13/04/2012 - 16/04/2012 18 °C
Cusco sits 3300m above sea level. Even having had a week above 2500m it still takes a day or so to acclimatise. The town oozes backpackers headed for Machu Picchu, ensuring all the usual tourist traps are within easy reach. Cusco, however, maintains a charming authenticity that makes it a great place to visit in its own right.
Having missed the opportunity to trek the Inca trail due to it being fully booked over two months ago, a quick re-plan meant two days in Cusco followed by the Sacred Valley enroute to Machu Picchu via Aguas Calientes
The Sacred Valley, often ignored in favour of heading directly to Machu Picchu is the perfect entrée to the main sight. It’s a full day of taking in Inca and pre-Inca ruins, towns and customs. Kaz was particularly drawn in by the traditional methods of making and colouring Alpaca wool, buying a few machine ready scarves post demonstration.
The tour ended with the Inca ruins at Ollyantaytambo prior to getting the train to Aguas Calientes.
The rickety old train from Ollyantaytambo, seemingly from the colonial era, took just under 2 hours to travel the 43km to Aguas Calientes, at times being questionable whether it would make it at all.
Rising the next day at 5am, we joined the literally hundreds of other tourists to bus up to Machu Picchu for sunrise. It is without doubt a stunning sight in a spectacular setting.
Digging a little deeper though, and perhaps some of the gloss is taken away. I was surprised to discover Machu Picchu is not nearly as ancient as I had perceived. Constructed toward the end of the 14th century, by comparison, parts of Edinburgh Castle date back to the 12th century. The various explanations as to its purpose are mostly speculative guesswork, with multiple theories to choose from.
Constructed as a final attempt to revive the faltering Inca empire in the face of the Spanish conquistadores, Machu Picchu is a tribute to the once greatness of the Inca’s. There is no doubting it is amongst the most spectacular sights we’ve seen in the last 6 months.