Friday, May 06, 2011

Day 13: To Cusco

Note: Because I had no internet connection on the boat, I'm posting these about a week after they actually happened. I'll post one Galapagos post each day, followed by Machu Picchu posts, so you can live vicariously through my diaries and photos.

Today was almost all travel. We woke up in Aguas Calientes with free time until 11:30, which I lazed away in my room and on the internet. Then we had a quick tour of the little town. It's there solely to serve the tourists who visit Machu Picchu, and the only way to get there is by train (or hiking the Inca trail, I suppose). There are only two cars (with municipal duties) and the buses that go up the winding road to Machu Picchu every day. Those and all the supplies are brought in on freight trains, and the supplies then have to be carried by porter to their destinations. Still, it's a bustling little place with lots of hotels, restaurants, and shops.

From Machu Picchu

We visited the center, where there's a statue of Pachacutec, the Inca builder of Machu Picchu. To his right is the church which is always open, but the priest only comes to town once or twice a month or for special occasions. We also visited the Machu Picchu visitor's center and saw some of the pictures of Machu Picchu from when Hiram Bingham first discovered it, and later after they had excavated much of it. There were vines and overgrowth everywhere. It was a big job that they did rather quickly, considering the circumstances.

From Machu Picchu

After a little shopping and lunch, we boarded the train back to Ollantaytambo (also known as Ollanta; I have a feeling "tambo" means "town"). There are three companies that run trains between Ollanta and Aguas Calientes, and we took a different one today than when we came yesterday. Today's train featured a traditional Peruvian dancer and a fashion show. I think it was supposed to be entertaining and a good opportunity to purchase sweaters, but I wasn't in the mood.

From Machu Picchu

Up until a year ago, the train ran the whole distance between Aguas Calientes and Cusco, stopping in Ollanta in between. But there was a lot of rain last year and a landslide destroyed part of the track near Cusco. So now we get off in Ollanta and take a bus the rest of the way. The bus ride went over the mountains and through Chincheros, where we visited the weaving cooperative the other day. Along that route, we had lovely views of the taller surrounding mountains, many of which are snow-capped year-round (above 18,000 feet). Finally, we reached our hotel in Cusco and were on our own for dinner. I went with the single ladies to a pizza joint.

Click here for the whole day's album.

See vacation summary (with links to each day).

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