A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

Cuzco is shaped like a puma

Stumbling through Inca ruins in Peru


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

Cuzco, the navel of the earth – once the capital of the Inca Empire, now a quite modern town packed with international tourists. I bet it looked a bit different about 900 years ago when according to legend the first Inca, Manco Capac, discovered the place.

We ended up staying in the old part of town, which was good since it’s really cosy and has lots of nice cafés and bars. We have actually had some real coffee now and some normal food, too. Except for that terrible “Indian food” that has never even seen India.

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The view from our window

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On a street of Cuzco

We didn’t have much time to spear, so we wasted no time on arranging the most important visit that we were going to do out of Cuzco. We did this ingenious plan to take the bus the next morning to Ollantaytambo and check out the famous ruins there, and then continue the next day by train to Aguas Calientes, from where we could visit our main point of interest: Machu Picchu. Thanks to the modern Internet site of the railway company we managed to buy the painfully expensive train tickets directly over the Internet. Just minutes after buying the train tickets we were happily going for dinner to celebrate this successful event of planning and bookings. On our way out from the hostel we cheerfully told the owner about or next day plans when some random guy who happened to be in the room dropped a bomb on us: ”you can’t take the bus tomorrow, there is a 48 hour bus strike that starts tomorrow morning”. Shit. Shit, shit shit. We had JUST paid the ridiculously expensive train tickets from a town to which we had to get to by bus tomorrow. ”Well no worries”, we said, ”we’ll take a taxi instead”. ”There are no taxis, either. They can’t drive if there is a bus strike.” What kind of a strike was this really? Why couldn’t taxis drive if the buses were striking? How were we going to get to Ollantaytambo?

The common consensus among several people that we talked to was that if you left really early in the morning, about 5 o’clock, there would still be buses because the strike wouldn’t start before around 8 o’clock. So up we got at 4.30 and headed to a place from where we were told buses would leave for Ollantaytambo. We weren’t the only ones there. The minibus was (we thought) full when we started, but along the next few blocks we picked up several more people so that it was literally packed when we started to drive out from town. But alright, we thought; now we were getting to Ollantaytambo as planned. – WRONG. We had been driving just a few minutes when we started seeing big rocks on the road that the car had to drive around. We could hear a lot of sirens screaming in the distance and along the roads there were smoking rests of fires... Suddenly the driver of a car that was going in the opposite direction waved to our driver to turn around and go back and after just a few seconds we saw why: the road was blocked with a lot of angry people throwing stones at passing cars and not letting them through. When they saw our van they started to run after it and throw stones at it. Luckily there was a road to the right that we could turn to, otherwise our van would have been destroyed. Oh my god, I guess bus strikes are a bit different and taken more seriously here than in our own country!

Well, the theory of being able to catch a bus early in the morning before the strike obviously wasn’t that waterproof. Everybody in the van was dropped off back in town and then everybody was on their own. Luckily the trains weren’t a part of the strike, and luckily we thought of that just 10 minutes before the last train for the day would leave for Aguas Calientes. We were going to see Machu Picchu first before that god forsaken Ollantaytambo. No harm in that.

Aguas Calientes, a tourist trap just before Machu Picchu, is the town where you have to stay the night if you intend to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu. And as we had been forced to take the early train there, we were forced to stay an entire day there as well. The main street was filled with restaurants, and as you walked along it you were forced to listen to waiters from every restaurant trying to get you to eat at their place. Obviously we picked the wrong one, because that night I got terrible diarrhoea. Great.

Machu Picchu – the lost city of the Incas – was everything we had expected: majestic, mind-blowing, breathtaking, mysterious and beautiful. The remarkable location of the ruins is just amazing. The thing sits on top of a narrow mountain and is surrounded by deep, steep valleys and other mountain peaks, and clouds; the place is so high up that the clouds run right through it. We spent the whole day walking around and making sure to see it from every angle. We even climbed Wayna Picchu, a steep mountain next to Machu Picchu. On top of that mountain there are also some ruins. These Incas really liked to build their stuff high up on steep peaks, didn’t they? As Wayna Picchu is higher than Machu Picchu, you could see Machu Picchu from a totally new angle from there. And as it was a bit cloudy that day, the surprise of the stunning view when the clouds cleared was even more astounding.

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Machu Picchu with Wayna Picchu in the background

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Some stuff on Wayna Picchu was built on even steeper places

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Views from Wayna Picchu

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Views from Wayna Picchu

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Half squarrel, half rabbit, half guinea pig

The train ride home was interesting. After sandwiches and coffee was served, suddenly music started playing and a fashion show started! The ride went by fast when you got to watch the show that ended with a dance by a guy who was wearing this weird mask that seems to be common here.

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The next day we visited some other ruins in the sacred valley. The first visit was to Ollantaytambo. In my opinion the story about the ruins is more interesting than the ruins themselves. This was the place where the Spaniards actually lost a battle, when the Manco Inca and his soldiers showered the Spaniards with arrows and boulders and then flooded the area below the fortress so that the conquistadors had to retreat. Other ruins we visited were those of Pisac, which sit high up on a mountain above the village with huge gorges running on both sides. The Incas sure knew how to pick beautiful places to their towns.

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Ollantaytambo ruins

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Ollantaytambo ruins

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Pisac

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Posted by AnnaMickus 17:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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