Saturday, November 20, 2004

Week 21 - Aguas Calientes to "Train Somewhere in Bolivia"

November 13-19, 2004


Got up early and walked two and a half hours to get to Machu Picchu. Not only did we save tons of money by not taking a bus, but also the walk was absolutely amazing. It was a very tough but gorgeous climb straight up a mountainside. We left quite early so there were no other people out at all - very peaceful.

After we entered the site, two girls from Holland approached us and asked if we would be interested in sharing a guide with them, as it would save us all money by going in together. We joined them and what a great idea it was. We learned so much about Machu Picchu and the Incas - it was fantastic!

Machu Picchu is a complete Inca city. It was buried in the jungle for centuries until 1911 when it was "discovered" by Hiram Bingham. As the story goes, he met an indigenous boy who told him of this site. He paid the boy to take him there, and later returned with an archaeological expedition sent by Yale University.

The setting is incredible - atop a mountain at 2,380m (7,808ft) surrounded by other mountains (including Huayna Picchu) and jungle. All of the structures are fabulously detailed masonry including large rocks for foundations. Channels were constructed for the use of water throughout the city.

Sixty percent of the site is in its original state. Forty percent was rebuilt. All buildings have stone walls with roofs of wood and straw. There are two main types of construction. One was specific for the temples, sacred places, and the noble class where all stones were cut by hand and fit to size exactly. It is absolutely unbelievable.

The other was for the lower class where all structures were made of stone fitted with mud.

The actual site of Machu Picchu was chosen because the Incas believed that the mountain had a high level of spiritual energy. There was also an already existing rock quarry, which made for more convenient construction. It took over a century to build.

Left Aguas Calientes by train...

Sunday - CUSCO, PERU

Spent a bit of time in Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. Arrived back to Cusco and went straight to Miguel's house (school caretaker that we met last week) because he had invited us over.

Miguel takes care of Escuela Cuetande, here is a classroom and some work...

We spent the day with him, his wife, Ignacia, and three of their four children, Yubisa, Veronica, and Abel.

It was one of the most amazing experiences ever! Ignacia made a Peruvian meal, which consisted of fish, salad, and chuño (dehydrated potatoes). Their home consisted of one room with three beds for the six of them. There was no other furniture - extremely simple. They were very poor, yet they pulled out their best dishes that were stored away in a box. They took a table from the school, and placed a beautiful cloth over the top.

I do not know who was more excited - them to have us over for dinner, or us for being there. The experience was absolutely amazing. Miguel gave us a blessing in his native language (Quechua), then Kiko exchanged with Portuguese. They did not speak English but they all spoke Spanish and Quechua.

After dinner, Yubisa and Veronica quietly snuck out to their back yard and returned to surprise us with an unbelievably beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers - seven different types in all - so pretty and sweet.

The afternoon was spent eating, sharing stories, taking photos, and listening to Peruvian music. They were so excited to see photos of themselves with the digital camera. They asked if we would send them copies before Christmas - which we for sure will do. When Kiko and I left, they all hugged and kissed us many times as we all shed a few tears to be parting. Miguel insisted that we take a blanket that he designed and handmade - so that we would remember them. The beautiful blanket has images of Machu Picchu and will be with us forever - to remember the wonderful family and encounter. We walked back to our hostel from their home, so sad to leave but so happy to have had the experience.

Sadly leaving...but very happy, with my flowers and blanket...

Monday and Tuesday - PUNO, PERU

Took a 10-hour train ride from Cusco to Puno. It was extremely beautiful.

Click here to see a site on PeruRail. We stopped at La Raya midway through the trip, which was used for a scene in the movie, Deep Blue. This pass is the highest point of the journey at over 4,300m (14,000ft). The whole ride involved amazing views.

Arrived late to Puno by train. The town was very lively and happening. Puno is set on the shores of Lake Titicaca - an amazing lake situated on the border of Bolivia and Peru. It is the highest navigable lake - ocean liner size vessels - in the world at over 3,810m (12,500ft). There are 42 islands that are inhabited by Uros.

We met up with Claudia, our German friend that we first met in Guatemala. Enjoyed sharing traveling stories with each other over beers and a Peruvian set dinner at a local restaurant. It was great to see her…so far; we have met up with her in three countries.


Walked to and across the border into Bolivia. Spent the night in Copacabana with Claudia - our fourth country together. This attractive and small town is right on Lake Titicaca…so very pretty. Here we relaxed, enjoyed the wonderful views, climbed to the top of a hill over the lake, and celebrated being in Bolivia.


Took buses to Oruro via La Paz so that we could catch a train to the Argentina border. Trying to make it to Santiago, Chile before my brother, Kyle leaves.

In route to La Paz (The Peace), no bridge exists; therefore all traffic has to be ferried across a small section of Lake Titicaca...including our bus...we, the passengers of the bus, had to take a separate boat...

Our bus being ferried...

Claudia stayed in La Paz with a family that she met via, Hospitality Club. Click here, hospitalityclub, to go the the web site. This fantastic web site is used to provide information, free accommodation, and so on, to people throughout the world. It's a must see if you are a traveler or have an interest in meeting explorers. It does work - and it is free! Check it out - it is available in many languages and contains contacts literally all over the entire world.


Rode the train for roughly 16-1/2 hours… pretty ride. It was very nice, smooth, and on time. The service was great. Just as good if not better than all Amtrak trains I have ridden…and Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. Met some really great Bolivians on the train - three sisters taking their 97-year-old father to a birthday party of a family member turning 100 years old in Argentina. Not only did this 97 year old ride a train for 16-1/2 hours, but he immediately caught a 6 hour bus ride to his final destination - after crossing the border on foot into Argentina. This classy man wore a tie, suit and a hat.

Bolivia was passed through very quickly, on account of trying to get to Kyle's. After we visit him in Santiago, Chile, we will return to Bolivia for at least a week or two before finally crossing into Brasil - our last border...border number 16.

<< Home
<< Previous
Next >>