Monday, March 21, 2016

Flowers of Cuzco Region of Peru

Carl Hoog at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu - the Sanctuary

My husband and I were fortunate to be able to take a dream trip to Peru in February. A truly wonderful opportunity. Our objective was to see Machu Picchu. It is impossible to describe this mysterious place. The Inca Empire consolidated and set up a somewhat socialistic widespread community that would share the resources to all. Why Machu Picchu was built was not known. It was started in the 14th century and deserted in the 16th century after the Spanish invasion and the subsequent genocide of indigenous peoples. The Spanish never found this site, thus it was found greatly intact by Hiram Bingham in 1911. It was necessary to excavate much of it from the encroaching jungle and when we were there, crews of workmen were busy, digging invasive plants from in between the rocks of the structures, This must be an ongoing task.

There is an excellent short history photos and videos at this internet site presented by A&E and the history channel. It is well worth sitting through the short commercials to view the videos.

Machu Picchu is in the high Andean jungle of Peru. There are over 300 species of orchids in the sanctuary and in the Sacred Valley as it approaches there.

Diane being helped up the steps by my wonderful guide Dimas. My hat is backwards as the flash unit on one of my cameras pops up and hits the brim otherwise!
As I have limited mobility I was not able to climb around to see all the orchids in their natural setting. For the most part, I took pictures of flowers that I could get to. Many of the orchids you might not immediately identify as such. There is a large planting of the native orchids at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel and here is a site with the pictures to make up for it. Note that there are several pages of the orchid pictures.

According to the video linked above there are over 500 buildings at Machu Picchu. They are organized in zones for agriculture, housing, royal residences and sacred sites.

We toured Machu Picchu for several hours. Carl was able to get to the higher areas where I had to restrict my visit to the more accessible areas. There was plenty to see and absorb.

Slideshow of Machu Picchu 

We had lunch in the town of Agua Caliente where there is bus access to and from Machu Picchu. Then it was time to return to Cuzco so we climbed onto the train for the return trip to meet our tour bus at Ollytaytambo. This is a very old Incan town that is still a busy inhabited village. There is a fortress and storerooms there high above the city. The Incans first defeated the Spanish there but lost a subsequent battle.

We had never taken a tour before. We loved traveling with Gate 1. Wonderful, knowledgeable native tour guides. fantastic accommodations, all accept for two dinners was covered and we could add on additional mini tours as we went. We hope to take another tour with them.
Going from Cuzco airport to Machu Picchu
We arrived after an overnight flight from Miami. We had a transfer stop at Lima where representatives from Gate 1 met us and made sure our luggage was correctly labeled and that we made the flight to Cuzco. We were too excited to sleep.

Arrival at Cuzco meant another bus, our first onslaught of Indian souvenir vendors and the city of a very old city. I will add that my first impression of Cuzco was of poverty and a crowded city, but by the time we left, I was in love with most of it.
It took time to get used to poorly maintained roads, houses tucked away everywhere and dogs and farm animals wandering the streets and highways but after a little cultural adjustment it became part of the experience. The people were very friendly and kind. The residents love their city and history and feel very fortunate to live in this ancient city that was the capital of the Incas.
Cantuta National Flower of Peru
We passed through the city and the bus started climbing on narrow winding roads through cars, buildings, people and animals. We were on the way to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Before long we were in the countryside where very small towns and farms were nestled together. We paused at the overlook to the Sacred Valley. There are pictures in the next slideshow. Our first stop was at the market town of Pisac.

We stopped at a lovely inn for the night and had dinner in a local restaurant with a fun band. That wooden flute music really gets in your soul. Next day we left about 4 AM to get to Machu Picchu.
The train ride to Machu Picchu is about 1 1/2 hours beside the roaring Ubucambo River and between high glaciated peaks.
There we got off the train and walked through Agua Caliente and got on a bus. Pretty soon we were able to see Machu Picchu in the hills ahead.

We had a lovely time at the overwhelming Machu Picchu. Looking back at it there were more things that I wish I had seen but I was so tired by the time we left. We had been warned that this was the rainy season in the mountains there and to bring rain gear. Instead we were gifted with a beautiful hot sunny day!

We had some lunch there and got back on the train for the return trip. we had been there 5 hours or so and at altitude that was enough for me.

Returning from Machu Pichu

On the return trip, the train ride ended at Ollantaytambo and we walked around the town. We did not have the time (nor energy to explore the ruins above the town. This was an Incan fortress where the Incans defeated the Spanish. However, the Spanish returned and won. Of special interest  besides the fortress where the ancient grain storage units high on the hills above the town. These are all pictured in the following slideshow.

Children posing in Pisac

Slideshow of the Sacred Valley of the Incas


We were now in Cuzco for a couple of days. Since this blog has run rather long I will tell you that Cuzco is a city with a lot going on. We were there at the start of Lent so there was a festival. One of the highlights of the action that day was teenagers and younger kids running around with pressurized cans of very sudsy water that they squirted at members of the opposite sex. The object for non-teenagers was to cover your camera!

We went on tours of the cathedral and of archeological ruins in the countryside. Some of the earlier majestic Incan works had been plundered for building materials for the cathedral. The cathedral is an incredible work to behold. There was gold and silver everywhere and a strictly enforced no camera rule!

However, there is a video on that you will enjoy that does show it. Video of Cuzco Cathedral 

Slide Show of Cuzco