Monday

Peru - Mature Female Traveling Solo to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Lima

    
     From June 6 - June 13, 2011, I took a much anticipated trip to Peru. Quite honestly, it was a last minute decision with only 2 weeks of planning.  This year marked the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu by the archaeologist Hiram Bingham, and was sure to draw more crowds than usual.
     July and August are the peak tourist months. In contrast to North America, this is winter in South America, and the dry season. The summer months are the rainy season, and travel around the country is difficult due to flooding.
     With that said, I'm glad that I traveled in June. The weather was great (just chilly in the mornings and evenings), and the crowds were manageable.
     At age 59, I traveled alone without the assistance of any tour groups or guides. Much of my planning was obtained from researching Tripadvisor.  http://www.tripadvisor.com/   I 
also had a copy of Fodor's Peru that became my travel Bible while there.
     This was a feat that I felt the need to accomplish while still physically and mentally able. (Just barely -lol) Spanish is the second language spoken here; the  first being Quecha. Therefore, very little English is spoken. I know a little Spanish however, am unable to converse. The language barrier was the biggest challenge I encountered.
The following is a brief account of my travels.

June 6, 2011
     Following an afternoon flight the previous day from Orlando to Lima, I had a seven hour layover before my connecting flight to Cusco. Jorge Chavez International Airport is quite active in the wee hours of the morning.
     My flight to Cusco with Taca Airline departed at 6:30am.
To my surprise, I was seated in first class. (No wonder my air travel was so expensive :-)  It was a full flight, and there were only 3 other passengers in first class. Now, I'm not a first class traveler so found the comfort of the seat and the service quite remarkable. The flight attendant brought out a nice healthy breakfast that I wolfed down, and soon found myself dozing off.


Not your typical American Breakfast  (note the table cloth :-)


     I awoke in time for some gorgeous views. Luckily, I was seated on the left side of the plane. If I had gotten stuck in the middle or aisle seat...or on the right side of the plane in coach, I would not have experienced the most amazing views of the snow peaked Andes imaginable.


Snow-capped peaks of Andes

      The landing into Cusco, which included a 180 degree turn around some gorgeous mountain peaks, made for additional jaw dropping views. I rationalized that the additional expense of sitting in first class was well worth it.     


View coming into Cusco airport


Another view coming into Cusco airport

     The flight landed 90 minutes after departure. This was a very short ride indeed. I could have hung out in first class for hours.
I walked off the airplane looking for the driver that should have met me to take me to Ollantaytambo, another 90 minute ride. The Bed and Breakfast that I had booked was to send a car for me. So where was it??

     The overwhelming anxiety I felt of being in an unfamiliar country, as well as the lack of sleep, had me somewhat confused and not thinking clearly. Instead of calling the Bed and Breakfast, I opted to secure my own transportation. Not a good idea. There were several drivers bombarding me with different price quotes.

     I was to pay $30 US for the scheduled drive to Ollantaytambo, however I was being asked to pay $50 - $90. One person quoted a price of $20. Realizing that this was rather inexpensive for a 90 minute drive, I decided to go along anyway. The driver grabbed my bag and began walking swiftly out of the airport.

     Another driver ran behind me and warned me not to go because this driver was not licensed. Now, I had read horror stories of tourists that had gotten robbed along isolated roads, or involved in accidents due to unsafe vehicles and drivers.

     So, I retrieved my bag from the driver who did not want to let go. I finally settled on a driver that requested $40. He was nicely dressed, had a decent looking vehicle, and was licensed.

     After getting into the car, I was informed in broken English, that I would be taken down the street to change driver and vehicle. My dis-comfort level began to rise, and I found myself taking my camera out of the bag and placing it under my jacket, as well as sticking my cash and passport down my pants. I braced for the worse.

      I was switched to another waiting vehicle and driver. The driver was very nice (however did not speak English), but the vehicle was not in the best of shape. The seat belts in the back were broken, however I noticed that he wore his.
     Apparently, the newer vehicle was not meant to travel the 3 hour round trip to Ollantaytambo and back, so this one was provided instead.

     All in all, the driver was cautious as the roads were pretty bad. I arrived in Ollantaytambo in one piece. The driver dropped me off in the Town Square and informed me (as best he could in Spanish) that he couldn't take me to the hotel. He summoned over a police officer, who took my bag and signaled for me to follow him.

     The officer and I walked down a long narrow street filled with stones. I had no idea where we were going, but I realized why the taxi driver could not bring me here.
We finally arrived at the entrance to the Apu Lodge, the name of the Bed and Breakfast that I had booked for 3 nights. There was a large wooden door that opened into a beautiful courtyard.



Stone street leading to the Apu Lodge
 
Entrance to Apu Lodge
 
Doorway leading to courtyard
  
Courtyard and Lodge

     I was rather impressed with the quaintness of the Apu Lodge, as well as the town itself. The police officer dropped my bag inside the doorway and bid farewell. The owner, who is from Scotland, was not present however she had friends there to greet me. There was a young couple from England, and a young female student from Texas. They explained that my flight had arrived earlier than anticipated, and that the driver arrived to the airport after I had left. At that point I realized my mistake in not calling.
     They offered me some coca tea, made from the leaves of Peru's coca plant. Visitors are encouraged to drink the tea to help ward off the ill effects of altitude sickness. The area surrounded by the Andes is well above 10,000 feet sea level and can produce harsh effects on many people. So visitors are warned to drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and smoking, take it easy for the first couple of days, and drink coca tea.
     Consequently, this tea shows up positive for cocaine if you are being tested for drugs soon after, but I was not and the tea was delicious. The owner also had a continuous supply of boiled water set out for guests.


