Cuzco, Machu Pichu and Puno

August and September, 2004


August 29th

Taking the day off, we wandered through the produce market near the Cusco train station. Sanitary conditions for meat, fish and poultry sold there would not meet any world standard. Bodies and legs of animals lie in piles waiting for customers or flies, whichever come first.

Cuzco, Peru

Long distance calling from Peru to Germany
requires a visit to a Telephone/Internet shop

From our hotel window...

August 30th

A city tour of Cusco takes you out of town, after seeing the obligatory church. In this case, the cathedral was interesting, as the foundation and first three feet were pure Inca and the rest above was Spanish. From the phrasing and tone of the tour-guide's speech, it's quite evident the Spaniards are still hated for destroying so much of the Inca culture. Saqsaywaman is a good example. Just ouside Cusco, the Spaniards used this Inca ceremonial site as a stone quarry for their buildings in town.

August 31st

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a tour in itself. From the market at Pisac (mostly artisans with alpaca weavings and some produce), to Ollantaytambo, where elaborate Inca terraces remain, the road runs along the Urubamba River. The Inca's knew what they were doing when they picked this spectacular valley.

September 1st

We took the VistaDome train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the micro-town serving as a base for visitors to Macchu Picchu, arriving at 9:30 AM, immediately taking a half-hour bus ride up to the Sanctuary. Our guide through the site, Darwin, started us through the ruins at 10:30 AM, in a light mist. Everything is precisely orchestrated to move people through, so those making a day trip can be back in town in time to catch the afternoon train back to Cusco.

Curiously, the train avoided the use of the covered tracks running into the new-looking station, loading and unloading in the rain on a track running past the station. The track about 100 feet from the station passed over a bridge which was washed away, trapping several passenger cars in the station and rendering it useless.

Internet access is conveniently available at the base of Macchu Picchu, as it is everywhere in this shrinking world.

Sunrise over Cusco

The shadow of our train rolls across the landscape

How the Sun, Moon and Stars shine on Machu Pichu

The train cars are independent units
controlled from this one station

September 2nd

I caught the first bus at 6:00 AM, returning to the Sanctuary to climb Huayna Picchu. The guide at the trail portal was unavailable to sign me in at the official opening time of the trail (7:00 AM), so I left a note and started climbing. I got to the top at 8:00 AM and claimed the highest rock as my vantage point to watch a rainbow and the clouds swirling around the peaks and in the valleys below. I had the top of Huayna Picchu to myself for an hour. The clouds finally began clearing at 9:00 AM and by 9:30, I was able to get a clear view of the Sanctuary and the peak of Macchu Picchu at the same time.

The afternoon train (and a bus from Poray) got us back to Cusco just after sunset.

Those who paid $400 for room at the hotel on top of the mountain to see the sun-rise over Machu Pichu were sadly disappointed.
I took the first bus which climbed up into the clouds

The Warden's Hut where climbers log in with passport number
It was closed at my early arrival, so I left a short note and started my climb of Huayna Pichu
Now you must buy a ticket and get in line for your reservation.

The clouds began to lift after an hour
The serpentine road from the village cuts back and forth

Machu Pichu from the top of Huayna Pichu, 1100 feet above

I was alone on my way up. Many hikers appeared on my way down
The switchback road up from the village can be seen on the left

Repair work on the trail

Looking back on Huayna Pichu

Blurred by the speed of the train...
It's a poor photographer that blames his camera

September 3rd

One person said the road to Puno was awful, another said the opposite. One said it would take 11 hours, another said it would take six. The guidebook said nothing. So we left Cusco at 7:30 AM, uncertain whether we would need an overnight stop or not. The road was surprisingly straight and fast, allowing us to go 70 mph for long stretches; we covered the 380 km distance to Puno in only 5 hours, settling in at the Plaza Mayor Hotel.

At the outskirts of Juliaca, we were stopped by a motorcycle cop, who asked about our missing front license plate. We informed him that was OK in California. Unable to counter that argument, he went on the next item on his check-list, the International Driver's License. I provided that, so he proceeded to strike three, tinting on the car's rear windows. Elsa took issue with what was obviously a shake-down and told him to take us to his Jefe. He handed back our papers and wished us a pleasant trip, advising us to be aware of robbers along the way. I was on the gas before Elsa could inform him that he was the first robber we had encountered in Peru. Juliaca is a dusty jumble of tricycle taxis and produce stands flowing out into the street. Narrow rutted streets were crowded with pedestrians, wandering aimlessly.

The road runs at altitudes between 12,000 and 14,500 feet above sea level. Lago Titicaca (Gray Puma) is at 12,500 feet, making Puno an easy qualifier for the "Two Mile High" club.

I took a taxi to visit the good ship Yavari, the oldest ship on Lake Titicaca. It was built in England in 1862 and shipped to Peru, the journey by train and mule taking six years. It was finally launched on Christmas Day, 1870. The first engine of 60 horsepower, which ran on dried llama droppings, was replaced with a four cylinder diesel engine of 100 horsepower in 1914. That engine, which still runs today, stands over six feet tall and is about ten feet long.

September 4th

Taking a day off, Elsa slept in while I climbed to the top of a hill overlooking the city. A huge statue of a condor looks down from the top, 700 feet above the city.

Sidewalk Secretary
Letters typed for you while you wait

Lazy Bones, Elsita - rested enough to hold the TV remote control