Machu Picchu and Cuzco!

Hi everyone!  For those of you who saw the eclipse, I am jealous!  I enjoyed seeing all the photos on social media and hate I missed it.  Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to see it one of these years!  Well anyways, for today’s post, I wanted to share a recap on my time spent in Machu Picchu and Cuzco!

To start, I flew to Cuzco from Lima to meet up with fellow volunteer, Jessie, and her boyfriend, James.  I was a little worried about altitude sickness (Cuzco is at 3,400 meters), but since we left Cuzco almost immediately after my arrival, it didn’t affect me too much.  You definitely feel winded more easily though!  After I arrived, we picked up some snacks from a supermarket and headed straight to Agua Calientes (2,040 meters) which is the small town where you can take a bus to Machu Picchu (2,400 meters) from.  We had a long travel day there including a colectivo to the town of Ollantaytambo (2,800 meters) and then from there a train ride to Agua Calientes.   Agua Calientes is only a stop over to Machu Picchu and is actually very touristy town and a bit cheesy.  The main plaza felt a bit like a theme park with weird lights in the fountain and over the top ruins themed surrounding buildings and restaurants.

We arrived pretty late, ate dinner, and then went to bed early so that we would be well rested for the next day.  The following day, we were up and in line for the bus around 7:15am (supposedly the line starts at 3:30am and the wait is like 2+ hours!).  We still had to wait a bit, but soon were on our way up the mountain. We had purchased a combo ticket of Machu Picchu and the Machu Picchu mountain hike, so when we arrived we decided to hike the mountain first.  It was pretty challenging since it was all stairs and became pretty steep towards the top, but it was a short hike.  The higher up you get, the smaller the Machu Picchu ruins look, but you still get amazing mountain views.  We sat at the top and had a small, packed lunch and James and I also enjoyed a beer (until it got confiscated ha).  We then made our way down the mountain and found a tour guide to take us around the ruins.  We pretty much closed the site down and stayed and relaxed while taking in the views as long as possible.  The end of the day was actually the best since a lot of other tourists had left and we only shared the space with fellow stragglers. 😊

Per usual, the photos don’t even do it justice:

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(Hoch brought me his hat instead of mine)
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Pano view from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain
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Incan Design: The stones are shaped and placed together like puzzle pieces
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Me, Jessie, James, and lovely mountains

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The money pic
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I just love these mountains

It.Was.Amazing.  My only regret is that we didn’t have the time to trek it.  I would come back to do the trek and see those views in a heartbeat.

Anyways, that evening we took the train back to Ollantaytambo and stayed the night there.  The next morning, we explored the town before heading back to Cuzco.  Ollantaytambo is a super cute and small Incan town with nearby Incan ruins.  We knew we wanted to do a Sacred Valley tour which includes the Ollantaytambo Incan ruins, so we did not visit them, but walked around the cute town instead.

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Ollantaytambo = O-town 🙂
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O-town was filled with small streets like this one, my fav!
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Made a stop at a textile venue on our way back to Cuzco. The lady demonstrated how Peruvian fabrics are made.

We headed back to Cuzco, checked in, and ended up going out for a nice dinner which included a few drinks from the hotel bar beforehand (always a bad idea for your first night at high altitude, I ended up with a slight hangover the next day after only a few drinks).  James ordered Cuy (Peruvian specialty, Guinea Pig!) at dinner and Jessie and I both tried some of it.  It tasted like rabbit or something similar and was tasty, but I couldn’t get over the look of it.  Jessie and I kept laughing at the images on the menu.

They sure know how to make it look appetizing huh…..

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Us posing with James’ cuy

The following day was James’ last day in Peru before heading back to Australia.  So we told him, we’d do whatever he wanted to do.  He decided he wanted to take it easy so we did just that.  We did go on a walking tour of Cuzco, which was great (both the tour and the city), we ate lunch at the market, and we relaxed that evening.  It was perfect since we needed to acclimate to the high elevation anyways.  Seriously, I felt easily winded just walking up a few steps.

A couple Cuzco shots:

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One of our favorite spots was the San Pedro Market.  We went for freshly squeezed juices, lunch with locals for 5-6 soles (< $2 USD!), and tried different snacks including this fruit:

It is a Granada China (also known as a Golden Passion Fruit). You peel away the skin and eat the inside which is filled with gray-ish colored seeds.  Tastes a bit like passion fruit and is really delicious!

On the morning that James was leaving Jessie and I decided to do the Sacred Valley tour, which we ended up regretting a bit.  We stopped at a few different ruins, but it was a bit rushed and included stops at shops which we would’ve been happy to skip in order to spend more time at the sites.  I guess that’s what you get when you join a tour group on a big ass bus though.

One of our first stops of the tour was to see Inca Pisac, which consists of several agricultural terraces.  The Inca terrace engineering involved hauling soil from other areas of Peru (like the coast or the jungles) and layering them in a way that sort of created its own ecosystem.  These terraces were used for over a thousand years to farm potatoes, corn, and other local crops.

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Another stop was back in Ollantaytambo (O-town) to visit the Inca Ruins there.  The ruins are in the mountains surrounding the city.  Some of the ruins were used for storage (it’s colder the higher up you go), others were used for religious purposes, and others were used as a guard houses or lookouts to protect the city.

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You can see the storage building in the side of the mountain.
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Some of the Inca Ruins up close.

All of the remaining stops were for shopping or eating so they weren’t too exciting which was unfortunate, but everything is so far away so it takes time to get around too.

Our last day in Cuzco was another chill day.  We needed to plan a bit and really just wanted to enjoy the city.  We walked around some new neighborhoods and did a little shopping as well.  We even stopped and sat with some hippies while they braided our hair with these hippie hair wrap threads.  We practiced our Spanish along with drinking Chicha (a fermented corn beer drink) with them as well.  It was a bit random, but those sort of things always seem to happen to me and Jessie when we’re together.  I will say random and unexpected are the best kind of memories!  😊

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Mid thread hair wrap.

Cuzco is great and there is so much more to see and do there.  Three full days is not nearly enough time.  I wish we would’ve had more, but I guess I’ll just have to come back to see the things we missed (like Rainbow Mountain, Moray, and the Salt Mines!).  Well that’s it for this recap.  My next post will be on our time spent in the Amazon Jungle!

Until then!

Kimberly

P.S.  Google Photo Album Links:

Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru: Ollantaytambo and Cuzco

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