Sunday, October 28, 2012

Traveling in Peru [Part 6]: Machu Picchu


My Dears, 

There is so much to say about Machu Picchu. We highly recommend watching the NOVA program - I think they show it on PBS every so often. 



The thing that makes MP so astonishing is its location: high atop a mountain in the middle of nowhere, it is surrounded by tall mountains and has near-verticle drops down to the river below. This feat of engineering (again, watch the NOVA special!) is made more amazing thanks to considerable environmental factors such as earthquakes, torrential rains, and steep hillsides. 




Reaching MP is no easy task, even with today’s modern conveninences. We awoke early in Cusco, drove into the Sacred Valley, caught a train, arrived in Aguas Calientes, and then took a terrifying 20 minute bus ride up the mountain, finally arriving at our destination. 


It was also packed with people when we arrived, despite a 2,000 person/day cap. 


But what an experience. You could easily spend days exploring the ruins.


Right. I thought it was amazing.... Ben? He just wanted to take a nap.  Such is life with toddlers, my dears. 

Our little trooper. I was amazed, everyday, at his flexibility and resilience. 


Admiring the local fauna. 


This road may not look scary, but believe me: I white knuckled it the whole way up (and down). Not a fan of slippery dirt paths through the jungle on the side of cliffs. 


Chinchilla, anyone? 

The mountain in the back is called Huayna Picchu. There are also temples atop that peak and I’ve heard it’s an amazing climb. We decided that it wasn’t for us though, given the bambino’s presence. 




The nearest jumping-off point to MP is the town at the base of the mountain, called Aguas Calientes (Hot waters). It’s perched in a steep-walled valley on the banks of the Urubamba River. 

The only way into the town is via train. Or by trekking in from the Sacred Valley. 


Thus far in the trip, we’d been in high, arid dessert lands. Aguas Calientes is in the jungle! I loved it. Hot and steamy and teaming with exotic birds. 


We spent our second day on a hike along the river. It was nice to be away from the crowded towns and busy streets. 


And then I almost stepped on this guy. 

Yikes. 

Not sure what he is. Coral snake? Milk snake? We had this saying in Costa Rica about how you distinguished venomous snakes by the color sequence of their scales : "Red touch yellow, kill a fellow; red touch black, you're okay Jack." 

He’s got no yellow. Does that mean he’s ok? I have no idea. Either way he was in no hurry to get out of the way. It was his nonchalance that made me the most worried. 


Ok, enough reptiles. Back to pretty flowers. 


Or giant dead bugs! This guy was probably two inches long. Hello jungle insects!


We stayed at the Inkaterra hotel and by some crazy fluke ended up with a sweet casita that came with a private outdoor plunge pool and garden. The baby was in serious adventuring heaven. 




It was bird central. 


And other beasties, as well. 

 Ben made friends with this guy:

We had a great time in the jungle and I was sad to leave it behind. Two days was simply not enough. By this time, we’d been traveling for almost two weeks and our last stop, in the Sacred Valley, was meant to give us a chance to slow down and relax. We were ready for some down-time. 



xxoo, 

Sonja


Previously:
Part 2 - The Altiplano
Part 5 - Cusco
Part 6 - Machu Picchu

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3 comments:

  1. I'm enjoying your posts. The pictures are lovely!

    As far as the snake is concerned. I believe it is still a coral snake (from my EXTENSIVE snake reading with Gabriel) coral snakes striping can vary from yellow to white. However, not all coral snakes are poisonous. A small eyed try-color is poisonous. A larger eyed try-color is not.

    And yes, I actually did know that before I double checked myself. Seriously. This kid is snake obsessed. He's already asking for one as a pet and we spend copious amounts of time in the snake house at the zoo.

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  2. Oh, and just for extra measure. Not all coral snakes are tri-colored. :/

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  3. So nice to have our own personal coral snake expert on hand!! Thank you Gabriel!

    I tried to find this particular specimen online - and failed. There are a dizzying assortment of color combination.

    Either way, I’m happy that both myself and the snake were able to go our own way, unmolested. I did a bit of a crazy dance, thanks in part to Chris’ “Watch out! Snake!” yell, which prompted me to jump back (with arms flailing), not knowing exactly where the snake was. They blend in surprisingly well, despite the bright colors. This particular specimen didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned by our presence. Which, as I mentioned, made me the most worried.


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