Machu Pikachu – Part 2

Hello there,

I am back online for the second part of my stories in Peru. Actually, I wanted to write this post directly after the previous one after a 10 min break. However, it seems those 10 min suddenly changed in 10 days. This might be the Latin American influence ๐Ÿ˜‰

This time, as music background, I chose the traditional Peruvian folk song “Condor pasa”, but one version I particularly like, the one interpreted by Simon&Garfunkel.

Simon & Garfunkel : El Condor Pasa (1970)

At the end of the previous post, I was leaving Huacachina in direction of Arequipa. The bus ride takes in total about 15 hours but fortunately this includes 2 touristic stops in the afternoon.

The first one is at a pisco distillery. Pisco is a traditional alcoholic beverage produced in Peru and made from grapes. It is famous worldwide thanks to the Pisco sour cocktail. Nothing special to report about the visit as it is very touristic. The tour starts with a short explanation of the distillation process and ends with some tasting of different kind of pisco.

The second stop a few hours later is at the Nazca lines. The Nazca lines, which represent giant animals are a remain of the old Nazca civilization present in the area between 100BC and 750AD. They were discovered by chance by airplane pilots in the 1920s, who saw strange lines on the grounds when flying from Lima to Arequipa. The meaning and purpose of those lines are not completely sure. The first studies made on the lines concluded that those lines where part of roads linking Nazca villages, whereas conclusion of later researches tend to see those lines as part of a big irrigation system.

After the Nazca lines visit, we make a final stop for diner before spending the whole night in the bus. We finally make it to Arequipa at around 05:30am.
The night is quite short but not bad and after a basic breakfast at the hostel, I spend the day exploring the city.

My 2 highlights are the Convento de Santa Catalina and the Museo Santuarios Andinos where the main exhibition is the famous Juanita.
The cloister is a very well conserved set of buildings dating from the Spanish era of the city. The architecture shows the Spanish influence and from the terrasse, I am lucky to have a good weather to enjoy an amazing view on the mountains.

In the museum Santuarios Andinos, the main topic is the sacrifices to the god performed by the Incas and particularly the story of Juanita, a 12yo girl sacrificed around 1450 and whose mummified body was found in the mountains in 1995.
The city center also has other nice churches and buildings that are classified as UNESCO Human Heritage.

During the next 2 days, I join a group for a hike down (and then up) the Colca Canyon near Arequipa. This Canyon is the 3rd deepest canyon in the world and is very impressive to see. It is 2x times deeper than Grand Canyon in the USA where I went a few months ago.
The minibus picks us up at the hostel at around 3:30am and we depart to the village of Cabanaconde. The drive is supposed to take about 6 hours but I don’t really know as I sleep the whole way ๐Ÿ™‚ I wake up just in time for the breakfast break, after which we drive to our first viewpoint, La Cruz del Condor. The place is very nice. It not only offers a tremendous view on the canyon, but it is also a good point to see the famous Andean Condor birds.

After that, another 20 minutes by bus take us to the starting point of our trek. The first day, we trek downhill for approximately 3,5 hours from 3300m to 2100m into the canyon. The group is very nice and motivated. We have people from Great Britain, Australia and Danemark.ย After having passed the villages of San Juan de Chuccho, Cosรฑirhua and Malata, we finally arrive in the evening at the deepest part of our trek, the village of Sangalle at approximately 1900m, where we spend the night.

