Our trek had come to an end, and tired, happy and undoubtedly a little bit smelly, we made our way in the van to Ollantaytambo. Here we boarded the train for Aguas Calientes, the small town at the foot of the imposing mountains hiding and sheltering Macchu Picchu.
We were all very excited, and it wasn’t just the prospect of a hot shower. We were finally going to see one of the most iconic and recognisable sights in South America We met for dinner in a local restaurant but hiking had made us tired so it wasn’t a late night. This was a good thing, as yet again, it was an early start, we had places to be and we were aiming for the 6.00am bus up the hill.
There were many surprises in store for me that day, and the first of them was the bus ride. It was an incredibly steep drive from Aguas Calientes up to Macchu Picchu, which reminded me a lot of the Death Road in Bolivia. When we finally arrived and looked down, the road was all narrow, windy switchbacks. Then we reached Macchu Picchu itself, and I couldn’t believe how big it
was. However it had once been a thriving city, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.
We spent several hours there, wandering through what were once temples, houses, meeting areas. Macchu Picchu itself is built on the sides of a very steep hill, it is hard to imagine how they were able to create it at all, however it is all terraced and incredibly well preserved for a site of several hundred years old, although all built on Incans’ ancient architectural beliefs. One was that windows and doors should be in a trapezoid shape in order to withstand earthquakes, and given they are still standing where some of the Spanish architecture built later by the conquistadores are not, they must’ve been onto something.
The site itself is crowded out by mountains which tower all around and above it, densely covered with rich green vegetation seemingly untouched by humans. It made me wonder how many other wondrous finds are waiting to be discovered, hidden and protected by the jungles.
I think my favourite comment of the day came from Jason, our hiking tour guide, who said that they knew that the Spanish had never reached Macchu
Picchu because if they had, they would’ve knocked the whole thing down and put a Catholic church on it. I thought of Cusco and it made me laugh.
Despite all of the crowds, it was still possible to find a quiet corner to sit and enjoy the views and contemplate the majesty and magic of Macchu Picchu. So this is what we did for a little while.
Soon enough though it was time to take the bus back to the little town at the bottom of the hill, the bus ride seemingly much scarier this time round. Then it was back on the train for a couple of hours and then onto a van to take us back to Cusco, making it a very long day – but one that was definitely all worthwhile, “Vale la pena!”.
We had two more nights back in Cusco, which I thought we be a great opportunity to relax after a busy few days. It seems that Cusco had other plans for us however, as it was also the beginning of the Corpus Christi celebrations, or Chiri Uchu Festival. The main parade was to be the day after we left but
festivities had already started, with parades, people, food and a celebratory mood.
Near San Francisco Plaza there was an entire road blocked off for food vendors. So what else to do but join in? It was also finally an opportunity to try some more of the local delicacies, we had a delicious plate of food piled up like a small mountain: Cuy (guinea pig), chicken, sausage, something a bit like haggis with intestines, seaweed, fish eggs, cheese and cornbread. Washed down with the local beer, Cusquena, sitting in the sun and soaking up the atmosphere we couldn’t have hoped for a better finish to our visit to Cusco and the land of the Incas, Macchu Picchu.
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