Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cuzco & Machu Picchu- Enough Said.

The week was centered on out flight that left early on Thursday- wait, wait, wait.... But even with the early hours and wait in the airport, it was defeinitely worth it. I'll try to explain it to everyone- it was such an incredible experience- I wouldn't and couldn't have imagined I would get to go to Machu Picchu in my life let alone this young! Anyways.. it was so much fun leaving the coast to see lush green mountains popping up after just a little while. We were the last group to arrive in Cuzco and our tour bus took us from the airport to our hotel and we got a sneak peak of Cuzco (and a little video along the way for everyone to see later- I'm not sure if it'll post on here, its a few minutes long lol) but anyway. We got to our hotel on a street where almost every shop sold matresses, so goofy! And we got our first taste of coca in the form of tea- mate de coca. Pretty good if I do say so myself. But we rested for a little while before meeting our tour guide for the tour of Cuzco. She was nice and along the way taught us quechua (the other official language of Peru). I'll try and put the quechua word in parentheses if we learned it. We ventured to Qorikancha- meaning containing gold or a shining enclosure- it was the temple of the sun and part of the captial of the Incas. There were always so many people waiting for us to sell things to when we got off the bus. I liked the cute, little woman with a baby alpaca, she definitely got a sole from me. Once again snapped a couple of pictures I wasn't suppose to but they hadn't said anything before I did it, the ceiling was just so beautiful! She explained the different rooms that were around the courtyard in the middle, where we took group pictures and you can see the bell tower in the background. The small rooms were for minor Gods. What was crazy was that everything was original, all of the stones were trapezoidal and thus stood the earthquakes. We walked under mural after mural that were goregeous and came into a balcony that overlooked some of Cuzco and then had paintings next to it. The first one that points to a center is actually an Incan trail and each dot represents a city (waka) and they were connected by imaginary lines (seqes). Kozko (quechua) means around or centered. It was by Miguel Aráoz Cartagena. The second (and my favorite) was of the cosmos! It was stunning and represented their Milky Way- The Urubamba River is the Milky Way and the llama and serpent protect it. They believed the cosmos were a model for the cities they built, the Incas were very good at astronomy. In Machu Picchu we learned that all their sacrifice tables and sun dials are perfected aligned on the Cardinal Points. The major Gods included the sun, moon, stars. Viracocha was supreme (sun). Which we had learned about him in the first story in our literature class! haha We had to cut the tour of Qorikancha short because of time, and possibly because she was trying to talk to us in English even though we asked her to talk in Spanish.. oh well it was a struggle to understand her but I'm sure at times that's how the Peruvians feel about us when we speak Spanish lol.
Once we left it started to sprinkle on us and our bus was parked a few blocks away so on our ponchos went! We looked fantastic! lol but the ponchos were pretty stylish if I do say so myself. Our next stop was the cathedral in la Plaza de las Armas (each city has a center plaza). Ciclo Religioso Cuzco Basílica Catedral was stunning, more non-permitted pictures followed the tour. The Baroque Style was beautiful, it was cedar wood but covered in gold and the middle portion was pure silver. She explained there were 3 streets or sections to it because the Incans believed in the three dimensions of everything- humans, animals, and cosmos. Some of the interesting things she shared with us were that: there were mirrors everywhere because the Spaniards used them to attract the quechuan people to convince them to become Catholic, but the quechuans were suspicious because they saw that we "punished" our god by putting him on the cross bloody. But somehow they converted many quechuan people. The ceiling was once again beautiful, and yes a couple pictures were taken, each area between the columns were a different pattern. It was a very peaceful place as we were walking around. We left to walk around the plaza. I felt like I was in Europe and the pictures that I've seen of the streets. The wound, went up and down and were narrow, but fascinating! I loved walking through the streets, all the different shops and restaurants, we found a pizzeria after a bit, and they made it from a wood fire- mouth-watering and amazing!
In the morning we got to leave Cuzco to see the ruins that were within an hours drive. Saqsaywuman was a simple few walls of huge stones on top of a hill overlooking Cuzco. The sight was crazy, the stones were very well put together and some were taller than me. But the view over Cuzco and the entire valley was so beautiful- only half a million people live in Cuzco, but the buildings stretched forever. The chilly air was forgotten as the empire stretched out underneath me. I LOVED the view! On the way to the next stop, Tambomachay, we rode through the other valleys around Cuzco and the clouds literally came down to touch the small mountains, it was so cool! It was so amazing watching the scenery pass by, just seeing the greens of the fields and the mountains and then the whites of the clouds was lovely! When we stopped and walked up toward the gathering place, a finally felt a little winded. But this was a short stop where we saw a few llamas and I watched Jose and Marshall run to see who could get around the corner faster... boys can be so weird. Anyways this was a nice walk other than the dizziness.
The next adventure was making our way through more mountains and stopping at the Sacred Valley. We could see the Urubamba River, which is the Holy River in Peru. I was surprised to learn that there are over 4000 types of potatoes (ocamamas) grown in Peru! We stopped in a small town (with a HUGE indian market) and we found some different trinkets, and my baragaining skills were wokring at full blast lol. But we saw some 3 year girls that walk around with tiny puppy dogs and you just HAVE to take their picture. But they are really cute girls. I just feel bad for them, but they wear traditional clothing that is super pretty. Then we went to this awesome buffet! There were literally 2 long tables waiting for us when we got there. I was not expecting it to be much considering we were in the middle of nowhere and there were three tiki-like huts for us to sit, but once you get in, its amazing! And they had a garden area and a llama/ alpaca farm too. So then we headed to another little town for our last tour. She showed us how the people lived there, the walkways if you can call them that, their sidewalks maybe, were lined with stone walls that also acted as their walls for houses. In the particular house we went to there were maybe 40 guinea pigs in one of the rooms all huddled together getting fed. So naturally Ashley and I walk in first to give them more food! lol What was really interesting though were the skulls on the wall, they were part of a shrine, the weird thing was it was their grandparents. Kinda... freaky. At any rate, we left that place and she lead us out of the housing area and showed us the corners of each conjunction and they called them aillu, which means a team. So there were teams holding up the walls at each intersection. But when we emerged the fortress came into view. And that was the real reason we had come to this town. Ollantaytambo had been a place for the royal family and was a fortress when the Spaniards arrived. It was also a good warm-up for Machu Picchu. I definitely took it slow going up each terrace, but when we got to the top it was amazing and the breeze felt so good! She pointed out the narrow path at the bottom of two mountains that would be our way to get to Machu Picchu the next morning by train. But these ruins were enough for the day. It was a long one, but a very good day, and I was so proud to make it to the top! Before she left she told us one more word in quechua, munahquiqui which means I love you. She was a good tour guide for the two days we were in Cuzco. On the bus ride home we finally saw some snow capped mountains! Which was a sight for sore eyes considering I thought the majority of mountains had snow on top of them, but Peruvian mountains have surprised me and the majority of them are just green. OH AND this reminds me, when I first came to Lima there is what I called a "mountain" close to my neighborhood. I FINALLY understand why they call it a hill now. The Andes are very very large in comparison to my small hill I see daily.

