I climbed up to Machu Picchu. That was an experience of a lifetime and I don't regret one aching step. We started out by spending two days in Lima visiting the regional archaeological museum, a beautiful Catholic church and spending time in the main plaza. Jack, our Jewish Peruvian tour guide (yes, you read that correctly), gave us a little political history of Peru. Let's just say there was a time where everyone was saying (in a Seinfeld tone), "But I don't want to be the President!"
On day three we took a flight out to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. We visited many Incan and Wasi Ruins. The Wasi were the tribe that existed before the Inca. Where the Incan respected the temples of the Wasi and built around them, the Spaniards "modified" the Incan temples to resemble the architecture back in Spain. It's a wonder how the Inca people hauled those huge ass stones up and down mountains and across rivers with nothing but sticks, stones, ropes and brute manpower. I took a picture of some construction workers in Aguas Calientes taking down a large boulder with jackhammers. They were doing it the easy way. Anyhow, after visiting many a ruin, church and museum the day finally came to hike up to Machu Picchu. I could hardly sleep the night before. My night was basically: "Zzzzz... wake up... Machu Picchu!... ugh, zzzzzz... wake up... Machu Picchu!... zzzzzzz."
We took the train to Km 104, which is the traditional starting point for those who want to do the hike in one day. The hubby and I went with a group of 35 people. The hike, a term used loosely, took us about 7 hours. There were those who were suffering from altitude sickness, some sick from eating local fruits and vegetables, some exhausted from the endless stone stairs that we had to climb, some scared of heights and one woman in particular who was just clumsy and fell down twice. That's not a good thing when you're 7000 feet up and one big step to the right is an easy ticket to meet your maker. But I'm proud to say we all made it through, despite ourselves. And we wouldn't trade the experience for anything. The best part was when we were at the end of the hike and the ruins were just a few steps away. I walk up, go around the bend and there in front of me, in all its glory, were the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Ruins never found by the Spanish, thank goodness, which were reconstructed and now are protected by the Peruvian government. Yes, we could've just taken the one hour train ride from our starting point and taken a 30 minute bus ride to the ruins, but that would defeat the purpose and the wonder of seeing something so ancient in the same way the Incans did since around 1460 A.D.
The rest of the trip was visiting more ruins, churches and museums. One highlight was the shopping. We haggled for everything and got the best prices from anyone in our tour group. I think it was because we know how to speak Spanish. The best buy was for our daughter's sterling earrings. The vendor wouldn't budge from 30 soles, but when the husband brought out a box of tic tacs and comically asked for a final price of 28 soles and some candy, she broke down in laughter and agreed. We purchased lots of great stuff, including alpaca scarves, jewelry, sweaters, pottery, pisco liquor and one llama blanket. Yes, we brought along an empty suitcase. After my daughter saw our pictures, she and the fiancé decided that they will honeymoon in Peru. And if anyone has the time, money (around $2,000), and energy, I highly recommend visited this sacred site.
We toured with Andrea Treks www.andeantreks.com Our cost included most dinners, lunches, airfare to and from the US, airfare to and from Cuzco, our own comfy bus and tickets. Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/moltabocca/MachuPicchu06