Set up for tea and boiled water
 

Coca tea and leaves.  (Positive for cocaine?...hmmm)
       I was taken outside and escorted to my room. I was thrilled to be on the second floor, and could not believe the incredible views. I had a direct view of the Ollantaytambo ruins, and could see visitors walking up and down the steep terraces or steps. 

     This was actually a fortress and was the main defense against tribes from the neighboring rain forests. The fortress was also the site of the greatest Inca victory over the Spanish during the wars of conquest. Wow! I felt privileged to have this room. The fact that there was only one other guest at the time of my stay had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

     Ollantaytambo is the most popular of the Sacred Valley communities. The Sacred Valley is the area settled by the Incas due to its proximity to the (then) capital of Cusco. It is a rural area with a wonderful climate as well as fertile soil, and many of the Inca nobles had private country homes here.
     Many visitors travel to Ollantaytambo for a couple of days before embarking on the 4 day trek to Machu Picchu. The altitude is lower than that of Cusco, so the adaptation process is easier.
     Others come here because the train ride to Machu Picchu is less time than that from Cusco. As for me, I have no intention of hiking for 4 days to Machu Picchu, although I understand it is a fantastic experience with licensed tour guides. (Perhaps in my heyday :-)
     There are many destinations within the Sacred Valley, and numerous sites of interest for visitors, such as the Ollantaytambo fortress.

My Bedroom at Apu Lodge
 

View from my bedroom
 

View from my bedroom. See terraces of the Ollanta fortess in background
       I was exhausted, yet too excited to rest. I decided to take a stroll into town to see what was there. I retraced my steps through the long, narrow street.

     I later discovered that the Apu Lodge is located in the oldest part of the town. Here, the Inca communities were based on the unit of the cancha, a walled city block, each with one entrance leading to an interior courtyard, surrounded by a collection of houses. I imagine that prior to the construction of the building that houses the Apu Lodge; there were a collection of small stone houses in that courtyard.

     I peeked into a couple of other courtyards and was amazed to see lemons, tomatoes and greenery amongst all the stone and mountains. In one courtyard, there was an adorable child alone preparing vegetables. I hurried to get a photo before her mother came mistaking me for a pervert.


Lemon tree
 
Tomato vine
  
Child in courtyard
      As I continued into town, I began to get very warm and pulled of my outer jacket. It was early afternoon by then, and the sun was glaring. The odd thing about the Sacred Valley is that in winter, the mornings are frigid, the afternoons hot, and the evenings chilly. This is why it is necessary to dress in layers.
     The first thing I did was to exchange currency, since not everyone takes US dollars. The currency in Peru is the nuevo sol (S/), and the rate was $2.75 to the $1.00. So, even though my last minute airfare was off the wall, my money went almost 3 times as far for everything else. 

     The town square or plaza where I was dropped off earlier was the hub of the town, with shops and restaurants surrounding it. There were Peruvians (or Andeans) dressed mostly in native attire.                  


Town square (or Plaza)

A store on the plaza
 
A town made of stone
  
Cart used to transport visitors
 


     I was becoming hungry, and decided to dine at one of the restaurants recommended in Fodor's. I decided on Mayupata and wanted to try the local trout, a favorite in this region.

     The restaurant was located down one of the many roads leading from the town square. It was situated far back near the Ollantaytambo ruins.

     I finally found the restaurant and was pleasantly surprised to see the young woman from Texas who had checked me in. She was getting take-out orders of hamburgers for herself and the British couple. She informed me that Mayupata's had the best burgers in town. I kept that in mind.

     This restaurant must be geared for tourists, since it was the closest to the fortress ruins. Since there were no tour buses in town yet, there was only one other table of guests besides myself. 

     The large clay oven was prominent in the restaurant since wood fired pizza is a common dish within the region. I ordered the mayupata trucha (trout) with a miracuya-sour cocktail. The cocktail was a spin-off of Peru's national drink, the Pisco sour, a combination of 100 proof brandy, lemon juice, egg white, sugar and bitters. It was so delicious.

     The entree took a while to arrive however, when it did, I was in food heaven. The presentation really floored me, and the combination of flavors was like music in my mouth. The cost with cocktail was only $12. Heck, you can barely pay for 2 value meals at McDonald's for that price back home. I ended up ordering another trout dish the following evening, and that wonderful hamburger platter ($4.00) on my third day.



Mayupata Restaurant


My favorite table

 
Wood fired clay oven...very popular in Peru


Mayupata trucha (trout) with fried sweet potato and capers


     Following that wonderful meal, I decided to walk around the fortress. There were vendors set up for tourists. There was also a 360 degree view of mountains and ruins. Having just moved to Florida, the majestic Andes were intriguing and a welcome sight. Unfortunately, any semblance of this in Florida is the Everest roller coaster at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
     Here I could see the agricultural terraces up close. The Inca used this method to prevent erosion of soil from the heavy summer rainfalls, as well as  for farming. These terraces are prevalent throughout the region.



View facing Ollantaytambo ruins and terraces
 
View facing direction of Apu Lodge (observe ruins in background)


Another view of town
 
     By now, my senses were saturated with the allure of Peru, the Sacred Valley and Ollantayambo. I headed back to my hotel room, showered and slept right through the evening and the night.

June 7, 2011
     Following a much needed night's sleep, I was up before dawn. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my watch and had no service through my cell phone, so I pretty much was left in the dark :-)
     I planned to catch the first collectivo (a passenger van) from the town square to take me to Urubamba. From there, I would catch a mini-bus to Pisac.
     Since I really detest organized tours, I had an aggressive plan to visit the ruins at Pisac, then take the bus to the country side town of Chinchero; and finally take another bus and taxi to the sites of Moray and Salineras. This was doable; however I needed to catch the 7:00am collectivo.
     I waited until dawn broke at 6:30am, and then made my way down the narrow street into town. It was so cold; I wish I had packed some gloves. Matter of fact, it was so cold in my bedroom that morning that I could barely put my clothes on. The Bed and Breakfast had no heat, but what could I expect for $35 per night.
     I was well aware of the chilly mornings and evenings in the Sacred Valley, and knew to bring clothes for layering. The locals had on their colorful alpaca made outerwear.



