Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes – Monday, October 31, 2016

This morning we caught the train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes the town at the base of Machu Picchu. The train followed the Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley of the Inca. The terrain and vegetation changed dramatically as we moved lower. Aquas Calientes is at an elevation of 6700 ft and the fauna is high jungle. 

Aquas Calientes doesn’t have any cars and is pretty much all hotels and restaurants. We bought our bus tickets and entry tickets for Machu Picchu tomorrow. Then we went for a walk down the road and train tracks that we will take tomorrow. The canyon and jungle are beautiful. 

When we got back from our walk we shared beer and fries overlooking the river. The river is a lot lower here because they have taken a lot of the water out to use in a hydroelectric plant down stream. 

This afternoon we checked out an exhibit of 1911 and 2014 pictures of Machu Picchu. Very interesting. 

As we were walking to dinner we saw lots of princesses and Spider men. It seems that Halloween is celebrates here too!

I think I’ll end with this sign we saw today. I guess we will have to keep our clothes on tomorrow!

We had a wonderful dinner in Aquas Calientes at the restaurant El Albergue. 

Ollantaytambo – Sunday, October 30, 2016

This morning we explored the fortress of Ollantaytambo. The ruins are built into the mountain right on the edge of town. There are massive stone terraces and structures. Ollantaytambo is at the junction of two rivers and this fortress is the site of a battle in which the Inca beat the Spanish at least initially. The water system is prett impressive too. We climb up to the top on one side and then back down on the other. 

This afternoon we climb up to the ruins on the mountain  opposite the fortress. In this picture you can see the three big buildings we climbed up to initially. Duke wanted to climb from there up to the ruins you can see above the three buildings. I initially said no but then agreed to go along   There was a pretty amazing view from the top.

The La Union to Huánuco – Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This morning we started out early and got a taxi to the Pampa de Huánuco also known as Huánuco Viejo. It was the ancient capital of the Northern Inca Kingdom. The ruins are surrounded by grassland. We got an early start so we were  the only ones there. 

After we were done exploring the caretaker told us that if we started walking back to town someone would come along and give us a ride. We ended up walking about 5 miles or three quarters of the way back to town before we finally got a ride. 

When we got back to La Union Duke arranged a shared taxi to take us the 130 kilometers to Huánuco. It turned into quite an ordeal. There were five of us in the taxi. I was in the middle in back. The taxi had essentially no cushions or springs and the road twisted and turned and was full of potholes. The 130 kilometers trip took three and a half hours. My behind may never be the same again. 

But now we are in a very nice hotel in Huánuco  ( The Grand Hotel Huánuco) and we’re looking forward to resting for a few days. We just finished a great dinner in the restaurant. 

Cusco to Ollantaytambo – Saturday, October 29 2016

Our plan this morning was to take a taxi to the collectivo station and then catch a collectivo to Ollantaytambo.  But we got in the taxi and he offered to drive us to Ollantaytambo for 120 soles or about $35 dollars. The collectivo plus taxi ride would have been about 30 soles but what the heck!  As far as I am concerned it was totally worth it. It was about a two hour ride and the taxi was vastly more comfortable than a collectivo would have been. 

Upon arriving we discovered that today is the annual town birthday fiesta. There were people everywhere and dancing and a parade and military units and school kids and representatives from every local town. We got a table and a beer and people watched for a long time

There is going to be music and drinking and dancing all night. Luckily the hotel we are staying at, Hostal Samanapaq is a ways from the main square. 

There are ruins on the side of the mountain right on the edge of town. We will explore them tomorrow. 

Cusco – Friday, October 28, 2016. 

This morning we visited the Museo Machupicchu Casa Concha. The museum is  organized around the pieces excavated in 1912 at Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham. It includes all the pieces returned by Yale University in 2011. The videos about Machu Picchu and the scale model were especially interesting. I learned a lot that I think will make our visit to Machu Picchu more interesting. 

Cusco was the capital and center of the Inka empire. This afternoon we took a bus tour of Cusco. Our first stop was Qorikancha, the Inka temple. The temple walls were gold plated when the Conquistadors arrived. The Spaniards built a church on top of the temple. When that church was badly damaged in a 1953 earthquake. the Inka walls were revealed and are now on display.

Inka walls are amazing. There is no mortar. The stones are cut so perfectly that they fit incredibly tightly. They are beautiful. 

We also visited other Inka ruins around Cusco including Saqsayhuaman, Q’enqo, and Tambomachay. 

Tomorrow we head to Ollantaytambo.