Monday, September 10, 2012

Magnificent Machu Picchu

Simply stunning and awe-inspiring: Machu Picchu
There truly are not words to describe the beauty, peace, calm, and joy that is the site of Machu Picchu.  Nestled in the Andes mountains, this architectural and engineering feat is truly worthy of being a wonder of the world!  I took a ton of pictures (over 500) on our 9 hour visit to this sacred Incan site, and truly, as is usual for me, I'm going to let the pictures speak for the experience more than words.  Just a warning: there are a lot of pictures in this post.  The views kept changing throughout the day yielding different looks.  :)  As a tip - if you double click on a picture, you can see it in a bigger frame and then scroll through the pictures that way.

I was fortunate to visit Machu Picchu with a good friend, Jody, who I met through my first TEFL course.  We traveled to Aguas Calientes (town at the base of MP) on Monday and then on Tuesday we were up early (4:45 am alarm) to be at Machu Picchu for sunrise.  While it was a cloudy morning, we still were able to see the sun peak through the mountains and watch the scenery change as the sun rose.  There were several moments of the visit where I had to touch the runis simply to prove I was really standing there.  I've seen the standard "Machu Picchu" picture (above) a million times and have dreamed of visiting this site for at least 20 years, so to finally be standing there, well, it was simply incredible!

Really getting into the mountains now - on the train to Aguas Calientes

Our scenic train - it was simply stunning!

Jody hanging out in our very nice hotel (with an amazing shower with hot water - a luxury indeed!)

Lunch - Alpaca meat and lots of carbs - rice and fries with just a few vegetables for good measure - delicious!

The town of Aguas Calientes - truly a tourist town as its the closest point to Machu Picchu.  I don't usually like "touristy" places, but I found AC very charming

Watching others play football (soccer)

There were probably 5 different groups practicing and playing at the same time

Football not your thing?  Fly a kite instead!

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Entance to the hot springs for which the town is named.  It was incredible to sit in warm pools while listening to the nearby waterfall and see the beautiful mountains.

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Waiting for dinner - we decided to make the Wonders of the World out of dominoes.
First up: Stonehenge

Jody with our version of Machu Picchu

The Colosseum, Rome

Eiffel Tower, though it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Pyramid of Gia

Our awesome Columbian waiter, Jack, who had an amazing personality to make up for his slow service

Ready to eat Cuy: guinea pig

Our little Cuy: it was really good, though there wasn't much meat on him!  They need to fatten these guys up a bit.
He was prepared in a wood oven and was simply delicious once you got past the presentation.

Cuy drinking a Pisco Sour before he becomes dinner

Yup, his claws were still on.

Jody was way braver than I, and she tackled the head - eyes and all!

Yes, those are his teeth.
After a relaxing afternoon, and evening in Aguas Calientes, we were in bed early to get up for an early bus up to Machu Picchu and one of the greatest experiences in my life thus far.

Clouds over the Andes before sunrise from Aguas Calientes

Clouds over the Andes before sunrise from Aguas Calientes

First views of Machu Picchu

The ruins with Huayna Picchu (Pronounced like "wayna" and means young peak) mountain emerging from the clouds

Huayna Picchu mountain

Cool clouds over the nearby mountains

Over 600 year old ruins - pretty mind blowing to believe this still exists

Machu Picchu ruins with  Huayna Picchu mountain in the background

The view into the valley below the ruins

Loved that for the most part (a few parts this was not true) you could wander through and touch the rocks and ruins.

Mountains and clouds - two of my favorite things

Wish this was the view from my house

Ruins in the front and the terraces are where the Incans farmed.

View out over the valley

The sun is peaking through and hitting  Huayna Picchu  through the clouds

So majestic as the sun breaks through!

View back on the ruins with Machu Picchu (means old mountain) mountain behind

There was just something both peaceful and captivating about the way the clouds hung over the mountains.

You can see the switchback road on the way up to the ruins - quite a ride up!

Jody enjoying the peacefulness of Machu Picchu

Jody checking out the edge - and yes, it really does drop off to the left.
My fear of heights kicked in and I didn't get too close.

Just felt like I was standing in the clouds - you could almost reach out and touch them!

Gotta have a llama

Our guide Eddie teaching us all about Incan history

View of the mountains opposite Machu Picchu..  If you see the V shape more towards the right side,
this is where the sun rises every year on the Winter Solstice (June 21 in S. Hemisphere).
 Amazing how the Incans engineered Machu Picchu so that on June 21 the sun shines directly through that spot into the Temple of the Sun (pics later).

Simply stunning

Lucky to have such a great travel partner!

Looking to the "back" of the ruins - more terraces and a much steeper drop off

Eddie showing us how large these doorways are, considering the Incans were not much taller than he was.
He explained the doorways were so large to accommodate their large headdresses.

From some of the terraces below the ruins

Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Sun - really hard to see, but in the center is the V where the sun shines through on June 21 and hits this rock on the right side of the Temple of the Sun.

A little Quad Cities shout out - John Deere is truly everywhere!

Another llama joined us on our tour.  He just came out of the  ruins and onto this path.

Now a clear view of the ruins with Machu Picchu mountain behind

Meant to look like wings of a bird

One wing and the bird's face

Not a bad place to just kick back for a bit.  

Our lounging spot for a couple hours - great spot for a snack and a nap. 

This guy was a bit more daring than me!

Back in Aguas Calientes after an amazing day at Machu Picchu.  We made friends with this lovely guy who worked at the restaurant where we had dinner.

Love the sanitation workers outfits - bright and almost Packers colors!

One last happy hour: 4 drinks for about $7 with our new friend Pepito who taught me Spanish while we taught him a little English (though his English was already great).