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Old 5th March 2011, 20:21   #31
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Default Day 2 : Lima-Cusco-Aguas Calientes

This was big day. The plan was to take flight to Cusco at 6am. Then keep our bags in the Hotel. Do some little sightseeing in Cusco for an hour or 2 (since we would be coming back after 2 days), and then try to reach Aguas Calientes by nightfall by means of cab + bus + train. So in short, we would be using all means of transportation available in Peru to reach Aguas Calientes. Its a small village deep in Andes Mountains, which is located at the base of Machu Picchu. We planned to reach there by night, since then we would get the next entire day at Machu Picchu.

As planned last night over the game of pool, Dean dropped us at the Lima airport at 4.45am. When we were walking in the airport, one shoddy looking person came to me, showed me some identification which said he was from airport security, and started asking me to show my passport. I showed passport and the visa stamp on it. He kept on asking some unnecessary, unrelated questions about our vacation, plan, booking etc etc. Finally he insisted that I follow him to some office. I was immediately suspicious, obviously his intentions were to find some mistake on my passport or visa and try to get some $$. He followed us right to the airline counter and was waiting on the bench till we got out boarding passes. But then all of a sudden he got some phone call and he disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief. Such people who harass tourists make a bad name for their country. This was the first and only bad incident we experienced in the whole vacation. Being Indian, we are used to such scrupolous people, but Americans and Europeans fall pray to these people and then spread bad word about the whole country. One should beware of such people and always keep one thing in mind, NEVER let them take your passport away from your eyes. WHEREVER YOUR PASSPORT GOES, YOU GO.

After that the flight to Cusco was smooth, it was just a short 1 hour flight. When we reached Cusco, we immediately felt a bit dizzy. Since Lima is at sea level, and Cusco is over 10000 ft in Andes mountains, you feel some signs of altitude sickness. The local remedy to altitude sickness, is cocoa leaves. Cocoa is the plant from which cocaine is made. Although cocaine is illegal in Peru, cocoa leaves are pretty damn cheap. Everyone carries cocoa leaves and chews them from time to time. You get even tea with Cocoa leaves, or some food products made out of cocoa leaves, all of which are good for altitude sickness.

We had already contacted Hotel Walkon Inn at Cusco and asked for airport pickup, but due to some mixup, the person didnt come to pick us up. So we took a cab from airport to Walkon Inn. We just had to drop our bags at Walkon Inn and proceed to Aguas Calientes. We decided to drop our bags in Cusco, since we were told that the train to Machu Picchu is very small and only oone backpack per person is allowed on train.

The cab we took from airport to Walkon Inn, belonged to a funny guy named Walter. His only credible side was he spoke very fine english. The reason being he used to stay in Birmingham, Alabama in US for last 10 years and had just returned to Peru. He bored us to death by trying to sell his tourist company to us. But we were already warned against such airport tour guides. So we didnt pay much heed to him.

Once we reached Walkon Inn, we got introduced to a fine Peruvian hotel manager named Fabrizio, who not only spoke very good english, but was quite friendly and knowledgable. He even paid for our cab, since they were supposed to pick us up. He also made Walter straight and shooed him away He took our luggage to the lockers, offered us some cocoa tea and planned our rest of the day and trasportation to Aguas Calientes.

So ultimately, it was decided that we had to do following things in Cusco before we proceed towards Machu Picchu.
1. Confirm the new schedule with Peru rail - Since the track was still under repairs after catastrophic rain and flood over last few weeks, Perurail had made intermediate arragement with some buses. So the plan was to reach a village named Ollantaytambo by cab, then take bus from there to some intermediate point and then take train from there to Aguas Caleintes.
2. Buy tickets to Machu Picchu - You can also buy tickets in village of Aguas Calientes, but the ticket office there opens at 9am. Since we were planning to reach Machu Picchu by sunrise, we had to buy tickets in advance in Cusco. INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura) - Cultural Institute in Cusco sells the tickets as well.
3. See some sights around Cusco, if we have time remaining.

