Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ancient mysteries in the Andes mountains

After we left Iquitos, Elin and I met up with Vegard (another Act Now student from Norway) to spend a few days in Cusco. Cusco was once the capital for the great Inca empire, which ruled throughout the Andes mountains for about a century before the Spanish colonizers came. Needless to say, the city is full of interesting history and monuments. But the best part is that it's really close to Macchu Picchu, the mysterious ancient Inca ruins, which was really our main destination.

I have to admit, I was a little afraid that because of the excess of tourists, the whole thing would feel a little comercialized and disappointing. Thankfully, though, we were able to find a much cheaper and MUCH more exciting route to get to Macchu Picchu. (If you're planning on a trip to Macchu Picchu, ask me, and I'll tell you how to spend $25 instead of $130 to get there). A friend had told us about the route, but we weren't actually sure if it was feasable. But it turned out to be great!

Instead of taking the tourist train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (a small town at the foot of the mountains surrounding Macchu Picchu), we spent the day driving through the rugged mountains, passing through small towns, and looking out over coca leaf and banana plantations. Late in the afternoon, we ended up at a train station, and from here we walked along the railways, that we hoped would lead us to Aguas Calientes. Along the way, we met a friendly traveler from New Zealand, Olivia (with scary resemblance to Olivia Newton John), who joined us for the rest of the trip. We were told that the walk would take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (depending on who we asked), but we got to be a little nervous when we had walked for about 2 hours and it started getting dark. But just then, we saw light radiate from around the bend, and not long after we were in Aguas Calientes.

Walking along the rails to Aguas Calientes

After just a few hours of sleep, we got up at 4 in the morining to start the hike up to Macchu Picchu. The sky was clear and covered in stars, and I almost fell to the ground as I made out the shadows of the overpowering and majestic mountains rising up on all sides of us. I felt so tiny in the face of all this mystery and beauty, and if the trip would have ended right there, it would have been worth it. But we kept walking and after a steep climb for a little over an hour, we made it to Macchu Picchu! Along with some other hikers, we got there before the first buses came up, so we had the privilege of enjoying the sight of the ruins before it was overcrowded by people. SO tired, and SO excited to have made it to the top!

It was INCREDIBLE. So quiet and mysterious (there are several competing theories as to what Macchu Picchu was built for, though most likely it was a religious ceremonial center), and just amazingly beautiful. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

A llama (or alpacca...? I still can't tell the difference) at the ruins. Pretty sure they are brought up here just for cheesy photo ops, but it works, doesn't it? All four gathered at the top. (And all four dissappointed when we saw that the other tourist that took our photo had cut our legs off. Big photo no-no!)

The big mountain right behind the ruins is Wayna Picchu, which also made for a good climb. Here looking down on the ruins from another perspective.

Such a beautiful place.
Elin and I celebrating our arranged marrige, which turned out incredibly well. It'll be so strange not to be around each other next year, after having lived together, studied together, and worked together every single day for the last seven months.

In awe...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, can you tell me what type of frog that is in the banner at the top?