Collectivo (passenger van) on left

      I was the first one in the collectivo and waited until the van filled up. It was wonderful to be amongst the locals as they went about their everyday lives. This is what traveling to other countries is about; not to just visit the touristy sites, but to immerse oneself in the culture. Besides, public transportation in Peru is downright cheap.
     The collectivo took 20 minutes to arrive to Urubamba, the main public transportation hub of the Sacred Valley. Instead of catching a bus directly to Pisac, I decided to head to the big city of Cusco to find a watch. Timing is everything when you're traveling alone.
     Following a 90 minute ride with many stops, we arrived to a very busy area of Cusco, where I proceeded to look around for a watch. After stopping in a few stores, I realized that I wasn't going to find one immediately, so I proceeded to the bus terminal for the bus to Pisac.



Scene in Cusco


Scene in Cusco


Market in Cusco. Refrigeration apparently isn't an issue here.


     The ride to Pisac took 45 minutes. It was quite scenic, and passed by the historic ruin site of Sacsayhuaman. The bus passed through several smaller towns before stopping in Pisac.
     From here, I took a taxi up to the ruins. Some persons choose to hike to and from the ruins; or walk up and take a taxi back; or vice versa. My intention was to take a taxi there and back, as the elevation is 918 feet to the top, and I did not wear hiking boots. I had one bottle of water and a light lunch.
     After traveling the 8 mile zig zag road to the top of the ruins, the driver explained to me in broken English that he would meet me at a parking area 2 miles down the zig zag road. He graciously escorted me to the entrance of the site, gave me a laminated map, and asked if two hours would be sufficient. Since I had an aggressive schedule for the day, I informed him that I would meet him in 90 minutes at 12:30pm, and paid the one way fare.
     Upon entering the site, I was asked if I wanted a guide. Of course I said "No", and proceeded ahead with my map and Fodor's guide.
     The ruins were so intriguing with the exquisite Inca stone structure, the massive agricultural terraces, and the gorgeous views; I couldn't imagine that Machu Picchu was better. There were many people exploring, and I was fortunate to find a few to photograph me as proof that I was actually here.

Agricultural terraces

What a beautiful setting


Road leading up to ruins


Me with my map

     The weather was absolutely perfect. I found myself strolling along conscious of the time, yet so enthralled by the magnificence of my surroundings. I followed paths leading up and down stairs, through tunnels and along narrow walkways looming over the town below.
     Admittedly, I am nervous of heights and found myself clinging to the stones and mountain sides. It appeared that most of the crowds remained at the top and I assumed they were with organized tours so couldn't venture too far.
     My mission was to enjoy all this site had to offer, as well as make it to the taxi on time. All the time I kept saying to myself, "this is a rather vigorous excursion from the taxi drop-off to the pick-up". I observed a female guide with an infant in a sling on her back leading a small group up some very steep stairs and recall telling myself, "If she can do it, surely I can".


A doorway to where??

That's a 50 foot drop in front of me



If the woman with the infant can walk those stairs, I imagine I can also

     I eventually passed the group on the other side of the stairs, then realized I was totally alone. I kept walking until I reached the Intihuatana. To my relief, there were several people there. By now, the sun was getting hotter and I thought it best to give my body some nourishment. So, I sat on a stone and ate the canned chicken salad, crackers and granola bar that I had brought along. My water bottle was half empty and I tried not to worry.
     I continued down the mountain in search of this taxi area. I had no idea what time it was. Fortunately, the trek became much easier as I continued admiring the gorgeous views below. I realized that I was getting closer to the town and suddenly it came to me that I missed the turn off to the taxi.
     "Well, I saved myself a taxi fare and now have something to boast about when I return home" was the story I told myself. (When you're traveling alone, you tend to talk to yourself quite often)
     I continued walking down the path that led to the town, encountering a sparse number of couples along the way. Too bad they were walking in the opposite direction or I would have followed.
Some people really love heights


How scenic !

       I continued walking until I came upon a clearing with some young people sitting on ledge. There appeared to be a dead end. As I approached the three, I looked down to see the town with the Urubamaba River running alongside it. How surreal it was.


People sitting/standing on ledge. So where is the remainder of the path ???
 

Town of Pisac and Urubamba River


     I asked about getting to town. They pointed to the right and indicated that I needed to climb down some stairs, continue climbing downhill and the town was approximately 20 or so minutes away.  They apparently had emerged from the climb and were now enjoying the gorgeous views. I walked over to the cliff and looked down at how steep and narrow those stone stairs were and said to myself "NO WAY".

     I showed them the map that was given to me, and was told that I missed the turn to the taxi long ago. It was now 1:30pm. (Gee, how time flies when you don't have a watch). The taxi driver must have thought that I ditched him. It certainly was not intentional.

     I informed the group that I was too nervous to climb down those stairs, and it would be easier to trace my steps back up the mountain. They thought I was crazy, but that was my only option at the time. (Besides, they were 25 - 30 years younger and had on hiking boots)

     So, I walked a little ways up the hill and sat on a ledge to regain my breath. Without doubt, walking up was more of a challenge than walking down. I recalled that I was still 10,000 feet above sea level and had only a swallow of water left. I jumped into panic mode. I began to think of my family back home and how much they would miss me, as my life passed before my eyes. (OK, it wasn't quite that bad :-)

     I composed myself and attempted to think rationally. I knew that I had to make my way up that mountain because there was no way I was attempting to climb down those stairs alone. All I could do was ask the Lord to help me out with another one of my blunders (yes, there have been many).

