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Published: June 12th 2015
This update includes also the impressions of Cara that you can find at the end of my update. So this time you get a double treat. I hope you enjoy….
Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. One of the new seven wonders of the world, a place where most people want to go but can only dream about. And I was lucky enough to have stepped foot into this amazing place for the second time after my first visit in 1982. And it is a place that still has a magic that I cannot explain. So here is what happened at this trip.
Ever since I have visited Machu Picchu in 1982 I was dreaming to come back to this place. It was the place I mentioned first when people asked me what the most fascinating place was I ever visited. When I was 48 I told all my friend that I wanted to celebrate my 5oth birthday at Machu Picchu, but when it came to the crunch they all piked out, even my girlfriend at the time, so it never happened. I was pissed off but I didn’t want to spend my birthday at my own.
I have told Carla about this and what she had arranged to make up for this was one of the most amazing things a woman has done for me. This time I wasn’t to do the 4 day Inca trail like I did in ’82, but it was 5 star all the way.
Due to the ongoing violent demonstrations of the local people against Peru Rail and the blockades of the streets we had to get up at 4 am on the morning of the trip. We had arranged a taxi to drive us to an allocated train station about an hour from Cusco. On the way we had to bypass roadblocks that were, because of the early hour, not manned, so luck us. When we arrived at the train station staff urged us to get on a train as soon as we could as they expected trouble. As soon as we were on the train it left to another station were we had to wait for another two hours for our train to arrive. And what a train it was; called the Bingham (named after the English explorer who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911), it was decked out
like a luxury train of the 30’s with all the trimmings. It was fantastic. And Carla and I had our own table that was set with all the glass and silver wear you can imagine.
As soon as the train left we were served some amazing 3 course lunch and Carla had a glass of champagne. The trip took about 3 hours to cover the 70 km to MP and it went through some of the most scenic landscape you can imagine. At the last wagon of the train there was a viewing area and a Peruvian music group played local music there. Not so much my cup of tea but it was all part of the deal.
When we arrived in Aqua Cliente we had a bus waiting for us to drive us up to the MP site and we had our own guide. Nice. Now Aqua Cliente didn’t exist when I was there last and it is a real tourist hell. From the train to the bus we had to walk through a city of souvenir shops and restaurants; the time I was there I saw a couple of huts and an old woman selling some
drink out of a bucket……
And so we arrived in Machu Picchu. And what a great feeling it was. The last time I was there I had a 4 day walking trip behind me (for free, not it costs you about US$750) and I stayed for 3 nights on top of Huayana Picchu and roamed Machu Picchu for days (as far as I remember it was about US$20 to get in). There were not many tourists at that time and I more or less had the place for myself. But that was a bit different now with zillions of people walking the ruins. Our guide gave us a 2 hour tour around the sights and explained in great detail what they so far knew about the ruins which was pretty good. But I missed the “out” time where we could just sit around for a bit and take in the place. Not anymore…….
You see, Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spanish and only in 1911 and English guy found the site by accident. When he was roaming around the area a shepherd boy showed him the site and it is also said that some family lived
there. The ruins are pretty much fully intact and not a lot of restorations had to be done. It is speculated that, when the Inca Empire crumbled, the people left the city and destroyed all access to it so to deny the Spanish entry. The Spanish heard rumours about the place, but no matter what they tried nobody told them where it was. So it must have been very important to the Incas.
Machu Picchu is full of house ruins, temples, halls, etc. but the most amazing features are the stepped terraces that surround the city and every year more and more are discovered. The Incas had built a complicated watering system that still works today to water the terraces so they can grow crops of all sorts. It is said that the city was completely self-sufficient in every aspect. And the few was just spectacular with all the mountains around you and a river snaking its way around the place. I remembered when I stayed here last time what the sound of the jungle was at night and how I marvelled the sunrise and sunsets. Unfortunately I was not able to get to my old champing site, but
one can’t have it all……..
After the tour we had some English tea at a hotel and went back to Cusco with the same train we came. Again we were served some amazing 3 course dinner and had a couple of drinks as well.
So what a day we had. For me it was a very emotional one as I fulfilled my dream to come back to Machu Picchu. It took me 33 years but I did it. And Carla made sure that is was an amazing return and we had a ball.
So this is it for my Machu Picchu update. I hope you enjoyed it and if you ever have the chance to get there, just do it, there may be zillions of tourists, but it is an amazing place and bucket list stuff. So now to Carla’s account of the day…..
