Week 33 – Ruined Vacation

Exactly two weeks after we returned from Bolivia, we left for Peru on another vacation. This time around, my Brompton did not join us.

Peru’s main attraction is Machu Picchu. To get there one needs to stop in Cusco, so that’s where we headed.
Cusco used to be the capital of Inca Empire and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site: by now I have lost count of how many I’ve visited.
We spent a few pleasant days drinking Pisco Sours, eating excellent and sometimes exotic Peruvian food (fried guinea pig, alpaca steak), visiting museums and historic sites.

One of them is just a short hike from the city. However, at 3400m asl, getting there was strenuous and thus, slow. The site, Saqsaywaman (for ease of use: Sexy Woman), was a fortress. It was built from huge rocks that fit perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle. The Incas planned Cusco in the shape of a puma and the angular fortification walls are supposed to represent the puma’s teeth. You only can admire their engineering genius.

We made a couple of day trips to the Sacred Valley. One of them was to Ollantaytambo via Chinchero, Moray and the Maras salt mines. I really liked Moray’s agricultural terraces with its geometrical shape and Maras’ haphazardly stacked irregularly shaped pools collecting salt. Hard-to-pronounce Ollantaytambo was a disappointment: an underwhelming site with too many people.

The other day trip was to the Pisac archaeological park. At first, we weren’t impressed: just another ruin. But the further away we hiked from the entrance, the more we like it. The added value was an almost complete absence of other tourists: most of them didn’t bother to go beyond the first structures. During our two-hour descend back to town, we stumbled upon many different Inca ruins overlooking the valley below.

In between these trips, we went to Machu Picchu. For Julie, it was her second visit. Many things have changed since, most notably the number of visitors: a sevenfold increase. We opted to climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain towering over the citadel – what we wouldn’t do to avoid the crowds! It took us around 40min to get to the top. Surprisingly, we were the first ones to reach it, so we had some time alone to marvel at the Inca’s ingenuity, perseverance, and… insanity: why would anyone want to build their cities in such hard to reach places?
Upon our return to “earth”, we were, unsurprisingly, surrounded by hundreds of other tourists snapping pictures of everything on their path.

Despite the crowds, I am happy we came to see one of the wonders of the world.

This week in numbers:

1119m – of vertical ascent while climbing various Inca ruins
6 – Inca ruins visited
7 – Pisco-based cocktails tried