     Although I may be slightly overweight, I am fit and exercise regularly. I was not feeling any ill effects from altitude sickness, so I got up and continued my trek.

     Shortly after, I became short of breath again and stopped to lean against a large rock. I heard voices and walked around to see a group of five Peruvian men sitting against the rock. They appeared to be eating and were noticeably keeping out of view from anyone walking along the trail. I just stood there facing them.        
     ("Hey, this is Peru...not Los Angeles" I tried to convince myself and the Lord.) Finally, one of the men asked in Spanish if I were OK. I shook my head to gesture NO, and proceeded to show him the map that I clung to like a lifeline.

     He stood up and gestured that I needed to go down to get to town; and I shook my head No, and gestured that I was afraid.
He picked up his bowl to take a spoonful of whatever he had been eating, placed the bowl down and said something to the others. He then grabbed his jacket and pointed to the logo of the national cultural site. OMG! He (they) were employees. My prayers were answered once again. (My mother has always told me that the Lord watches over babies and fools :-)
     This kind gentleman was my Guardian Angel.



My Guardian Angel
 
     This kind man took time from his lunch break to help me down the remainder of the mountain. He held my hand when necessary, and stopped every 5 minutes to ensure that I was OK. It actually felt wonderful to have someone take care of me.  He was the only one of the workers that offered to assist me, and I tipped him very handsomely. I wanted him to return to his co-workers and say "see what I got for taking the time to help someone".
     I felt both a sense of relief and achievement once I exited the entrance way to the ruins. I was also exhausted, thirsty and sore as all heck. There was a woman selling freshly squeezed orange, and I devoured the small cup that I had purchased.


Entering the town of Pisac from the National Site


Woman squeezing orange juice
 

  Yummy Juice (Self -photo)

     I made my way through the streets of vendors that were set up for the market. It was Tuesday, and a market day. Although it was not as large as the Sunday market that I planned to return to in 5 days, it gave me an idea of the type of wares being sold. There were some alpaca made items, and I saw some dyed alpaca wool drying. There was even a cute little alpaca that posed for me.


Street leading to town
 
Alpaca-made products
 
Dyed Alpaca Wool
 



Hopefully, you're just getting a shearing little guy!

     I made my way through town to the bus stop, stopping to get a bottle of water. I was hoping I wouldn't run into the taxi driver demanding his map back.  That map remains with me, and is a reminder of that awkward, yet rewarding experience. I looked back at the site and smiled with pride for making the trek down.

     However, there was no way that I would be stopping at anymore sites on this day. It was dark by the time the collectivo from Urubamba pulled into Ollantaytambo. Before I made my way down the long street to the Inn, I stopped at my favorite restaurant for another wonderful trout entree. This time I ordered a mojito to accompany my meal, and reflected back on the day's events. Ahh! Life is wonderful. 

July 8, 2011
     I was in no rush to jump out of bed this morning. It felt wonderful underneath the covers. It was daylight when I finally arose. Getting dressed was much easier since I had put my clothing underneath the bedcovers the evening before to keep warm.

     I made sure to go to the lobby for the breakfast of fruit, yogurt and whole grains. The Inn staff was quite concerned when I didn't show up for breakfast the previous day. I had not informed them that I was traveling to Pisac, and I realized my second mistake of not communicating with them. They were unsure of whether to come in my room to see if everything were OK.

     By the afternoon, the cleaning woman had gone in and determined that I must have gone out for the day. I was quite humbled by the concern of the staff, and was happy that I chose this Bed and Breakfast.

     Following breakfast, I decided to explore the back streets of Ollantaytambo. I had debated whether I should return to visit Chincero, Moray and Salineras; but felt it best to stay put. After all, I was departing the next morning for Machu Picchu and did not want any more mishaps.

     With my handy Fodor's guide in hand, I headed towards a side street called Calle Del Medio. Here was one of the best examples of the cancha that I had mentioned previously. I came upon a courtyard where there were a small group of tourists standing inside a small stone house with the tour guide narrating some facts. Since the guide spoke in English, I decided to join in and hear some of the details.

     To my amazement, there were about 50 or so guinea pigs running around on the dirt floor. These little animals are very popular as a specialty dish called Cuy, in the Andean region of Peru. I pride myself on tasting the local cuisine of everywhere I travel however; I do draw the line when it comes to rodents and insects. Besides, the little creatures are served whole with their heads and limbs attached; and this little scene that I encountered was not convincing.

     Apparently, the Incas kept these little guys in their homes to kill and eat when desired. The synchronizing sound of their squeals reminded me of the sound of running water. Good sound to fall asleep...Not!



Courtyard with stone houses
(and souvenirs)
 
Cuy anyone??
 

      I hung around a while longer listening to the tour guide. The interior of the house looked quite authentic, as it may have been in its original state. There was even a worship area that looked rather creepy with human skulls and dead animals.
(The Inca worshipped the dead)



Worship table

Pretty creepy
        I finally pulled myself away, and walked to the town square to sit and admire the beauty of the surrounding mountains, as well as people watch. My Fodor's guide mentioned a local mercado just off of the square, which is not on the tourist route. "Sounds like my kind of place", I told myself, and walked the short distance over. Sure enough, there was a small indoor market that was bustling with locals selling and buying fresh produce and other items.

     The Fodor's guide also mentioned some juice stations on the second floor, so I proceeded up the stairs and walked to the back of the building. There I observed a few locals sitting at some stations enjoying their beverages. I walked to one of the stations and looked at the menu of items available. Recognizing the word pina as pineapple, I decided to order that.

