Peru was part of a 50th birthday present to myself. Spending a week in each country, I visited India, USA, Brazil, Peru and Argentina. It was a fabulous five week test of my travel planning skills and my first attempt at extended solo travel. I began this Peruvian adventure in the capital city of Lima. The city center was beautiful.
Lima City Center
The Train down to Macchu Picchu
I flew up to Cusco from Lima. Cusco is a city in the Peruvian Andes once the capital of the Inca Empire. When I say up, I mean really up. I’m talking about 3339 meters high, or 10,954 feet, or 2.07 miles high. The minute I departed the plane I started breathing heavy and every movement seemed to take all of my energy. It was frustrating when little tiny 80 year old Peruvians were whizzing past me carrying their luggage, no wheels, as I was still trying to breathe. I must say I didn’t stop for oxygen. In hindsight I should have put my ego on hold and taken the dang oxygen offered at the airport. I developed a low grade headache; I rarely get headaches. The headache would stay with me for the two days I was in Cusco and I would not find relief until the train slowly descended into the valley and stopped at Macchu Picchu. You won’t see any pictures from Cusco because I was too tired, winded and headachey to worry about pictures. I walked around the town a bit but mostly stayed in my room until it was time to catch the train. Cocoa leaves, the local cure for altitude sickness, did not help.
The train was as luxurious as I expected. I had to splurge, it was my birthday. Passengers were greeted with music and dancing from the locals. Our luggage was whisked away in a flash and before I knew it a drink was placed in my hand. Woohoo, happy birthday to me.
The train was a throwback to the golden days of luxury travel. The dining car with it’s upholstered seating, wood paneled walls and the antique wooden bar added to the luxurious atmosphere of the train. On the train I met the couple pictured below in the next set of pictures. They were so much fun. He lectured me on living healthy and the benefit of yoga in longevity. He then proceeded to get on the floor and show me what he was capable of at his age, to the total dismay of his wife. They were so much fun to talk to and laughter dotted our conversation. They were one of the main highlights of this trip. I love meeting good people when I travel.
The ancient city was built in the 15th century and later abandoned. What I find intriguing is that no one has figured out the purpose of this huge city, perched on top of the world. It has over 600 terraces and 170 buildings, thousands of steps, several temples and 16 fountains. Hundred thousands of stones were used to build the city. The Inca stonework is legendary. The precision in which huge stone blocks were fitted together, without mortar, and formed into buildings and terraces leaves scientists and historians baffled. After 500 hundred years a knife blade can’t be inserted in between the stones. No one could figure out how they achieved such precision or what tools they could have possibly used. Many archaeologists and scientist believe they used rock to carve rock. Amazing!
After 400 years of neglect Hiram Bingham re-discovered the ancient city in 1911 and began writing about it. Even back then the tourists who read his books and articles began to visit the ancient city. Dang tourists. I was enthralled with the vastness of the city and spent a lot of time sitting and taking it all in; trying to figure out how the heck they did it.
I spent my birthday watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu and reading my bible at the little hut I scouted out the day before with the tour guide from the train. I got up early (yes I did) and caught a bus to the site. I wasn’t the only one with the idea to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu. However, I was apparently the only one who scouted out my little hut. When everyone went right I went left and found my way to my hut. It was nice and quiet and at least an hour before I saw the first tourist.
Sunrise at Machu Picchu – Magical!
The buses started out at about 4:30 a.m. to see the sun rise. It was sort of light out when the bus arrived so I thought I had missed the sunrise and it was going to be a cloudy day, but that was not so. Check out the pictures below.
Toastmasters in Lima
A trip is not complete without a visit to a local Toastmasters club.