We started from Walkon Inn around 9am after a healthy breakfast. Weather was amazing, bright sunlight with a hint of cold because of altitude. First stop Perurail office. Again, as all government offices go, this was an example in inefficiency. Because of the recent changes in train schedules, there was a lot of confusion about the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Lot of trains were cancelled or adjusted to other timings. So finally after waiting in line for almost 2 hours, we got to know our revised seat assignments and new train + bus timings. One task done. Good we did check the timings beforehand, since they were completely changed than what we had seen online. Thanks Fabrizio

Some photos of Cusco city which we took on the way to Perurail office:

Peru - Land of the Incas-img_9016.jpg

There are a lot of old Beetles in Cusco and they give a unique charm to this lovely city. Origin of Beetles can be traced to Brazil where its a very popular car.

Next stop INC office in Cusco. This was a very nice office. Located in old spanish mansion where a museum is also there. We got tickets to Machu Picchu. Felt they were quite steep. Around $50 for one day pass. But then again, its a World Heritage site, UNESCO protected etc etc.
Photo inside INC:

So it was around 1pm by this time. We still had around 3 hrs to spare, since we had booked cab to Ollantaytambo at 4pm.
Fabrizio had suggested we visit a Fortress near Cusco named Sacsayhuaman (pronounced as "Sexy Woman") which shows very fine stone masonry skills of the Incas. It is located on a hill near Cusco and offers terrific panoramic views of Cusco City.

The stones there are huge and apparently they are fitted together without any kind of mortar in between.
Some photos:

Peru - Land of the Incas-img_9076.jpg

It also offers a terrific views of Cusco City

There were many local people who come there in traditional Inca clothing, and pose for photos. Usually you are expected to pay 1 Soles for each photo you take of them.

Peru - Land of the Incas-img_9099.jpg

This local artist was majestic, he had beautiful colorful clothes and was playing his instruments very well..

We also came across a herd of llamas in a beautiful meadow near "Sexy woman".

Peru - Land of the Incas-img_9116.jpg

Peru - Land of the Incas-img_9088.jpg

After spending 2-3 hrs slowly roaming around in "Sexy Woman" complex, we returned to Cusco by a Collectivo. Collectivo is exactly same as our 6 seater rickshaw in Pune, except that its actually an old van where cushioned seats are replaced by wooden benches in order to cram more people inside. Quite a fun experience to travel with locals

We had our cab ready at Walkon Inn. After another healthy dose of Cocoa tea, we set off to Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.
Ollantaytambo is a small village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Sacred Valley is the valley around Urubamba river in which the Inca civilization flourished. There are many ruin site in and around the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu being the grandest of them all. The road was quite scenic traveling up and down the mountains.

There was a checkpost at the entrance of Sacred Valley, where our taxi driver had to register something. I think he also had to pay something Finally by 6pm we reached Ollantaytambo Perurail station. On the way we saw our first Inca ruin, apparently this was some storage for crops.

Ollantaytambo also has some ruins around the village, but we had decided to skip them all, since we were going to see the grandest of all the ruins - Machu Picchu.

From Ollantaytambo, Perurail had provided bus service to some intermediate point and from there train to Aguas Calientes. Buses were magnificent Mercedes Benz buses and took us to the midway point in utmost comfort. The road was as good as nonexistent, owning to recent floods. We could still see the devastation that the flood had caused. There was a monumental traffic jam along the way when an 18-wheeler got stuck in a ditch, so we were delayed a bit, but finally we reached the train head.

Again, the train journey to Aguas Calientes was quite smooth, we reached the small Andean village almost around 9pm and were immediately greeted by tall mountains which surround the village. Aguas calientes literally means Hot Water and gets its name from the Hot water springs which are present around it, but we were told they were quite dirty and unhygenic. Now a days, the village is best known as gateway to Machu Picchu. Since it was night, we could not explore the village much. We had already reserved hotel Terrazzas Del Inca for the night and a person from that Hotel was present to welcome us. There are no private cars or taxis in the village of Aguas Calientes, since its only accessible either by Peru rail or by 4 day hike in Andes from Cusco. It had a lot of streets which were very steep. Luckily our hotel was very close to train station, so we didnt have to walk so much. After checking in the hotel, getting freshened up a bit, we went out for dinner.