     I sat at the station, and then turned my head to see another juice maker pouring something from a brown bottle into another patron's drink and couldn't help but wonder what it was. The patron appeared to enjoy it.
     My beverage was done and it looked and tasted delicious. Gee, it was fun interacting with the locals. Although I didn't speak the language, they were so friendly and I never felt any threat the entire time I spent in the Sacred Valley. 

  
So, this is where the locals hang out


Juice station
  
Mmm...Good!
      Following a few more sips, it suddenly came to me that I had not paid attention to the preparation of the juice. Was water added? It certainly didn't taste like pure pineapple juice. "Back to reality girl...you can't do everything the locals do", I reminded myself.
   To avoid the risk of becoming ill, I placed the glass down, thanked the woman who made the juice, and left.

     By now, my stomach was saying "feed me". I returned once again to Mayupata's and ordered the hamburger platter. Just as the young student from Texas had proposed, it was delicious.

     I then headed back to the Inn to check my e-mail. I asked the owner about a weaving project in a nearby village called Awamaki. She graciously called to obtain details however; there was no demonstration on this particular day. However, she did inform me of a locals market in Urubamba that occurs every Wednesday. So, I walked back to the Town square to catch a collectivo to Urubamba.

     It's difficult to imagine that there was anything in this town other than the transportation center, gas stations and convenience stores along the main road. However, when you walk up the stairs to go into the town itself, it was another scene.

     The town of Urubamba was much different than Ollantaytambo. Where the latter had the quaintness of the small town square with all the cobblestones and ruins, Urubamba was larger and more open, with many trees, flowers and paved streets. Even the view of the mountains was more enhanced with the snow caps in the distance.

     I walked through the streets where the locals were selling and purchasing items on a much larger scale than the small mercado in Ollantaytambo. I enjoyed the feel of this town as I immersed myself in the crowds of locals and few tourists. It may not be as "pretty" as Chinchero, but it was definitely authentic and I'm glad that I was able to visit on market day.



Town of Urubamba
 

Not many tourists here


     I discovered a store that sold watches. Finally!  I recalled the music group Chicago, and the words to their song "Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anyone really care?" The answer is yes, I care.

     I continued walking through the streets and marveled at all the fresh and colorful produce, and whole grains. I couldn't help but envy the fact that many Americans don't have this access to healthy food.
There were also meats for sale.


Busy day at the market





A rainbow of fruit

I bet Peruvians have no problem with constipation


I think he would look better cut into pork chops
       I sat in a beautiful green park for a while to watch some artists in action, then walked back through the vendors and purchased a few souvenirs. It was getting late, so I headed back to the travel center to catch a collectivo to Ollantaytambo. Tomorrow will be a busy day, as I was departing early for Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu.

July 9, 2011
     I was up before dawn again. I made arrangements with the Inn to have a taxi driver pick me up at 6am to carry my bag down the long street, then drop me off a mile away at the train station for my 7am departure. The inn staff left a breakfast in a paper bag of a roll and over ripe banana.

     I was quite anxious for the next leg of my trip. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Ollanta, I was ready for a change. I had booked my travel with PeruRail before leaving home as recommended, since the seats book up quickly and rail service is the only means of transportation to Machu Picchu. (Unless you are willing to hike for 4 days)



That's my train...number 224
      I was amazed at the comfort of the seats, and was pleased to have gotten a window. When you book online, your seat is assigned randomly. I did however book the dome train which cost extra, about $50 total. The view of the mountains as you sat back and relaxed was worth it. 
     Shortly following departure, the porters came around and provided breakfast of basically starchy items and some fruit. The little basket that it was served in was so adorable.



Breakfast on train
     I soon discovered that the best view was on the left side of the train, but my seat was located on the right. The train wasn't completely full however; all the seats on the left side of my car were taken.   

   There was an area on the left side of the train with a large picture window and no seats, so I was able to take some wonderful photos of the scenery to Aguas Calientes. The train tracks ran along the Urubamba River as well as parts of the Inca hiking trail. We even passed some archaeological sites.


View from train



Urubamba River



Another view from train



View from back of train
 
More agricultural terraces
       The train ride was only 90 minutes, though I wish it were longer. I love trains. As we neared our destination, the porters came around selling books, guides and other mementos pertaining to Machu Picchu. They had changed clothes and were now in their "let's see how much money we can garner from the tourists" mode. I eventually purchased a picture guide of Machu Picchu (which I later saw in town for less), and figured I would review it prior to my visit.

     Soon, I saw the sign for Machupicchu. This is the original name of Aguas Calientes, however to avoid confusion with the archaeological site (which is a 20 minute bus ride away), Aguas Calientes is the official name of the town that we were arriving to.


Train Porters (before)

 
 
Welcome to the town of Machupicchu


     I had made arrangements with the hotel that I booked for someone to meet me at the station. Although the hotel was within walking distance to the train station, the town is rather tricky.
     Yippee! The woman from Hotel Green Nature was waiting with a sign that had my name on it. We walked the 5 minutes to the hotel, which was right at the train station.

     After checking in, I was escorted to my room and realized why it was called "Green" Nature. The room was a bright shade of green, as well as the hotel exterior and hallway. There was a bowl of fresh fruit, a large picture window with a wonderful view...and a television! I was so glad to finally have a T.V. that I immediately turned it on to CNN.

     The train station was right below, and although you could hear the trains come and go during the day, the night was quiet and the view outside the window was gorgeous.