Day 2 of the trek is a bit more challenging as we have to walk all the way up to the top of the Canyon.ย We start after a rather short (and cold) night at 04:30am. Despite the strong slope, we try to keep a good pace as we all think that we have to reach the top before 06:30-07:00 to see the sunrise. However, after 2 hours, we realize that we only made it to the half of the trail, and that actually, the guide wanted us to start early to avoid walking during the warmest hours of the day. The walk up the Canyon is a hard challenge for everybody. The group arrives at the top in the village of Cabanaconde a bit split. However, I am very proud of everybody as despite the hard pain and suffering, nobody gave up and finished the hike on a mule. This is the true Olympic spirit, just in time for the games in Rio ๐Ÿ™‚

From Cabanaconde, we then head to Chivay. On the way we have a great view on pre-Inca terraces. In Chivay we enjoy the nice water temperature of some hot springs. This is a good way for us to relax our legs after the hard trek of the previous days. After a quick lunch in the village, we then head back to the city of Arequipa. On the way we descend from 4830m to 2325m and pass through the national reserve of Pampa Caรฑahuas where we see some Alpacas and their “cousins” (Vicunas, etc…) ๐Ÿ™‚

Once arrived in Arequipa, one of the group has the brilliant idea to make a short stop at… McDonald’s before going back to the hostel. The Sunday chocolate ice cream was really not bad ๐Ÿ˜‰
The bus pick up in the next morning is a bit strange. Some of the group go to Cusco (like me) as others go first to Puno. As Puno is on the way to Cusco, we thought we would all be in the same bus but actually, the destinations are served by different lines. As the buses arrive in advance compared to the announced schedule, some people are not ready on time and rushed by the guides to get on the bus. Because of this, we unfortunately have no time to say properly goodbye to each other ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
A few hours drive later in the late afternoon, I arrive in the city of Cusco, which will be my base to visit the famous Machu Picchu.

The first evening in Cuzco is quite relaxed. I just walk a bit around the hostel before going back to go to bed early. Indeed I am looking forward to have the first long night since a long time ๐Ÿ™‚ On the next day, I wake up quite late and have just enough time for a short breakfast and to prepare a small bag to bring on my visit to Machu Picchu. I then head to the bus station to take a minibus to the village of Ollantaytambo, where I change to take a train on 12:30 to Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.
The train ride is very beautiful. The rails are following a river through the sacred valley of the Incas. In my box, I seat with a nice family from Bogota. The boy is happy to practice his English with me and shows me on his camera all the places he’s been traveling with his parents during the last days. I ask him if he has Pokemon Go on his phone ๐Ÿ™‚ This was obvious, he not only shows me his collection very proudly but is also hoping to find nice ones in Machu Picchu, maybe a special Machu Pikachu ๐Ÿ˜‰ Arrived in Aguas Calientes, after a quick check in at my hostel, I take some time to explore a bit the city. It reminds me a bit of a ski station in France, with the fountain on the central place and then all the mountain clothes shop and restaurant in the adjacent streets. After a nice diner watching the Olympic games, I go to bed quite early, as next day will be a long day ๐Ÿ™‚

I wake up at 04:30 to be sure to be among the first at the entrance to have time to take pictures before all the tourist groups arrive. After a short breakfast, I start walking to the starting point of the trail going up to Machu Picchu. It is quite dark and my only light is the lamp of my mobile phone. However I am not the only one on the way and I follow the other visitors who chose like me not to take the bus to go up.

A few minutes later, I arrive at the first control point. Just behind, the steep trail is waiting for me. The way to the entrance is quite a nice challenge. I pass a lot of people having difficulties with the slope and also maybe because of the altitude. I have quite a bad feeling as the weather is pretty bad and so is the visibility on the mountains. I arrive a bit after 06:00 at the entrance and I am really surprised by the number of people already present. However, the ticket check goes quite smoothly and after a few minutes I enter the main Machu Picchu site. As I have a ticket for the mountain, I follow the signs pointing to the path to reach the top. After a while, I start worrying as the path is not going very high and as I meet people on the way going down. The view is very bad. I barely see around as there are clouds everywhere. Arrived at what seems to be a viewpoint, I see a lot of people waiting for the sky to get clearer and I ask one of the guide if I am already at the top of the Montana. Unfortunately, he tells me that I am on the wrong way and that I arrived at the Puerta del Sol. It would take me 1 hour to get down and then up again to the top of the mountain. It is already seven and I only have until 08:00 to get to the special check point. F***, it’s gonna be tough but let’s stay positive and try.