There are tons of restaurants in the small village of Aguas Calientes. Its quite popular tourist destination since its the perfect stop for people who want to visit Machu Picchu by Sunrise. INC operates buses from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu citadel starting as early as 5am. We had a pizza for dinner and hit the sack by 11pm.

Tomorrow would be a big day ! We were ultimately going to visit Machu Picchu. We had planned to take 5.30am bus to Machu Picchu. If you request your hotel, they reserve the bus for you. But still you have to go and stand in line from almost 4am to get on the earlier buses, because of tourist rush. So a quick alarm for 3.30am and we were fast alseep.

Last edited by abhijitaparadh : 5th March 2011 at 20:24.
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Old 5th March 2011, 20:29   #32
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Cusco seems to have staued still in time. It has got an old world charm to it.

I hope the Collectivo drivers were not as adventurous as the Pune six seater fellas (zooming through the smallest available places).

Waiting for the big day snaps now.
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Old 6th March 2011, 04:16   #33
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

@ Sacsayhuaman (pronounced as "Sexy Woman")

Wonderful narration and excellent pictures, I am visualizing Cusco reading your posts & pics.
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Old 7th March 2011, 14:52   #34
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Superb narration Abhijit. Good photos too. Sacsayhuaman = "Sexy Woman" .

Eagerly awaiting the Machu Pichu snaps. Bring em on!

Cusco looks lovely, Old world charm indeed.
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Old 8th March 2011, 08:30   #35
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Sorry guys. terribly busy over the weekend...may be some more to come tomorrow..
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Old 8th March 2011, 09:44   #36
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Lovely pics and your travelogue is going to be so useful to a lot of us out here. Keep it coming ...
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Old 8th March 2011, 12:08   #37
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas


Nicely written and we're eagerly waiting for much more..
I already added this thread to my favorites
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Old 9th March 2011, 09:09   #38
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Default Day 3 - Machu Picchu

So today was THE day. Highlight of the entire trip. We were finally going to visit Machu Picchu. We were all excited when we went to sleep last night.
We had to get up at 3am and stand in line to catch the first bus upto Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. Hotels are aware of this and usually provide breakfast right from 3am. Our plan for the day was to soak in the grandeur of Machu Picchu. Nothing else. We were also thinking of climbing Huayna Picchu, thats the peak which provides perfect backdrop to Machu Picchu. We had read that, only 400 people are allowed to go on that peak per day. So we had to go early and reserve our place for the climb.

In Incan language (Quecha), Picchu means Peak. And Machu Picchu means Old Peak and Huayna Picchu means Young Peak. The root of these names could be traced to the fact that Incas conquered Machu Picchu earlier than Huayna Picchu.

We had a hearty breakfast and got some more packed stuff, since we were told that there is absolutely nothing available in the Machu Picchu complex. we were all ready and we reached the bus terminus right at 3.45am. But alas, there was already a mile long line for the buses. We waited patiently for an hour or so. I started chatting with people nearby in the line and came across a middle aged lady from Switzerland. She was fascinated with Machu Picchu. This was her 7th visit and each time she used to bring new friends with her from Switzerland. They even used to come with their own Shaman (Inca priest) and perform some rituals in Machu Picchu complex, but that was now banned by UNESCO. So she was a bit disappointed. The buses started coming around 5am. Fortunately there were lots of buses coming one after another. So we ultimately got a bus around 5.45am and we were on our way to Machu Picchu.

