Monday, December 2, 2013
November 18, 2013 – The Road to Puno
After our tour of Machu Picchu, we spent the afternoon in Aguas Calientas, its gateway city.
That evening, we travelled all the way back to Cusco to pack our bags for our goodbye to our first Peru home. Early the next morning, we piled our bags and selves into a van for the trip to Puno – on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Many talk about the train ride between Cusco and Puno. While it may be quite beautiful, the truth is that it takes longer and is less reliable at this time than road travel. Hopefully these first 2 pictures illustrate that it is also very beautiful! The first one shows the familiar terraced farmland of the Incas.
We stopped along the way to pick up gifts of fruit for our Tequile Isle hosts. This is a commodity they have a hard time getting. I could not resist this picture of the colorful plaza market! (More on Tequile ahead!)
After several hours of riding, knitting, and admiring the changing countryside, our driver pulled over to get this special shot – the highest point of our journey. 4335 meters above sea level. This translates into more than 13,000 ft! It was here that Pecos quit worrying about our altitude sickness as we “moved like gazelles” toward the vendor at the roadside market who was selling yarn! The first we had seen as most Peruvians sell produce or items they have made from the wool.
Translation: Altitude 14,300 ft
We arrived in Puno that evening in time to find dinner, peruse the nearby shops, and settle into our new hotel rooms.
We arose early this morning to a wonderful breakfast smorgasbord. We packed an overnight bag and arrived at the front door to our waiting chariots! There is nothing like a bicycle taxi ride through the Puno streets at dawn! Our destination was the port where we headed out on Lake Titicaca toward Isla Tequile. The gentleman standing on your left by the taxis is our Isla Tequile guide, Cecile.
An inside view of our lake transportation and our driver in traditional Tequile attire. You can tell by his hat that he is married. (More on that later!)
The port at Puno is filled with beds of reeds that our boat passed through. My pictures of this were not very spectacular, but the next 2 pictures show our approach to an interesting phenomenon of the lake. They show one of the numerous reed islands floating on the lake built by the resident’s (Uros) ancestors and continually replenished with new reeds by the current residents!
This 3rd picture is the view from terra firma (?). The buildings are one room homes with the “living” room on one side and a bunk bed for the family on the other. Cooking is done outside. The textiles that the Uros people make are crewel-type textiles done with yarn and crochet hook on woven fabric showing important scenes of their daily life.
November 17, 2013
After a beautiful evening in Ollantaytambo, the night brought in a rumbling thunderstorm. We arose at about 4 AM (our wake-up calls were scheduled for 4:30) to catch a 5 AM train to Machu Picchu, the sacred city of the Incas that the Spanish did not find and ravage. The storm had reduced to overcast skies and light sprinkles as we boarded the train to Aguas Calientas. Once there, we transferred to a bus for transport to Machu Picchu. The weather continued to improve so as you can see in the first picture, Ann and the guide led us down the path to the city in comfort – dry and relatively warm.
The next 2 pictures show our first sight of the city of Machu Picchu at the Inca trail entrance. (While we were guided up a steep trail to get to this point, we did not actually hike the Inca Trail.) These are the views that the Inca ruling class would see when they visited the city. The first is actually the back side of the city, the second the city itself. Machu Picchu was the home to religious leaders and the educated classes. The rulers came to this city for spiritual needs but actually resided in Cusco. In Machu Picchu much learning transpired. Farming and textiles were important aspects of Inca life and here is where they studied different crops and farming techniques. The terraces you see cascading down the slopes were filled with crops in Inca days. When the Spanish took control, of the empire, the residents of Machu Picchu quietly abandoned the city and slipped into the jungle on its edges. The jungle soon grew over the city which local tribes knew about but was not found by westerners until the 20th century.
We officially entered the city through this arch.
Here you can see typical Incan building construction. They studied how to build so that earthquakes would not destroy their homes and temples. The stones used for walls were cut and fit together at many junctures. The windows were trapezoidal with the base wider than the top and the sides slanting between. If you can enlarge the picture to look through the right window, you will see a nice surprise for us – a chinchilla enjoying the morning sun and breeze!
As we walked along the paths of the city, these “lawn mowers” wandered among the terraces.
As mentioned previously, farming was extremely important to Inca culture. Thus, the movements of the sun and the moon and the resulting changes of season also were important to study. This structure was fashioned to indicate when the sun solstices occurred. The window on the far side was situated so that it shown on the table in the center in a certain way. Then they knew when it was time to plant or harvest. There is another structure (not pictured) to follow the movements of the moon.
Though it looks like just another view of the city, I wanted to feature the ceremonial baths here. The triangular structures you see in the middle right of the picture are the gables. These structures would have supported thatched roofing tied to stone out-posts built into the wall.
Here is our guide, Julio, who was incredible! Not only was Julio a wealth of knowledge – way more than I have managed to remember! – he also had a fantastic command of English. He particularly liked taking group pictures for us using Ruth’s camera. (Many of the tour’s official pictures were taken with this camera.) Julio spent 3 hours with us on a 2 hour tour!
The last 2 pictures are of sacred areas of the city. The first is the Temple of the Condor, a stone rendition of the bird with wings spread; its head is a slightly raised structure on the floor. It was hard to get the entirety in one picture so I apologize for cutting off the view of its head!
Finally, the last picture of Machu Picchu is the Temple of the Sun and Royal Tomb below which honor the 2 most important forces in Inca life, the sun and mother earth.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge that others have taken much more beautiful pictures of Machu Picchu which are available on line and in numerous publications. I took these to provide you with our journey in the Sacred Valley and hope you enjoyed them!