Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heaven on Earth

Just a little update about my whereabouts. So I am writing from our third hostel for the trip back in Lima, Peru. We didn't get back from our two day tour until about 10:30pm and then the internet was not working very well at all in our hostel which was not good, considering all of us wanted to talk with everyone about our amazing trip. Also our hostel seemed to be a party hostel with some not so clean people so we were very happy to be leaving at 8am this morning even though we were all so sore and exhausted. 

I apologize in advance for my horrible writing and my lack of being able to describe our trip. It is hard to describe in words what we saw, besides breathtaking and amazing. I honestly believe that MachuPicchu is heaven on earth. Seeing pictures and postcards of the ruins does NOT do the Incas justice on their masterpiece. 

Our trip started off June 21st at 8:20am. We were picked up from our hostel and taken to a bus in which there were multiple others groups/tourists that joined us. We drove out of Cusco and to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I was under the impression that there was just one Sacred Valley and that is what we would be seeing, but our trip was spent visiting two major cities that are on the way to MachuPicchu and are archaeological sites of the Incas. There are four cities that make up the Sacred Valley and we went through two of the biggest ones, Pisaq and Ollantaytambo. Our tour guide was great, he spoke English but with a very thick Peruvian accent which took some time getting used to, but overall was really great and I learned so much! We first stopped at Pisaq in which we walked around looking at the ruins of an Inca village. This was a generic Inca village but is was nice to get a general sense of the culture and understand the reasoning behind some of the basics such as the terraces they built into the mountain walls, laying of stones, agriculture and way of life. 

We then proceeded to Ollantaytambo which is part of the native Inca language (Quechua). Ollanta is just one of the strong Inca warriors and tambo means city. Ollantaytambo is the last city before reaching Aguas Calientes which is at the bottom of Machu Picchu park. This city was never finished due to the Spaniards coming and forcing them out of the village. Here we learned more about how they built the different structures for the common people, the noble families and finally the temples for the Gods. There were so many interesting things dealing with the sun, moon and starts but it is hard to explain without showing pictures and there are just too many to upload on here. So when I get home, if you are interested in learning, I will be more than happy to teach you what I learned. J

We then had dinner in Ollantaytambo and just waited for our train to Aguas Calientes. It was an hour and forty five minute train ride that turned into about 2 ½ hours because I guess some parts of the track are so narrow that if a train is coming another way, one has to stop and let the other pass. So we had to stop a lot and wait for trains to pass. We finally reached Aguas Calientes and headed straight to our hostel, unpacked our things and got on the one computer in the place for about 15 minutes and it was already 11:30pm and we had to be up at 5am to make sure we were at the top to see the sunrise!

June 22nd started bright and early at 5am, our personal tour guide came to pick us up from our hostel and we walked to the bus stop. We then bussed up to the entrance of the MachuPicchu park (about 30 minutes) and entered the park. It was light out, but because of how big the mountains surrounding MachuPicchu are the sun hadn’t risen over MachuPicchu yet. So we spent about 30 minutes walking up to a higher point and taking lots and LOTS of pictures. All five of us were just in awe of the beauty. The sun finally rose and it was stunning to say the least. Watching the sun come over the mountain and cast its rays onto the Inca village and others mountains was absolutely surreal. After the sun rose, we started our tour. We probably spent about 30-45 minutes talking about how MachuPicchu was discovered, the mountains surrounding and the makeup of the village itself. He also dispelled many myths, such as that MachuPicchu was not made for the richer families to live in, it actually was for just the common Incas and it was not the center of the Inca empire, the center of the Inca empire was actually Cusco. Cusco in the Quechua language means “the center” or “holy city”. We then proceeded through the different ruins learning again more about the Incan culture and the significance of the ruins.

Our tour guide recommended that we climb the actual mountain of MachuPicchu instead of HuaynaPicchu . There are only 400 people a day who are allowed to climb HuaynaPicchu and supposedly it is ruthless to get the approved stamp. He said it was easier than HuaynaPicchu and would only be three hours round trip. We figured we might as well do it because we knew if we didn’t we would regret not hiking all the way up. We started our journey and figured that it would be a slight incline just winding around the mountain, we were SO na├»ve. It was not a paved path, just rocks here and there making what some may consider steps. Sometimes I was crawling/climbing up the steps because they were so steep. It was like doing a stair climber while breathing through a straw. Half of the time we were walking on about a 2 foot wide path that dropped straight down into forest and mountain. Close to 2 hours after beginning our journey we reached the top, and I have to say, I would climb that mountain ten times over to see that view. I was almost on top of the world, I can’t describe it in any other way. I don’t even know if pictures will do it justice. The hike down wasn’t bad (only 45 minutes) but gravity would pull you so it was a lot of pounding on our ankles and knees. I am still sore today.

We bussed back down to Aguas Calientes in which we enjoyed dinner then waited for our train back to Ollantaytambo and then a van picked us up and drove us back to Cusco. A long and tiring day, but worth every penny, sore muscle and lost hour of sleep.

We don’t plan on doing much here in Lima, just because we are all so exhausted from our adventures but also because Lima isn’t that great of a city. Really loud, busy and you constantly have to be on the lookout for people trying to take advantage of you and possible pick-pocketing. Also everything here is SO expensive compared to Cusco. We head to Piura on Saturday at 6:30am, so I have another long night at the airport ahead of me.

Thanks everyone for the well wishes! It truly has been a blessing to have you all in my life and I am ever so grateful. Hope to hear from more of you soon! And our internet in Piura should be a little better and hopefully I can start uploading some pictures to this thing! 

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