Machu Picchu

For some years I had the ambition to visit Machu Picchu. Perú´s famous Inca site and possibly the most famous tourist destination in the world. My adventure in South America began more than 3 months ago but, as I was aware of the fact that, to really enjoy it, I needed to improve my fitness level, I delayed the trip until I was sure I felt fully capable .

Fortunately, all of the running and walking around Lima and Chiclayo over the past few months, has paid dividends. After the 15km hike of the day before, I went to bed early, in order to get up at 4 am. I left my hotel at 4.30 and reached the bridge which you have to cross to gain access to Machu Picchu, before 5.00, at which time the gate is opened to allow people in.

The climb to the entrance to Machu Picchu itself is 450 metres, most of it via steep and uneven steps. I set myself a time of somewhere between an hour and eternity and was well pleased to find myself queuing at the entrance with people who had taken the bus up, after only an hour and 15 minutes. My legs were feeling tired but that soon passed as I entered the amazing citadel in the sky that is Machu Picchu.

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DSCN3174The Inca Bridge

DSCN3190From another level.

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DSCN3329The Long and Winding bus route.

DSCN3330The bus and pedestrian bridges.

DSCN3336The Temple of The Condor

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The Road to Machu Picchu

So, after more than 3 months in Perú, I arrived in Cusco and booked a trip to Machu Picchu with an overnight stay. I would then be able to get an early start and maximise my visit. I had planned to make the journey by train in both directions after first going by road to Ollantaytambo.

Unfortunately, because of a strike affecting various parts of the country, I was not able to make the journey by train on my chosen day. Instead of changing dates, I accepted the alternative of going by road to within 15kms of Aguascalientes and walking the remainder. I would then spend the night in Aguascalientes and have the choice of walking up to Machu Picchu early the next morning, or, take the 20 minute bus ride. The price for all of this was quite a bit cheaper than the original plan.

As, part of the deal, I had insisted on having a seat with ample leg room, as this was to be a long journey. This was agreed and on the morning of the trip, after the usual shuffling of passengers between various companies, which is usual in Perú in order to fill the vehicles, I found myself in a mini bus filled to capacity and ready to go.

The day steadily got worse from there. I am no fan of Peruvian driving standards or skills which seem to be close to zero. Unfortunately, the driver of this vehicle was by far, the worst I have encountered so far. That makes him special and I only hope I am never a passenger with a worse driver.

It was slow going at first, and it was only when we got onto the fairly empty but hazardous, winding, mountain roads that it became clear how inept he was. He went into blind hairpin bends on the wrong side of the road. We had a couple of near misses as a result. He had no idea of gear selection for the type of road we were on. This meant at times we were coasting and worse, he did not have full control of the vehicle which he “threw” into each bend, causing the vehicle to swerve with the tyres squealing under the strain.

I made some comments and for a while this seem to slow him down. However, it was not long before he resumed his “driving” style and, after one particularly hairy moment, the driver of another vehicle pulled alongside us and indicated there was a problem with our vehicle. One of the front wheels appeared to have a puncture.

After some considerable time he managed to get the wheel off only to find that the spare was flat. I, in the meantime had gone for a walk and was photographing things of interest.

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You can clearly see how little tread there is on the tyre. When the driver finally removed it from the vehicle, I examined it. It was not flat but had lost about 50 per cent of its pressure, quite likely as the tyre rolled during the harsh cornering under speed. As the spare was useless, the driver, whom I had offered advice to, reference his style of driving, rolled the semi-flat tyre off down the hill in search of compressed air.

In the meantime, some of the passengers flagged down a bus and disappeared out of sight, while the rest of us waited for the cavalry to turn up in the form of 2 taxis. The driver of the taxi I was in, then proceeded to give us the sequel to the “ride from/to hell” as we went onto a dirt road with blind bends. He was of the opinion that tooting his horn would be enough to stop any oncoming vehicles that may be approaching on the other side of the bend. Hardly slowing down and completely miffed by the fact they had ignored his warning. Oblivious to the fact that they were probably thinking the same of him.

We were then deposited in a small town where we should have had lunch. However, because we were so late, lunch seemed to be off the agenda. We then had to negotiate to get a ride to Hidroelectrica from where we should have had the option of taking the train or walking the last 15 kms.

As we arrived at Hidroelectrica the train was about to leave, we did not have the option of boarding it, as we would have had to have bought the tickets at the town we had just left.

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We were not a happy bunch by now. Although we did all seem to agree we were lucky to be alive and some of us planning alternative journeys back to Cusco. Time to start walking. DSCN3015Onwards and upwards.

DSCN3017“Danger. Don´t walk on the track”.

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DSCN3021There were some interesting sights along the way…

DSCN3022…and some hazards.

DSCN3035I was told that this was the back of Machu Picchu.

DSCN3043It was getting dark but there were still some things to see. This butterfly was huge, sadly it is not a sharp image.

