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Machu Picchu

Picture Pages:  Train ride  |  Village by train station  |  Ruins  |  Huayna  Picchu  |  Group Photo  |  The Good-bye Boy  |  Hikers at Sun Gate  |  Urubamba River

We woke up quite early for the spectacular train trip into the gorge of the Urubamba River. 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 archaeological 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 switchback).

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 'Gate of 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.

In 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. 

After spending the night in Cusco, we were off to Quito, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands.

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