The road from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is just 17km, but you gain around 2000ft in that. So the road was all twisty and with hairpin bends all along. We reached Machu Picchu complex around 6.15am and the bus dropped us in front of the magnificent Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. This is one of the most celebrated hotels in Peru. Its located right near Machu Picchu and every room has view of Machu Picchu complex. The rates are also steep, standard double room starts at US $900 per day for off season.

As soon as we reached Machu Picchu, we registered to climb the Huayna Picchu. We got our slot in the 7am batch. There are 2 batches in which people are allowed to climb the Huayna Picchu. 7am and 11am. People going in at 7am have to be back by 11am, only then the 11am batch starts. So we had some time to watch the sunrise on the Machu Picchu Citadel and then we planned to start the climb.

So we walked anxiously towards the Machu Picchu from the bus. And around a corner, we saw first sights of the famous ruins. Magnificent!!

Since Machu Picchu is a World Heritage Site and New wonder of the world, it is maintained very well. There were magnificent lawns with Llamas grazing around.

Everything had a peaceful calm to it. We sat at one place soaking in the calm and wondering about how the Incas must have constructed this magnificent complex in such remote location without any modern tools. The location is fantastic! Its surrounded by deep river gorges on 3 sides and one side has even taller mountains on it. So there is very slim chance that it would be possible for any enemy to attack it. And thats the reason it escaped from the Spanish onslaught which razed down most of other Incan towns.

Finally the Sun came out and we felt blessed to be there at Sunrise. Its out of this world!

The whole complex got basked in glorious morning Sunlight.

So after spending enough time soaking in the grandeur, we decided to proceed towards Huayna Picchu trek. People have said that views rom Huayna Picchu are even better than from Machu Picchu. So we were quite excited to get a spot in the first 400 people on that day. We had to sign at the beginning of the trek so that they could count the people when they come out. The trek started on a flat-ish ground but soon it became a full blown vertical climb. Huayna Picchu also has some ruins on top of it, and it is about 2000ft taller than Machu Picchu. To climb 2000ft when you are already at 8000ft is a bit tough, becasue air is pretty thin already.

Halfway into the trek, we looked back and already saw a completely different view of Machu Picchhu.

We reached the top in about 45 mins and just sat on the edge looking at the beauty all around us. It was magnificent! The trek, the early morning wake up call everything was totally worth it!

See the views from Huayna Picchu. Yes. Thats the road from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.

We also came to know from fellow hikers that, the peak behind the ruins complex is actually Machu Picchu and the ruins got the name from that peak.

After spending some time on the top of Huayna Picchu, we came back to Machu Picchu and started exploring various places in Machu Picchu complex.

This is temple of the Condor. Condor is large bird of pray that the Incas worshiped.Here the two verical rocks form the wings of the bird and its head is on the ground.

All around, Machu Picchu complex is surrounded by tall Agricultural terraces. They serve 2 purposes, they provide protection from landslides and they give useful space for farming on the steep mountain sides. Whole Machu Picchu citadel has also got very good supply of irrigation water and drinking water rom nearby mountains and its circulated all thoughtout the complex without any electrical pump. Functions perfectly even now !

Sun has a very important place in Incan belief system. So they built a hook to tie the Sun for important ceremonies

These houses were supposed to be for storing grains and other agricultural goods, but now provide good protection against Sun!

We lazed on the terraces for some more time.

Finally, after about 2-3 hours in Machu Picchu, we decided to come back to Aguas Calientes and gorged on some delicious food and wine! Totally worth it!! I liked the "wine-cap".

We roamed around a bit in Aguas Calientes. Its a very pretty small town, surrounded by tall mountains on all sides!

Finally, we caught a train back to Cusco around 4pm. The train was supposed to take us to a midway point to Piscacucho and from there Perurail had organized buses to Cusco and Ollantaytambo. The train was very small, too small actually. It was just one boggie with integrated engine.

We met this lovely couple from Chicago on the way back. Kurt was a Dental Material supplier and his wife. This was their 5th or 6th visit to Machu Picchu. They had traveled all over the world and they constantly regaled us with their stories from different expeditions. Some stories were genuinely funny. We had a ball of a time in the train ride back. Awesome company, beautiful Sacred valley around with splashing Urubamba river...bliss !

