the Sacred Valley

We’re off to see one of the 7 wonders of the world. I’d threatened to skip this but during a Skype my eldest daughter accused me of ‘stupid positioning’ or something I didn’t really understand. So off we go to keep the peace. (this is a three-day post)

The first day’s track
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First, bleed some bubbles out of my front brake (new pump a few days out)

Then leave Cusco. Not the easiest town

Across the valley

Then down the dirt option to Ollantaytambo

Stopped by construction after 20 miles

Pick another one by a lake and trade mud for potholes

Through a few villages. The brown mud and stone are a big change from the cinderblocks of the last 10,000 road miles

Up onto some hills to the town of Urubamba. Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen a blue roof for the hockey arena

Through the town and up the valley. There are terraces both modern and Incan on both sides

Through a kind of gateway

Into the famous village

The valley narrows here

The streets are super-narrow

Both Incan and Spanish structures on the cliffs. I was surprised. These are Spanish

I was determined to catch up on a few blog posts while I was here and found Ollantaytambo was no-or-slow so headed back to Urubamba in the morning. It turned out to be a good decision because next morning it was market day

In this valley tall white hats are the thing. It changes from place to place. They look so good and strong no matter which way

Chaos and mototaxis

All the side streets

Primary colors. Someone send this to Jonathan Ive. iPad OS 7.0.4 is color inept

The beautiful children. They’re either very happy or very tired

Next morning it’s off to Machu Picchu. Here’s how it works. I took my GPS so I could see the famous bus-route track after-the-fact
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You get the train from either Ollantaytambo or Urubamba to the town of Aguas Calientes the top right corner of the track. 3 hours from Urubamba. Then you get a bus for about 20 minutes to the top of the mountain (the straight line, then the switchbacks) then you’re at Machu Picchu. To the left is me walking around the site.

I sprung for the fancy train as I’d left the planning too late. A great ride through a tight pass with a few views of the Andes. I think the rule is anything with snow is above 18,000 feet

Off the train at the station a hundred yards after this, if I’ve got my photos in order

Then change to the bus

The ride up is hilarious

The faint of heart struggle to keep their composure up the super-tight unpaved switchbacks and drop-offs. There’s only room for buses coming down about 50% of the time, so there’s some maneuvering which is cool. Lucinda would have loved this.

At the top you walk through a gate and Machu Picchu hits you full in the face. It’s shockingly awesome. The placement of the site on a high ridge between two peaks with epic drops to the sides has to be seen to be believed, and I was wrongly convinced 50 years of photographs had prepared me. A bit stunned, I had enough fight left in me to not take the usual photo so wandered off to the opposite side

Somehow our train had got in almost first. Not many people yet.

A lizard
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In no particular order. The dramatically steep terraces at the sides. Peruvians, and I’ve seen this many times in a couple of months, are super-bold. Terraces right at the edges work for me


A small pea relative. Except for the foliage

The stonework isn’t ultra-precise like at the Templo del Sol in Cusco. But the construction according to the 3 worlds and dualism are everywhere to be seen

Another example

A pure red Geum grew in a few terrace walls

The most extraordinary piece was the Intihuatana stone. The top piece doesn’t cast  a shadow at noon, just for a moment, at either equinox. The way the emerging rock of the mountain forms the base and the 13 degree angle (necessarily the latitude of Machu Picchu) of the top stone – the piece is hypnotic in its beauty

I really wasn’t interested in what structures did what, the mechanics of how the city (of 700) functioned, or its history. I came here with a little bit of knowledge of Pacha from Cusco and took a particular interest in the outermost terraces (perhaps the margin between the here and the below), the here (the Pacha in the stonework), and the higher world (the sun on the Intihuatana stone). How I cooked that shit up I have no idea but it made sense at the time and there was so much to see, and only 3 hours, you had to focus a bit.

Than back down to Aguas Calientes, threes everywhere. Saludos



One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Carol,

    Glad you got to see M-P. I am sure it was worth the trouble getting there. Such a place! We met in Ollantatambo in the bar, eating bad pizza. Haven’t forgotten about sending you info on Uganda. Will do so after the holidays and finish my medical trip to Guatemala.

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