Every time I can I apply to my life the motto “in times of vulgarity, being elegant is a revolutionary act”. I consider somehow boring this world in which comfort to dress and practicality are beyond the details of good living. This way, when I was researching about attractions in Peru
(I’m the kind who loves to plan in details, at least a month before, everything I’ll do in a country I decide to go on vacations), I discovered one in specific that always personified my bucket list of traveling: the Hiram Bingham train. Some people are into backpacking, while others enjoy shopping while traveling, or luxury destinations, ecotourism etc. I do admire nature, but I am not an enthusiast for landscapes, climbing a mountain, camping (I never did it) or doing adventurous things. I’m a lot into music, concerts, museums, folkloric celebrations and also I enjoy, yes, a bit of glamour – that’s all part of my personality, mixed with a certain parental influence, yes, but definitely connected to my personality. I never was different in those 39 years of existence (I was invited several times to go on different kinds of travels, but I never wished), so is very difficult to imagine a change in those interests now that I am almost 40. I know people in Brazil, personal friends, who did a long walk until Machu Picchu, which lasts around 4 days, I think, with breaks to camping and sleeping. I really have no interest in doing so
and I found the perfect option, since I have passed through many experiences in my life, but one was missing in my bucket list: the travel in a 1st
class train, as I wished since my childhood.
I have travelled in trains before. I crossed all Germany inside trains. But all was standard. I wished that “magic” of old times, like when my parents travelled in trains crossing Brazil, when the American model of the car was not the rule, until the 50s. And so my tour to Machu Picchu became a day to remember. For those who eventually enjoy this kind of service, I assure there’s nothing similar to this experience. One can’t compare to a train travel across Germany, for example, in a standard wagon, from, who knows, Halle to Frankfurt. All starts with the view: the itinerary done by the Hiram Bingham is included among the 10 most wonderful tours in the world, crossing the exceptional landscape of the Sacred Valley – the scenario is astonishing and you can admire it from your window or the balcony behind the train. A luxury train owned by the Peru Rail, a Peruvian-British company, it is said the train
has an English origin, which goes back to the beginning of the 20th
century. Its name is in honour of the American archaeologist, from Honolulu, who showed Machu Picchu to the world. The connection with the Belmond Group (former Orient Express) propitiates a service that is synonym of exclusivity: elected as “best train in the world” by the readers of the magazine Condé Nast Traveller UK, in 2011, and mentioned among the seven best trains in the world by the same magazine.
Now, I have several critics regarding England, but it is undeniable how they know to offer an organized and incredible service when they put their efforts on it – to the point of one feeling somehow transported to the Victorian Era and Dandyism. All started with a cocktail, champagne, Peruvian music with very talented musicians (they also played Brazilian Music, i.e Bossa Nova). Several cocktails and champagne after, I enjoyed to take some pictures of the mountains, landscape from the wagon which operates as a bar, observatory and balcony. They serve a fantastic brunch, with 2 options of menu, and when you come back from Machu Picchu it is served an equally superb dinner. All include Peruvian,
Argentinian and Chilean wines, around Pisco, a typical alcoholic beverage from Peru, similar to the Italian “Grapa”.
When we arrived in Machu Picchu, built by the Incas around the 15th
century, a guide from the train (also all included in the service) shows the site to a group of 14 visitors. Very solicitous and demonstrating vast knowledge about this famous place, full of tourists, he showed us each piece of Machu Picchu. He said that probably, around the sacred temple, the place also sheltered a University. There lived around 600 people (like in a monastery). We passed through agriculture sectors, fountains, the Condor Temple, main plaza, ceremonial stone, Intiwatana Astronomical Observatory, temple of three windows etc – with many llamas walking all over the place and the infamous Huayna Picchu behind. Welf wished to go to Huayna Picchu (as he had slept there more than 30 years ago), but the truth is today this touristic destination is so disputed that to go there is necessary to pre-book this specific tour for at least 3 months earlier, as the tours allow only 250 visitors per day (a group of 250 in the beginning of the morning and another around 11:00).
I enjoyed Machu Picchu. The place is very pretty, the view is wonderful and I felt happy for Welf, since he wished so much to travel again to this place. But the truth is I was a tired of visiting so many Incan archaeological sites. I considered all very beautiful but I didn’t feel a connection with the place. The only time I felt a special connection with a place was when I travelled to Halle, in Germany. Each one has its personal story and in my case I had with me the picture of the famous “Tower of Halle” which belonged to my paternal grandmother, in a postcard an uncle sent to her in 1937, to her address in Brazil. Coincidence or not (I didn’t plan this at all), my hotel was in the same street where her whole family lived until 1897, exactly in front to the Tower of Halle, in Leipziger Straße. A small and urban city out from the touristic circuit in Germany, with a simple tower, but where I felt a connection – not regarding country or nation, but a personal story. The point is some feel connections for a particular place based on several
factors that can be trying to take back a good moment in youth or a family sense, but in truth the most we can do is remembering or think, reflect about certain aspects that can influence on us, without being aware of its dimensions. In case, only the own individual is able to know what is important and makes sense for him/her/self.
Before going back to the train, we also had a typical English tea room at the Sanctuary Lodge, a hotel in the surroundings that belong to the same company of the train (they also own, for example, the luxurious Copacabana Palace, in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most sophisticated hotels in the world, one of Rio’s symbols since the 20’s). If you reading this have the will to please yourself with this option in a travel to Machu Picchu, this train leaves the station of Poroy, in Cusco, around 9 in the morning and you must be at the station half an hour before (half English owned company, so punctuality has an incredible importance for them). Don’t forget to observe the colourful beautiful villages at the bottom of the Andes.
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