We woke up
quite early for the spectacular train trip into the gorge of the
We first ascended the valley slopes above Cuzco, on a series of rail switchbacks.
Then we crested a pass and descended along a frothing river in the narrow gorge of
the Urubamba.. The station for Machu Picchu is at 8,000 feet elevation. The
trip took less than four hours.
Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day-trip,
which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique
wonder. Our group stayed overnight at the Mahu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.
We ate lunch at a fabulous restaurant in town then walked to the bus for
the drive to the ruins. Though the actual site lies only about 1˝ miles from
our hotel, the trip takes about a half an hour, as we must follow a zigzag route
up a steep hill ( I counted 13 switchbacks with hairpin curves at each end of
The fabled 'Lost City of the Incas,'
was discovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist (and later, US Senator) Hiram
Bingham. Subsequent discoveries (such as Bingham's later unearthing of the Inca
Trail and the 1941 discovery of nearby Huayna Picchu) suggest that Machu Picchu
was not simply a "lost city" but part of a whole lost region. We
stayed in the haunting ruins about five hours, through most of the afternoon.
Here we explored sites like the Ritual Baths, the Palace of the Princess, the
Main Fountain, and the Temple of the Sun; and quietly contemplated the
achievements of a most fascinating and mysterious civilization.
The Inca culture was from 1200 to 1532 A.D. When the
Spanish conquerors arrived the Inca people simply "disappeared."
What this means is they left the area and went elsewhere to blend in with the
other Indian cultures in South America. The Inca culture started in
Bolivia in 1200, then slowly spread west with Cusco one of their capital cities.
After an early breakfast we
were bused back to Machu Picchu, arriving before the day crowds. Some of our
group remained at the hotel to explore its orchid gardens. Our small
hiking group choose to hike the famous Inca Trail, up1000 feet, to the
the Sun,' a small Inca ruin set in a mountain pass above the ruin. The strenuous
hike took about 3 hours.
The weather did not cooperate as it rained on and off the whole hike.
Sometimes picture taking was difficult when the clouds moved in and we could not
see the valley below.
the afternoon, we returned to Cusco by train through the spectacular Urubamba
Gorge. On the mountains overlooking Cusco the train broke down. Within
minutes our guide was using his cellular phone to make arrangements to have a
bus pick us up and take us into Cusco. Our group could not believe how
fast we were off the train and again on our way. The rest of the
passengers could not believe it either.
spending the night in Cusco, we were off to Quito, Ecuador and the