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Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Cusco's imposing Cathedral

Cusco’s imposing Cathedral

Beautiful restored building in downtown

Beautiful restored building in downtown

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Old Spanish buildings with the foundations of the Inca buildings

Old Spanish buildings with the foundations of the Inca buildings

Narrow Street in Cusco

Narrow Street in Cusco

Enjoying a fresh juice at the Cusco Market

Enjoying a fresh juice at the Cusco Market

Peruvian and Inca Flags at the Plaza de Armas

Peruvian and Inca Flags at the Plaza de Armas

Colourful participants of the Parade

Colourful participants of the Parade

Watching the Parade

Watching the Parade

Hot female police officer taking care of business

Hot female police officer taking care of business

People look like midges compared to Feli

People look like midgets compared to Feli

Sunday Parade in front of the Cathedral

Sunday Parade in front of the Cathedral

Imposing fortress of Sacsayhuaman

Imposing fortress of Sacsayhuaman

The Main Gate to the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman

The Main Gate to the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman

Fortress of Sacsayhuaman

Fortress of Sacsayhuaman

Impressive Machu Picchu

Impressive Machu Picchu

Fascinating Stone Work

Fascinating Stone Work

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

A Chinchilla in the cracks of the Ruins

A Chinchilla in the cracks of the Ruins

Temple of the Three Windows

Temple of the Three Windows

Terraces in Machu Picchu

Terraces in Machu Picchu

So, we finally arrived in Cusco! Again the ride was amazing and took us over an approx..4200m pass with fog and rain. Riding into Cusco was almost like into any other town. First you pass the really poor areas with dirt road and shacks (and lots of garbage!) then the road turns into pavement or cobble stones and the houses change to more colonial style. We found our Hostel near the Plaza de Armas and also met the German couple Joerg and Marita, whom we first met in Cajamarca. They checked into the same hostel!

Hostel Estrellita is a simple one, run by 2 older Senores, who are very busy keeping the place clean and prepare breakfast every day, which we have in the courtyard outside, where our bikes are parked.

Cusco is a large city with lots of history. It has a large old part with lots of beautiful colonial style buildings and wood carved balconies and narrow cobblestone streets. It used to be the capital of the Inca Empire. At its peak, Cusco, built in the shape of a puma, was a city with sophisticated water systems, paved streets, and no poverty. The Spaniards were certainly impressed by the order and magnificence of Cusco, and wrote back to Spain that it was the most marvelous city of the New World. But all they were interested in was their treasures: conquistadors greedily pushed their way into ancient temples and seized their gold and silver artworks, which they melted into bullion. Cusco retained a level of importance for the first few decades after the Spanish Conquest but by 1535 the capital of this new Spanish Colony had been set up in Lima. Now it is the jumping-off point for visits to one of South America’s best known tourist attractions such as Machu Picchu.

This is very noticeable with tourists everywhere and therefore with Peruvians and indigenous people young or old rich or poor trying to make a buck off you and many times being relentless with this task! Of course Heinz is the perfect target for any hat and tuque seller, who run after us appealing to me, why I wasn’t buying my poor husband a hat!

Anyway, before we were taking the trip to Machu Picchu, we wanted to explore the city a bit more. There are numerous Museums, some of them we visited the next day after our arrival and just walked the streets a bit. We also hiked up to the overwhelming fortress of Sacsayhuaman, which still partially stands above Cusco. It’s made of massive stones weighing up to 17000kg, had at least 3 huge towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough for at least 5000 Inca soldiers. It was the focus of the great rebellion led by Manco Inca against the Spanish in 1536. Unfortunately the Spanish regained control, the inner buildings of the fortress were destroyed in part to provide building stones for many of Cusco’s structures.

Now there are different ways to get to the famous Machu Picchu. The easiest and most comfortable being the railway, certainly is the most expensive. With our budget… out of the question!

We were also thinking about taking the bikes and trying to get as close as possible, but out friends from Germany, Joerg and Marita, told us that the road to the town of Santa Teresa could be one big mudslide if it had rained. So we ended up booking a Minibus to the Hydroelectrica, which is on the backside of Machu Picchu and from there you can take a 2 hour hike along the railroad tracks to Aguas Calientes, where buses depart every 5 minutes up to the famous mountain.