 Room at Green Nature Hotel
 
 
Train station below bedroom window
 

 View outside bedroom window
 

Another outside view
      After resting awhile and catching up on world events, I ventured outdoors to purchase my tickets for Machu Picchu, since these must be purchased in advance. It had to be paid in soles of S/126 (US $47). (Since my date of travel, these tickets may now be purchased online)

     I also purchased my bus ticket of US $16 so I wouldn't have to deal with it in the morning. The first bus to Machu Picchu departs at 5:30am, and I wanted to be in line early.

     I then wandered around the town of Aguas Calientes. I discovered why it is called "hot waters", as a canal appears to run down the entire length of the town, headed by a hot springs where visitors can go to soak for a fee. The town is completely elevated, so from the train station, you must walk up stairs or elevated streets to get to hotels and restaurants. This is why I chose a hotel close to the train station :-)
  

Town of Aguas Calientes

Cultural Center with statue of the Inca ruler, Pachacuti
      The town is definitely geared for day time tourists. Many people come in for one day (typically organized tours), visit the site and eat lunch or dinner, then depart.

     I walked up the main street that had all the restaurants. With all the competition for tourist money, staffs beckon for you to dine at their venues by offering discounts. Considering the meal prices were higher than Ollanta, it seemed fair enough.
     I was lured in by one such deal...30% off of my meal plus a free Pisco Sour. It was difficult to pass that one up, and the restaurant had a nice decor.

     I couldn't decide what to order. Pizza is the popular dish in Peru, but I did not travel all the way here to dine on this. I surely wasn't going to eat any cuy, and couldn't bring myself to try any of the alpaca dishes. So I opted for my favorite meal of trout. It was just OK, definitely not the standard of Mayupata.



Restaurant with beautiful decor

Unfortunately, the decor was better than the meal

     I decided to head back to the hotel to review my guide, relax and prepare for the long day tomorrow.

June 10, 2011
     I was up at 4:30am, and packed my bags to leave at the front desk. Thank goodness Aguas Calientes wasn't as cold as Ollanta; being at a lower altitude.
    The breakfast buffet was set up with some healthy food items, such as fruit, avocado slices, wheat pancake, a meat roll and fresh papaya juice.  This wasn't bad for the hotel cost of $54.
     I was the only one for breakfast at the time and ate hardily, unsure of what time my next meal would be. Food is not allowed in the Machu Picchu site.

Peruvian breakfast (that's avocado, not honeydew)
      After checking out and assuring my bags were securely locked in a closet, I left for the bus station that was not far from the train station, nor the hotel. It was still dark however, there was a security guard on the street where I walked.
    
     Surprise, surprise! The line for the bus was a quarter mile long. Actually I wasn't too surprised because I had read that some visitors want to catch the first bus, walk to the Sun Gate upon entering the site and watch the sunrise. Additionally, some folk choose to climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain in front of Machu Picchu, and it is limited to 400 visitors per day.


     I, on the other hand, had no intention of doing either, though I debated walking the additional 45 minutes to the Sun Gate. Oh, if only I had done this trip years ago. There were moments during my travel that I would observe eager young couples with their hiking boots and back packs, enjoying their time and each other; and would feel a pang of envy. I wondered how many were on their honeymoon, as Peru would make an ideal destination for romance.


     I spoke with one such couple from Canada while waiting in line. They had the same admiration for me traveling alone as I did for them. I guess it goes both ways :-)

     We were able to get on the 5th bus. I was able to get a window seat however; it was still dark so there wasn't much to see. Dawn began to emerge during the 20 minute ride, and I could see the land below as the bus crawled up some hair-raising turns to the Machu Picchu entrance.


     Finally, we had arrived. There was yet another long line waiting to get into the site. I had spent 4 days with no crowds, so braced myself for the unavoidable.


Entrance to Machu Picchu
      As I eventually passed through the security check, my anxiety level began to rise in anticipation of seeing this iconic symbol of Peru that I had observed so often in magazines. It reminded me of the feeling I had a few years earlier when visiting Egypt, and finally gazing upon those massive pyramids.


     The sky was still grey and misty as I followed the path into the site. Since I wasn't walking to the Sun Gate, I could surely make my way up to the Guardhouse in time for the sunrise. It was a grueling process climbing up those stone steps, and I was glad that I had the experience of the Pisac ruins on my side. (The Lord does work in mysterious ways :-)


     Following 20 minutes of walking along terraces and climbing stairs, I reached the Guardhouse. There was quite a crowd gathering as everyone waited for that bright orange ball to appear. A look of awe swept over every one's face once the sun finally emerged from the mountain tops. Ahh... the magnificence!
      It's truly amazing how the rising sun's reflections can change the appearance of images, and I  could only imagine how the Inca must have felt to awaken to this wonder every morning.

Before the sunrise

The first glimpse of sun

Looking better

Halleluiah!

     It was time to pull myself away from this orgasmic episode as there was much exploring to do. With my guide book in hand, I set out to explore all 21 formations that were listed, a three hour feat. Well, that's three hours for the average person however; I was sure it would take me longer.

     Living up to my expectations, I found myself off the beaten path a few times, climbing over structures I should not have. I imagined other visitors looking over at the crazy woman standing on the edge of a cliff, shaking their heads.

      About three hours into my exploring, mother nature began to call. The only restrooms are outside the front gate, so you need to exit and re-enter.
     Exiting and entering was not an easy task, as there is much climbing and descending involved; as well as walking along long rows of terraces.

     By now, Mr. Sunshine was glaring down and you can only remove but so many layers of clothing. Large back packs are not allowed in the site, so I had just a small bag for my camera  and a couple of granola bars. Everything that I removed was tied to an area of my body.