The train also had its own signalman on board. Each time when there was a diversion on the track, he used to stop the train, change the track manually by walking in front of the train, and then the train used to continue. Awesome!

Finally we reached Piscacucho after about 2 hrs, and requested Perurail officials for seats in van to Cusco instead of Ollantaytambo which we had originally reserved. They surprisingly agreed and we were happy. The driver for van to Cusco was a maniac. He was driving like mad! He even hit one dog on the way but never bothered to stop. There was some usual traffic jam on the way, but by now we had gotten used to it. We reached Cusco around 9.30pm. Got in a cab and went to Plaza de Armas (Main Square) in Cusco. Had a tasty dinner at Cafe Piatata in Plaza de Armas. Most of the cafes serve free Pisco Sour, its a margarita like cocktail with Pisco liquor which is made from local Pisco fruits. We also had Ceviche, which is traditional Peruvian Seafood salad with a lot of lime and spices. There was also Cuay on the Menu. Its a traditional Peruvian festival dish. Basically its a roasted Guinea pig stuffed with diferent things. Guinea Pig is a common food in Peru like we have chicken. I didnt have the heart nor the appetite to try it that time. So after a full dinner followed by Ice cream, we again went back to Hotel Walkon Inn, collected our bags from Fabrizio and checked in our room.

The room was amazing and cost us just 60 Soles a night which is like $22.

After a quick shower, I was quickly asleep like a log! This had been a long and wonderful day! Highlight of the entire trip!!. Machu Picchu has some mythical charm to it which almost casts a spell on you. We also have a lot of forts and historical monuments in Maharashtra and all over India and I have visited many of them, but none wanted me to come back again as strongly as I felt after Machu Picchu. I will be back in Machu Picchu. Certainly. No wonder that swiss lady or Kurt have kept on coming back to Machu Picchu so many times.

Next day, we had a light schedule. We had planned to visit a local artist market in a nearby village of Pisac and roam around aimlessly in Cusco city in evening. So we vowed to catch up on all the lost sleep and went to bed!

Last edited by abhijitaparadh : 9th March 2011 at 09:31.
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Old 9th March 2011, 09:56   #39
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Beautiful snaps! What camera do you use?
The places look very much alive, which some a rich cultural heritage.

And hats off to you to choose such a place to go.
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Old 9th March 2011, 10:05   #40
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I use Canon 450D and most of the photos here are with Tokina 12-24 f/4.

Peru has a very rich cultural heritage and it has been maintained pretty well because of various UNESCO and Nat Geo initiatives.
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Old 9th March 2011, 10:11   #41
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Superb. Truly magnificient. The winding road to Machu Picchu is scary. So it is what one direction movement of vehicles?

The idea of hooking the sun is also cool.

Not sure if i would be able to make it to that place anytime but thanks to you i got to see a wonderful place.
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Old 9th March 2011, 15:42   #42
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Default Re: Day 3 - Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu has some mythical charm to it which almost casts a spell on you.
Even from far the place seems to be calling & waiting. This trip will definately stay in your mind forever.

Wish that like Kirt, you climb back the ancient path once more and yet again soon.

Best wishes for your future journeys.

Last edited by San Phrangmung : 9th March 2011 at 15:45.
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Old 10th March 2011, 12:12   #43
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Really one of its kind travelogue Abhijit. Spellbinding location and fantastic narration kept me glued. Did you take photos of main sites and those unusual modes of transportation including Peruvian train?
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Old 10th March 2011, 12:18   #44
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Wow !! You are deeply fortunate to make this journey, easily one of the world's greatest ! Thanks for sharing, your pictures are gorgeous
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Old 10th March 2011, 14:16   #45
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Amazing. One can easily say these pics are out of some magazine or catalogue. They are very good.

Would love to see more pics of the other places, the food, the streets etc. I bet you have more. Please indulge us.
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