Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PERU: MACHU PICCHU REVISITED AND CLIMBING THE STAIRS TO HEAVEN

I've been on a bit of a road trip (more about that tomorrow), so I'm getting behind in finishing our posts about our Peruvian adventures. I still have three or four more topics to cover, but so much of current life keeps interrupting my train of thought! Of course, my train has always been headed for a wreck anyway.

Enough of that.

After our first day at Machu Picchu, we spent the night in an exquisite hotel in the poverty-stricken city of Aguas Calientes. This is a town that exists solely on tourism, and the craft market was definitely the only happening thing in town. Still, what an amazing place to live, just down the hill from one of the Wonders of the Modern World, and in a river valley that is beautiful in and of itself.
Views from the bridge looking upriver . . .

. . . and downriver.

For our second day at MP, we decided to climb what I think is a fairly impressive peak rising behind the ruins: Huayna Picchu (which means "Young Peak" in the native language of Quechua). It's the mountains like this one that surround MP that give it its mystical quality.

Huayna Picchu, seen in the photo above, rises about 1,200 feet above MP and looks like a technical climb from this vantage point. However, the clever (and helpful) Incas built the longest, steepest, and most amazing stone staircase up the side of the mountain that you've ever seen, then somehow they hauled enough additional stone up there to build some temples and terraces. Can you find the trail in the two pictures below?
Only 400 hikers are allowed on Huayna Picchu each day, and during the heavy tourist season you have to get to MP very early to get a spot. However, we were lucky enough not to have to battle those kinds of crowds. Bob and I and Bill and Esme Tooke caught a bus that got us up the mountain by about 7:20 A.M., and we then made our way to the Huayna Picchu trail on the far side of the ruins. (As a side note, the signs pointing the way to the trailhead anglicize the name to Wayna Picchu to make it easier for us gringos to pronounce. Too bad. I hope this is one of the things that will change in the future.) We signed the hiking register at the gate at about 8:05 and were on our way.It was an exhausting climb. In some places the stairs were so narrow that our feet barely fit. Occasionally there was a steel cable running alongside the trail that we could hold on to and that made the climb a bit easier, at least psychologically. Looking back was a bit dizzying, but offered a great view of the Urubamba River, one of the headwaters of the Amazon.


There was an extremely narrow passage through a cave near the summit that would make the most anxiety-free person claustrophobic, and the final ascent was alongside some Inca-built terraces and up a tall wooden ladder.

The view from the top was amazing, astonishing, astounding, breathtaking, dazzling, dramatic, fabulous, fantastic, grand, magnfient, marvelous, miraculous, prodigious, remarkable, sensational, splendid, staggering, striking, stunning, stupendous, and thrilling. (Thank you, Mr. Roget.) When we first stepped onto the top of the rock fortress, the view of Machu Picchu was clouded over, but we had this view of the dirt road the buses drive to get there from Aguas Calientes:
About ten minutes after our arrival, however, the clouds simply parted, the mountaintop crowd gave a collective *GASP!*, and the cameras started clicking away. We had a bird's-eye view of the entire site.


STILL COMING: It's a Jungle Out There
When You Travel with Bob, You Eat Interesting Things
Bugs and Birds and Bats, Oh My!
AND A NON-PERU POST: The Girls Take a Road Trip

1 comment:

  1. WOW - What an incredible experience!!!! - That looks like the PERFECT HIKE! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

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