On the way back down, I push a lot of people just arriving from the famous Inca Trail. Back at the main site, I find the sign I missed on the way up and start the climb. Luckily for me, there still has a lot of people in the queue at the check point and so, I make it on the trail before the door closes.
The climb is quite demanding, especially the steep end. However the biggest problem is the weather as the top is very clouded. Everybody is waiting for the little wind that would push the clouds away so that we can see Machu Picchu from above. After 1 hour, as the sky doesn’t get clearer, people start swearing ๐Ÿ™‚
As I want to keep time to visit the Inca citadel before taking the train back, I unfortunately have no other choice than to give up and go down. On the way down, I meet some nice travelers who are as frustrated as me, and we try to keep a positive attitude altogether. As we are almost back down, we meet the people of the second group (09:00-10:00) beginning their ascension. As they can’t see the top, some people ask us how long they still have. We chose for fun to be bad and to tell everybody they only have 5 min left :p

Back in the citadel, I spend a little bit more than 2 hours visiting the whole site. The buildings are very well conserved, however the site is now completely overcrowded with tourists, although the number of tickets is limited to 2500 per day. The good thing is that there is tour guides everywhere and so I can catch some information from one group to another. Despite the high number of visitors, the place is still worth a visit and I really enjoy walking around the buildings. In the middle of the citadel, I meet by chance the Colombian family I met in the train from Ollantaytambo. The young boy didn’t find any Pokemon but is still amazed by the place.
At around 14:00 I go back down to Aguas Calientes to take the train this time to a station called Hydroelectic (it’s actually an hydroelectric power plant) and from there I change to a bus to go back to Cusco. The journey takes almost 7 hours and so I am quite late back at the hostel.

At around 14:00 I go back down to Aguas Calientes to take the train this time to a station called Hydroelectic (it’s actually an hydroelectric power plant) and from there I change to a bus to go back to Cusco. The journey takes almost 7 hours and so I am quite late back at the hostel.
I take the full next day to visit Cusco. In the morning, I visit 2 archaeological sites in the North of the city, Saqsayhuaman and Q’enqo. They are less impressive than Machu Picchu but still very interesting.

After that I go back to the Plaza de Armas in the city center to have lunch.

The afternoon is reserved for the visit of 3 museums: Museo de Sitio de Qorikancha, Museo Historico Regional and Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo, my favorite one being the Museo Historico Regional. Indeed, the whole exhibition is centered on the story of the Inca civilization from its starts to its extinction, as well as various links and comparisons with other contemporary civilization. To finish the day, I go back to the city center to have diner in a typical Peruvian restaurant where I try alpaca and cuy (guinea pig) meat. The alpaca steak is delicious, however, I am not convinced by the cuy ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day if a kind of day off for me ๐Ÿ™‚ I do absolutely nothing except some planning for the rest of the trip as well as some picture sorting out.
In the evening, I jump in the night bus to Puno, which will be my last stop in Peru. We wake up there at 06:00. At 06:30, I join a tour to visit the Uros families living on floating islands. This visit is quite interesting. It reminds me of the floating islands I saw in Cambodia on the Tonlรฉ Sap lake. The boss of the village is happy to explain us how the floating islands are built and how the everyday life looks like. He also kindly lets us take a look inside his house. After having discussed with our guide, I understand that the village has the same problems as the ones in Cambodia. The relation is the government is not so good and the tribe is only tolerated. Moreover, the village is slowly disappearing as the young people prefer to go live on the land instead of staying on the islands and continuing the tradition.

After a last ride on an craft boat, we go back to the bus to cross the border to Bolivia.
The immigration procedure goes pretty smoothly on both side, in Peru as well as in Bolivia. However, due to political events taking place in Bolivia, the bus which was supposed to pick us up and bring us to Copacabana couldn’t come to the border and we have to take a boat.
The rest of my adventures in Bolivia in the next article!
Stay tuned!!

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