We left the Sacred Valley Tuesday at 8:53 a.m. aboard the Vista Dome with two very small overnight bags. (The train does not have much storage for luggage.) It was a beautiful 90 minute 27 mile train ride to Agua Caliente. The changing landscape from the drier higher altitude to the lush jungle vegetation at a slightly lower altitude was a delight. We saw local people in their mud brick one room “homes” and witnessed three men slaughtering a bull…….exactly where we stopped for an oncoming train…..much more entertainment then I needed…..but could I stop watching?….no!
Snacks were offered and souvenirs sold. It was all really lovely. At the train station someone from the hotel met us to whisk away our bags as we made our way to the bus stop to start the journey up to Machu Picchu. Bus after bus lined up and opened their doors to the many Machu Picchu seekers. The excitement was building. Once aboard and on our way the road narrowed and the cobblestone gave way to mud. Over narrow bridges that you would hesitate to walk over the bus pushed through. One hairpin turn than two, then a long 25 minute serpentine bus-ride to Machu Picchu. Finally at the top….teased by glimpses of the amazing terraces we get off the bus at 11:30 am and then have to make the decision to have lunch first or start the journey…..can you believe that we chose to have lunch? This was our thinking……once into Machu Picchu there are no bathrooms, no food concessions no souvenirs…nada…..and we would most likely spend 2 – 3 hours in there. So thinking of my stomach and my bladder (not necessarily in that order) we opted for lunch which was a great decision as the restaurant opened at 11:30 and we were the only ones there. It was perfect. We filled up on the delicious food and many desserts. We felt adequately prepared for the journey.
Then we walked through the gates. We had to have our passports to get in…..interesting. And you walk…and then you walk a bit further….and you see a national monument sign and you see a terrace or two and then you see a Hiram Bingham sign and then you turn a corner and there it is. The site of the Quechua people. There was only one ruler who was called Inca. All fascinating……but I have sidetracked. Okay, another decision. Go high and difficult or middle and moderate or low and easy. I say that I am up for high and difficult…..Gianluca says he is okay with that…..Steven says “I thought you were thinking moderate.” So high and difficult it is. Ha! So much for democracy. Up we go…..stone steps of differing heights and depths but up we go. Steven stays slow and steady…..Gianluca and I go and then stop…..stop and go……Fortunately he would find a bug or a flower to photograph. Steven is still going slow and steady.
It was the way to go. We marveled at the site below. It is too hard to put into words as I’m afraid it would sound corny. The structures and the engineering and the lasting quality of the mountain top city is breathtaking. From high above we descended to the city below. Often times walking along drop offs that had my fear of height meter going off the charts. I would hang onto whatever I could. I got better as the day went on feeling more confident. Oftentimes Gianluca would stand at the edge of a drop off and I could barely stand it.
We walked like the many other visitors through rooms and corridors and secret passages to wonder at the type of people with the ability to construct the walls the steps and the terraces out of a mountain top without metal tools and create a spiritual retreat that honored the heavens, the sun the moon and the beauty of life. They built a place that harnessed the sun. They built trapezoidal windows to allow the sun to come into a certain ‘sun’ room on the winter solstice. Everything as in balance…..mountains to the north and south and to the east and west. There was a condor room that has to be my favorite. Please check out my best interpretation of a condor! They carved a stone to replicate a mountain directly behind it. The stories go on and on.
Ha! It is as close to heaven as I will ever get……I loved being that close and writing about it!!
Perfect timing – a light rain has started and it is time to take the bus back down the serpentine roads to our hotel. The rain only enhanced our arrival as we crossed the Urubamba River and climbed rock steps. The rain water was running along the edges of the walkway that mimicked the Inca stonework we just witnessed above…..now we enter cloud forest….
The Inkaterra Hotel in Agua Caliente is a sweet town nestled along the banks of the Urubamba River. The hotel is nestled in the tree overlooks the Peru Rail train system which glides along that same river. On the other side of the river the spectacle bear climbs trees looking for vegetation-quite shy, it still is over 6 feet tall. Even though not a carnivore by nature, I still would not want to run into one. Its name comes from the cream colored patches around its eyes. The River rushes by huge boulders and winds its way by the town. It is striking that the town is oriented away from the river-crazy as this sounds. Fun to walk over the many bridges to be reminded of the beautiful river below. Aqua Caliente has warm springs about 20 minutes away. We did not visit the springs as we were too busy scaling Machu Picchu and enjoying the flora and insects around the hotel, which has a natural habitat for the over 400 species of orchids. The dry season is not the best time to see most of the orchids, but we certainly saw enough to keep Gianluca’s mouth hanging open.
We had a lovely dinner in the Dining Room…..Gianluca and I get a big kick out of the name of the hotel restaurants…..one was The Restaurant and the other The Dining Room. Need some marketing help here. We came up with 100 names from which to choose. After dinner we put Steven to bed and Gianluca and I went to the gift shop. Our peaceful walk was abruptly halted by a huge tarantula. Again, Gianluca thought he had just gone to heaven. No camera, no picture so you are just going to have to believe us……really it was huge.
Back in our room ready to settle-in we did anything but settle. Gianluca was as restless as restless can be. He could not fall asleep. Guess who stays up with him….yep, me! One Benadryl later and we fell asleep…….oh, wait…that was AFTER we had to call housekeeping because the toilet was plugged up. Okay, who made that happen????? No confessions but someone was guilty!!!!!
(Chelsea Handler where are you now? If you did not read her book Uganda be kidding, then please ignore the reference above!!!!)
Okay, plumber and plunger gone NOW we can sleep. Zzzzzzz