DSCN3046 (2)The light continued to fade and we had to finish the journey, walking along the railway in the dark. I had a torch with me, which reduced the risk element but when we arrived at Aguascalientes we were not happy. I was with a very nice couple from Bogota in Colombia, Carlos and Doris and between us we managed to track down our guides, reunite with other members of our groups and best of all locate our hotel rooms. We had had enough for one day. Alarm set for 4am the next day and Machu Picchu awaits.

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Cahuachi

I was in Nazca for less than 10 hours but the flight over the Nazca Lines only lasted 35 minutes and the whole experience was less than 2 hours. In the afternoon, Pepe, the tour operator at AeroParacas organised a trip to Cahuachi, an archaeological site about an hour´s drive through the desert from Nazca.

The Nazca people are said to have used Cahuachi mainly for ceremonial purposes and it did not have a large population.

The site is huge, consisting of some 40 adobe pyramids. Sadly, like many similar sites in Perú, they have been subjected to looting. The part of the site I visited was quite easily accessible via a dirt road and has been restored to some degree.

????????Not restored.

????????Restored.

????????To protect the restoration, you cannot go on to the pyramids.

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????????Cahuachi is set in a stunning landscape.

????????We then travelled a short distance back toward Nazca…

???????????????????????… to see an example of the aquaducts built by the Nazca culture.

???????????????????We arrived there just before sunset.

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The Nazca Lines

Seeing the Nazca Lines, has to be near the top of anybody’s list of things to do in Perú. There are observation towers, which you can climb to get a better view than at ground level but it is worth stumping up the extra money and taking a short flight. I paid $120 which made it the most expensive 35 minutes of entertainment in my life. It was well worth it though.

When I left Pisco at 7.30 in the morning, I still was not sure if I would be taking the Nazca flight. I had a dodgy stomach the day before. Fortunately by the time I got to Nazca at 11AM, I was feeling much better. I was met at the bus station by Pepe of Aeroparacas, who, as soon as he knew I was feeling up to it, organised my flight over the lines.

Pepe is a friend of Bertha, who organised my tour round the Paracas National Reserve and was generally helpful with advice during my stay at the Tambo Colorado Hotel in Pisco. I have been very fortunate in recent weeks with tour companies and with my choice of hotels.

The Nazca airfield is just a short distance from the city and, after completing the formalities, which included being weighed and of course, paying the airport tax, I was on the tarmac ready to board the plane.

???????????????????????????????????????The plane…

??????????????????…pilot and co-pilot. The co-pilot was great for cueing up when the forms were going to be showing up beneath the wings. It was difficult to take photos, as the pilot was constantly maneuvering the plane, to try and give people on both sides of the aircraft an opportunity to see the shapes.

?????????This was about as high as we got.

?????????The Whale

????????Triangle

?????????????The Astronaut

??????????The Monkey

???????If you look carefully, you may see The Dog.

???????????????The Hummingbird

??????????The Spider

??????????The Condor

??????????The Parrot

??????????????????????The Tree and The Hands

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Tambo Colorado

As I stayed in a hotel called Tambo Colorado whilst in Pisco, Perú, it seemed reasonable when it was suggested to me, that I visit the archaeological site after which it is named. Situated about an hour´s drive north of Pisco, Tambo Colorado is said to be the best preserved coastal example of Inca ruins.

The original structures consisted of a palace and accommodation for soldiers and workers.

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DSCN2585There is a small onsite museum.

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DSCN2592There was also a large plaza,

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DSCN2602You can still see some traces of the paint which covered the walls.

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Pisco and Paracas

I enjoyed the trip to the Paracas National Reserve in Perú so much, I decided to go back for another look. It was less than a half hour away from my hotel in Pisco. I also stopped on the sea front in Pisco.

DSCN2652Marshy area adjacent to the sea front in Pisco

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DSCN2666Expecting rain?

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DSCN2740Back to the desert.

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DSCN2719I had to walk a long way to get within a reasonable distance of these flamingos.

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DSCN2791Let sleeping seals lie.

DSCN2797They do not like to be woken up.

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DSCN2839Dinner time.

 

 

 

Paracas National Reserve

Paracas National Reserve is basically a massive beach. To be more precise, it is coastal desert which has been designated part of of a marine conservation area, to protect the various forms of wildlife there. Also it helps preserve the heritage of the region. It is located in the province of Ica, some 3 hours drive south of Lima, Perú.DSCN2522The desert landscape is out of this world.

DSCN2498There is an abundance of fossils of prehistoric marine life forms.

DSCN2530A rare example of a beach of red sand.

DSCN2505A part of the rock formation known locally as “The Cathedral”.

DSCN2536Enjoying a break with a spot of fishing. The one in the middle is my driver/guide, Fredy.

DSCN2554Also planning on fishing.

DSCN2552Hovering, looking for somewhere clean to land. No chance!!

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