                                           Ollantaytambo Ruins

So then (at 3:00am we woke up) to get ready to leave for MACHU PICCHU! And considering we only needed to go about 70 miles, the four hours to get there were a little long, but I couldn't sleep. Our bus took us through the train station that left at 6:00 and then we went through that narrow mountain pass and followed the Urubamba River the whole way. Once we got to the town at the foothills of the mountains we took another bus to the top right next to Machu Picchu. The first sight of the city was amazing! I had no idea of its size or that the condition was still so well maintained. We had a tour guide for almost 2 hours and then the rest of the day we got to stroll around wherever we wanted. I learned so many things. As we went from one area to the next, history came alive right before my eyes, from 1350 to 1532 the Incas were the elite, the had the control of the region in South America. They were extremely advanced in their sciences like astronomy and physics. They had drainage systems thoroughout the city and each compass he pointed out is exactly aligned with the cardinal points, talk about smart! The Condor Room (where we posed as birds) was used for burials and he said they would bury people in the fetal position because they believed that time was in a circle. The Sun Temple (Pacha Mama) was also impressive; they built this one out of smooth and very well put together stones, since it was a sacred place they used only the best. There was a natural stone that was used and built around for this temple, showing that they did not try to repress nature or command it but worked with it. They natural rock is considered the heart of the mother. He told us the Incas lived by these standards: don't steal, don't lie, and don't be lazy. The King's room was also very interesting because he too recieved the best stone because he was considered half man and half god. I loved the room we went to that was at the top of the city (when I say top though I mean in the center of the city at the highest point on the ground level- we climbed above it and its almost directly in the middle by the open field where everyone would gather). Our guide told us to put our heads in the closed windows of the room and then he started talking to us, it was a very cool effect, almost like he was talking all around me. After coming to the top of the largest building, we made our way down and ended our tour. Now time for our own exploring! He told us a couple places we should visit so we made our way to the Watch Tower, which is at the top of the terraces. That walk was pretty enjoyable and once you were this far we walked around the top and made our way to the Incan Bridge. It was a good change of pace because it got to be more of a jungle feeling, having natural overhangs and only a small, narrow, tiny pathway to walk on or I would fall over the edge to my doom, but like I said I LOVED this part too. I was thinking that their idea of a bridge was the trail I was on, so I was quite excited to get to the end and see a small bridge that linked to another side of the mountain and stairs. It was closed unfortunately, but I still thought it was pretty darn cool! And right before the bridge was a sweet (miniture version) Lion King rock that I got to sit on. And so after making our way back to Machu Picchu, we enjoyed the overlook of it and sat on a terrace. I can't even describe how amazing it was. I could have sat there the entire after (even if I had already eaten all my snacks for the day). It was truly a sight to behold and I still cannot believe I was sitting there. Between the mountains, Machu Picchu, the river, and the company it was definitely the best day of my trip. 

I love how they used the existing rock for their buildings
Condor Room!
Our guide! Clapping to show us it echoed
Behind me is the "top" of the city I kept referring to, the open space was for sacrifices and for the priests to get everyone's attention because below it is the open public space.
Here you can see where everyone would gather to listen to the priests' message
The Sun Temple

Inca Bridge
"Lion King" Rock, you can see the bridge from here

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