Colorado on Steroids
Today was a travel day, as the three of us left Lima to spend the weekend in Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu, as most of you probably know, is not a particularly accessible place. Hardcore travelers hike through the mountains to reach it, traversing some 73 kilometers of Inca Trail from Cuzco before they reach their destination. We obviously did not have the time to spend several days hiking (we also do not have the legs, but that’s a different matter), so we had to reach our destination by every form of transport imagineable.
We began by flying from Lima to Cuzco, a quick and relatively painless flight. After arriving in the Cuzco airport, we took a taxi to our hotel to drop off our big bags, enjoying some of the sights of the city along the way. Cuzco is very different from Lima, much older and significantly more quaint. We enjoyed the comparatively peaceful pace of the city, and fell in love with the bright colors absolutely everywhere. The strangest sight? Possibly the rainbow flags adorning every free inch of space throughout the entire city. While we knew that these flags were the symbol of the Inca Empire, to the three of us, they symbolized gay pride – a comparison which the cusquenos apparently find less than flattering.
After dropping off our bags (and picking up our Machu Picchu entry tickets), we decided to take a bus out from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo, a small village about two hours away down in the Sacred Valley. En route, we enjoyed the scenery, which anyone who enjoys mountains would have absolutely loved. Briana and I both thought that the Sacred Valley had a very similar feel to Colorado, but immensely larger and more majestic (thus, the title of this post).
Here are a couple of pictures, for your viewing pleasure:
From Ollantaytambo, we boarded a train to take us most of the way to Machu Picchu. Fortunately, although none of us were originally seated together, some of our fellow traveling companions failed to show, so we were able to take up the better part of two seating areas. It was also rather fortunate that the train was very slow-moving, as it gave us plenty of time to take pictures out the windows.
Briana definitely prefers train travel to air travel.
Anyway, after a pleasant two-hour ride, we arrived in Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes has got to be the most touristy place on the face of the planet. Everyone who enters Machu Picchu has to do so through Aguas, so the tiny mountain town is filled to bursting with the 2500 tourists admitted every day into the ruins. It’s not even a town so much as it is one big shop. Anything that is not a shop is a hotel or a restaurant.
Cindy is not ashamed to embrace the tourism of the place.
Despite the ridiculous tourist industry, Aguas Calientes manages to have some charm, just by virtue of its location among the Andes mountains and right next to the Urubamba River. We got a quick dinner and went to bed as early as possible, knowing that we would have to be awake at four the next day for our biggest adventure: Machu Picchu.