There's a lot to explore in this lost city

Guardhouse at top (where sunrise photos were taken)

Undoubtedly, the Inca got plenty of exercise
 
        I finally made my way out of the ruins through the front gate to use the restrooms. It was now 10:30am and the place was mobbed. I was exhausted and sat on a bench in front of the entrance, debating whether I should return or not. 
      There were just a few locations that I hadn't visited yet, but they were significant; such as the Temple of the Sun and the Royal Palace. Who knows if I would return to Machu Picchu. I would kick myself when I returned home for not going back into the site.

     So, like a boxer knocked over by a blow from his opponent, I garnered up the strength to go back into the arena...oops, I mean ruins. By now, the day trippers (visitors who come on a day trip from Cusco) were here. 

     The site was a lot more difficult to maneuver with the crowds. There was an elderly group that had some members who could barely walk up the steps. The tour guide walked quickly in front, darting into one of the ruins; while one or two members of his group fell on the steps and had to be helped by other visitors. He wouldn't get much of a tip from me. 

     After observing this scene, I felt good that I didn't wait another 10 - 15 years to visit. Were these people aware of how challenging this attraction was? I felt like a kid next to them :-)
     I made my way to the remaining ruins that I wanted to see and took more photos.



The Temple of the Sun and Royal Palace
 

Observe how perfect the stone placement is, a trademark of the Inca
 

The Sacred Rock (behind the structure)
       Once again I made my way out of the Lost City, and my body felt as if it had been run over by a bulldozer. I caught the next bus back to town and found a restaurant to order a hamburger platter. Again, it was not as tasty as Mayupata but it served its' purpose.
     It was now 1:00pm and my train did not depart until 3pm, so I walked back to the hotel lobby and rested on a sofa. It felt good to get out of the heat and off of my feet.
     At 2pm, I made my way to the train station and sat in the large waiting area, observing the diversity of people coming and going.

     The train arrived on time and admittedly, I was rather disappointed. I was anticipating the comfy seats of the train that I had arrived on the day before. Instead, these were quad seats with a table in the middle. I wasn't able to lean back and stretch my feet out. It was the same category of train however; more expensive at $75 since it was a 4 hour ride to Cusco.
     Four hours of sitting upright facing a stranger. I didn't even have a window seat this time. Just as well because I needed to get up several times to stretch my legs.
     To make matters worse, it began to get dark halfway through the ride, so there was no scenery to look at. What was the point of riding a dome train if there is no scenery to look at?
     (Isn't it amazing how we gripe and complain when we're not feeling our best? :-)

     After the train finally pulled into the  Poroy station, I caught a taxi for the 15 minute ride to Cusco; and to my hotel, the Royal Inka II. I chose this hotel because of the price, $72 per night; and because of the location, near the Plaza de Armas (main plaza).
     I read that this was a safe area and easily accessible to the attractions and good restaurants. I also read that a wonderful buffet breakfast is included in the price.

     This was an older hotel that could use some refurbishing, and the room was rather small. However it had the all the amenities that I needed...a television, hot water with good shower pressure, and heat. This was my home for the next three nights.
     I didn't bother to take a photo of the hotel or room. All I wanted to do was sleep.


June 11, 2011
     Since Cusco had the highest elevation of the places I had stayed, the air is very thin and it gets extremely cold in the evenings and mornings. I was so happy to have a radiator that emitted heat.
     Today I was going to explore the city of Cusco, a former capital of Peru that was significantly impacted by the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1532.

     It is a remarkable city to explore because there is a presence of old and new, very similar to Rome. While walking around, you observe the distinct stone setting of ancient Inca walls 
surrounding contemporary restaurants and shops. Unlike the rural areas, the locals here dress in Western attire.


     I really loved the area of the Plaza de Armas where my hotel was located. In contrast to the area near the transportation center that I found myself in earlier this week, the vibe here was contemporary. It was actually a welcome change from the antiquated scenes of my previous layovers. The place was  crowded with tourists, but nothing like Machu Picchu.

     I had a list of monuments to explore, including the Basilica Cathedral, the Qorikancha, the Templo de San Blas and the Museo Inka. The painting inside of the Basilica Cathedral of The Last Supper displaying a cooked guinea pig on the table before Jesus and His disciples was rather interesting, to say the least. The conquistadors may have conquered Cusco however; a strong regard of Andean culture and pride remains.

     The Plaza de Armas is located in a valley and everything else was on higher ground. Therefore there were many elevated streets to climb. I guess there is no getting around it; this is what makes Cusco and the Sacred Valley so darn beautiful.




Cusco - Plaza de Armas and the Basilica Cathedral
 
Another view of Plaza de Armas in Cusco

 
Entrance to Inca Museum
       Following a few hours of the cultural stops and store browsing, I made my way up the hill to a popular area called San Blas and dined at a restaurant recommended by Fodor's called Pacha Papa.
     It was located in an outdoor courtyard, and I ordered a tangy pork stew that was also recommended by Fodor's. The stew was rather spicy and a welcome change from the trout and hamburger meals.

     After my meal, I made my descent back to the hotel to rest up before my private Qero ceremony that I had reserved earlier in the day. I'm not sure where I made the wrong turn but true to my nature, I became lost.
     The buildings were beginning to look so much alike as I walked and walked, finally convincing myself to ask for directions. I was quite a distance from the Plaza. No surprise!

     As I retraced my steps, I noticed my stomach beginning to feel queasy. Other than the breakfast buffet at the hotel, the pork stew was all I had eaten. I was cautious not to eat anything from the street.

     I barely made it into my hotel room before I was hovering over the toilet vomiting my insides out. Not long after, I was on the toilet. "Oh hell", I said to myself: "I can't believe this is happening". Soon, the chills and shivers took over, and I felt like crap. I couldn't even sip water without running back into the bathroom.


     All I could do was crawl under the bed covers and remain still until my stomach calmed. Thank goodness for the heat in the room. So much for the Qero ceremony. As I drifted into sleep, I cursed Pacha Papa and their pork stew.


