posted 11 years, 4 months ago at 4:00 pm.

5 comments

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