Monday, 5 December 2011

Cusco and Machi Pichu

 I was excited about this  part of our journey as it felt as if we had now arrived. I had read about the Incas and Araucanian wars with the Spaniards- their leaders; Bolivar and Pizarro and we are about to enter the world where it all happened- the Altiplano, well for the Incas - the Araucanian come later.

The Altiplano or high plains is a huge area in the widest section of the central Andes with an average height of 12,000 feet and stretches from southern Peru west to Bolivia and south to Chile. 

We arrived in Cuzco having taken a bus from Lima. Cuzco is an attractive town, compact, very Spanish with a beautiful plaza,  plenty of churches, winding alleys and lane ways which are very steep, as Cuzco is about 11,000 feet, Alpacas and Vicunas seem to run wild in the back streets which are dry with few large trees.

Main Plaza in Cuzco

Lyn whilst here became sick from an altitude sickness called "Soroche" which is caused from lack of oxygen and is manifested with headaches, lack of breath and not being able to walk very far due to loss of energy. For a couple of days she stayed in town resting and trying to acclimatise, as we need her fit as we intended to visit Machu Pichu within the week and she would require all of her energy as it was surrounded by mountains, which meant some climbing. I explored the local country side, as I had no ill effects and there are several Inca ruins in the vicinity.

One of the ruins were "The Sacsayhuaman Ruins" which were not far out of Cuzco and large, the name is pronounced, as if saying, "sexywomen"I had heard before about the craftsmanship in their stonework and the size of the blocks of stone they worked with, but I was not prepared for seeing up close and so detailed that the reports are so correct - that between the joins you can barely place a razor, the joins are so acute and accurate with no mortar, the stone so smooth,  polished probably by time and winds as it sure gets windy. 

The stonework is masterful, some of them are over 12' high by 6' wide.These ruins had been depleted considerably as apparently the Spaniards used most of the smaller stonework to build Cuzco. 

This is at the "Sacsayhuaman Ruins". An indication of the size of the stonework, Lyn is 5'6 which would make these stone slabs about 12'high x 6'wide

After seeing this I was keen to get to Machi Pichu, so we caught the small two carriage train that follows the Urubamba River, which feeds into the Amazon, and winds through the mountains to under the plateau where they found the ruins.

 We are travelling through a very long narrow valley, the country side, fauna and flora as we go north west becomes greener and more mountainous as we are descending from the Altiplano into what eventually becomes the Amazon Basin. It takes the best part of the day and the train passes through small villages, the houses are part mud and stone with thatch reed roofs. Hawkers come to the train selling fruit, food, baskets and 'ruanas'- wraps made from Alpacca wool.The people mainly women and children all look of Indian descent.

At Machi Pichu you arrive next to the river which is a wild torrent about 40 m wide and a small bus picks you up and over the bridge your driven to the other side of the valley which has nearly vertical sides more  canyon than valley. You can not  see the top where you are going, only the side of the mountain, not even the road as it is obscured by trees and undergrowth, every where you look are mountains and then more. On the drive up there are some twenty hairpins bends, some are so tight, that the driver has to  reverse back and forth a couple of times to get around the switch backs, there are no safety rails and the drop is sheer the higher you get and the view gets better of the surrounding mountains. Eventually you come out on a plateau and there it is "the Lost city of the Incas" discovered by Hiram Bingham an American in 1911and  56 years later by Tony Mathers in 1967.

This is the track winding up to the plateau from the Urubamba River, I took this image from one of the surrounding peaks, the camera lens could only take in 60% of the switchbacks, as you can see, it is nearly a vertical ascent

In this image I  climbed to the top of the mountain directly ahead to take the images shown here and others and  climbed also around some of the other  ridges

In the image above when enlarged you can see quite a few figures in the clearing, they are some locals kicking a soccer ball. 

In the above image you can see the Urubamba River on the bottom right. 
I took these photos   back in 1967 and they have been in my photo album since then, till I recently scanned them all for these posts


We stayed here for four days, camping in the ruins.There was an English Couple that we became friends with which was a godsend as Lyn could not climb around the surrounding peaks due to having not much energy and the English lady was suffering similar effects. So they stayed on the plateau amongst the ruins enjoying the total environment, the views were spectacular of the surrounding mountain ridges.

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