So on Thursday we left most of our stuff and the bikes at the Hostel and took the trip to Aguas Calientes. A 6 hour bus ride through amazing scenery and adventurous dirt roads and the 2 hour hike along the train tracks always ready to get off the tracks in case the train was coming took us to the bottom of the famous mountain.

Aguas Calientes is a total tourist town with numerous Hotels, restaurants and Hostels not to forget the gazillions of souvenir stands. It is now the off-season with most of the restaurants empty and the waiters desperately trying to lure you inside by waving the menu in front of you. Can be annoying!

We settled into our Hostel, bought our ticket for the bus one way up to the Mountain, planning to hike back down. We took an early one right after 5:30 am the next day, to be there before the big crowd would come, but… of course a lot of other people had the same idea, so we had to stand in line until the gate opened at 6:00am.For me the big “wow” effect was gone, because I had seen this place 6 years ago. It is still amazing, but I really have to ignore the crowds, that walk around taking selfies at every corner with their selfie sticks, try to “ yoga-pose” on every stone available and don’t seem to take any interest in the history of this place. I was very tempted at times to give some of them just a little push… ah sorry that was mean! We stayed for a couple of hours and only asked a young French couple to take a picture of both of us… the old way!

Next day we hiked back to where the bus would pick us up again and… what a pleasant coincidence, bumped into our Motorcycle friends from the Stahlratte, Stewart and Will, who were on their way to Machu Picchu. We had a quick chat and then moved on, being sure that we will see again, because we will be taking the same route down south via Bolivia and Chile.

Last night just around 10 pm we arrived back in Cusco. We decided to stay one more day here, take it easy and leave early Monday morning towards Lake Titicaca.

We already watched the Sunday Parade this morning at the Plaza de Armas, which was mostly a military show-down, which reminded me of the old days of East Germany.

Feli

 

 

8 thoughts on “Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

  1. Gennette

    So amazing! Reading your blog, and looking at your pictures reminded me of my time in Cuzco and hiking the trail to Machu Picchu. Did you get up to Huanya Picchu? You’ll love Lake Titicaca. Be sure to take time to visit the floating islands of Uros while you’re there. 🙂

    1. winterscheidth Post author

      Thanks Gennette, we did not get up to Huanya Picchu, they only allow a certain number of people up there per day and you have to get tickets about a week ahead of time. I am looking forward to lake Titicaca, but we will skip the floating islands because everybody is going there and you have the feeling the whole thing just still exists for the tourists. I had enough of those places – they have no soul, like Agua Calientes.
      Miss you,
      Heinz

  2. Auwi

    Hi Heinz,
    wenn Du mit der Haltung auf Reisen gehen willst, solltest Du in Fingal nicht über die Kirchturmspitze hinwegschauen. Nicht jeder hat die Gelegenheit inviduel wie Ihr zu reiisen. Wir sind normale Touristen und schwimmen in dem Strom mit. Warum hast Du Dir Machu Picchu angesehen ?
    Besuch die Floating Island, ich denke dass Du Deine Einstellung überdenken wirst.

    Gruß Auwi

    1. winterscheidth Post author

      Hi Auwi, I am still not going to the floating islands, everybody travels differently 🙂 and I would have been fine without seeing Machu Picchu.
      Cheers, Heinz

  3. Sylvie

    Hi, Feli & Heinz

    just wanted to tell how amazing your site is, I really enjoy reading and looking at the pictures:) We certainly miss you at the gym, but THIS is much better!!!!!
    love Sylvie and thank you for sharing your amazing adventure with us:)

    1. winterscheidth Post author

      Hi Sylvie,
      thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoy our trip! After all my time at the gym I know so many faces but not too many names. I do remember that my friend Jan told me the other day that she forwarded our blog address to someone at the gym. So tell me a bit more about you so I know who you are. I do miss the workouts sometimes and I know when I come back I have to start from scratch, even though we hike a fair bit. This trip is really a once in a lifetime adventure for us! Say hello to everybody and I certainly will be back in the Gym around end of April 2016!

  4. Curlie and Jan

    As usual I love reading your impressions and the facts about the places you are visiting . Your pics are great too. Got a real chuckle out of the vendors trying to convince you that Heinz should be wearing a hat.
    Safe travels, love Jan

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