June 12, 2011
     It was Sunday and my plan for the day was to return to Pisac for the big Sunday market. This was the basis for planning my trip to remain in Cusco for three nights.
     Unfortunately, I still felt like crap and there was no way I could make that trip to Pisac. After sipping on some water to ensure it stayed down, I ventured to the dining room for some of the sweet, cold and wet watermelon that was on yesterday's buffet. My mouth felt as though I had been chewing on cotton.
    I informed the waiter what had happened and he was genuinely concerned. He gave me additional watermelon and stated that I should have dined there last evening. Ha Ha. If only I could turn back the clock.


     I remained in bed the remainder of the morning and afternoon, still too weak to venture outdoors. I was thankful to rest in a nice hotel as things could have been much worse; such as being stranded at Machu Picchu or the airport.
     The hotel had a spa and sauna that opened at 4pm. For $12, I made a reservation to soak in the huge hot tub and sit in the sauna. I was the only one there at the time, most likely because everyone else was out exploring...something I should have been doing.

 
     Following the week's activities, my joints were sore, and
I still felt chilled from my illness. The combination of the hot tub and sauna was so therapeutic, I could almost feel the heat draw the toxins out of my body. I had two hours to soak but could barely last an hour, as the temperatures were so extreme I needed to continuously step out of both the hot tub and sauna.  

     When I returned to my room and showered, I felt rejuvenated. I was also hungry and decided to walk over to the nearest Chez Maggy to order something quite familiar...Pizza.


June 13, 2011
     Time to bid farewell to Cusco. My plane to Lima did not depart until 12noon, so I took the opportunity to do some strolling. In the square across from my hotel were a group of children in traditional costume.
     On June 24, Cusco celebrates Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun every year, with recreations of ancient Inca ceremonies. These children were preparing for this event and they looked so adorable.


Preparing for Inti Raymi Celebration


 



These brothers don't appear too thrilled
        took a taxi the short distance to the airport where my Taca airline flight awaited. Again I sat in first class on the right hand side of the plane this time for a return of gorgeous views.  This is the side to sit on also for viewing the coastline of Lima...that is, what you can see of it. Winter in Lima is usually cloudy and overcast; and today was no exception.


 
My plane awaits in Cusco


Lima coastline
       With a 12 hour layover, I had made plans to visit Mirafloes before leaving home. I made arrangements with a company called Lima Cabs to have a driver meet me at the airport, since I read that some cab drivers here can be malicious.

     After depositing my bags at the "Left Luggage" booth, I headed to the exit where my driver awaited ( How I love promptness :-).  For S/60 soles (US $22), he will drive me 25 minutes to Miraflores, and pick me up at a specified time for my return to the airport.

     Miraflores is a trendy area with many restaurants and shops, and a large open air mall built into the side of a cliff (how's that for trend??) My plans were to take an evening bus tour of Lima and the surrounding area.

     I was dropped off at Kennedy Park (named after JFK) and proceeded to the tour bus kiosk to purchase my ticket for the 6pm tour. I was informed that the tour wouldn't occur unless there was a minimum of 8 persons. So far, only 3 signed up and I would make the 4th person.

     It was almost 3pm, and the afternoon tour was about to depart. Not wanting to miss out on touring at all, I opted to take the 3:00 tour. This threw a wrench in my plans for the day, but one must be flexible when traveling.



Parque Kennedy Miraflores
 
     The tour included a double deck bus that first drove around the busy streets of Miraflores; then to El Centro Lima to visit
the Plaza de Armas and tour the huge Cathedral. Along the way, we passed a little girl sitting on the ground of the busy streets doing her homework. I thought the photo would come in handy as ammunition when my grandson complained that he didn't have time to do his :-).



Plaza de Armas, Central Lima
 

Much Traffic!
 

That's what I call "studious"
       Following the 45 minute tour, we headed back to Miraflores sitting in traffic much of the way. The contrast of Lima to Cusco and the Sacred Valley was astonishing, and I was glad for the layover to sample this side of Peru. 

      It was 6pm when the bus arrived at Parque Kennedy and I still had plenty of time to kill before my driver returned. I walked the seven blocks to Larcomar, the cliff side mall, passing numerous casinos along the way. I was intrigued by one named Atlantic City, as it conjured up memories of visiting the seaside resort back home.

     I was also becoming homesick for some good old American cuisine. Larcomar had the same restaurants and stores as those back in the US. If it weren't for the gorgeous views, I would have thought that I was back in Orlando.
      With so many choices, I opted to order spareribs at Tony Roma's. What a mistake, for they tasted like cardboard and I couldn't eat them. These ribs definitely weren't cooked on the premises; most likely shipped from the US frozen, then re-heated. Also, the meal was expensive because the price was in dollars.


I wonder if Donald Trump owns this casino :-)
 

Larcomar (Mall)
 

The scenery was better than the food at Tony Roma's
      After a disappointing waste of money, I walked around the mall browsing the stores and admiring the scenery. I then made my way back to Parque Kennedy where my driver met me promptly at 9pm. My return to Jorge Chavez airport was without incident.

     As my impromtu Peruvian adventure came to an end, I couldn't help but reflect on the ups and downs of the past week. This trip reaffirmed my belief that although life isn't perfect, a positive attitude goes a long way.
     The people that I came in contact with were truly genuine. I cannot wait to return and visit other regions of Peru. What a beautiful country!

 

56 comments:

  1. Yvonne, your blog is very humorous and insightful. My family and I live in S. Florida, and will be traveling to Peru in June of 2012. Thank you so much for giving us a taste of what we have to look forward to. Also, we can't wait to experience the trout at Mayupata. We will do our best to find adequate food while visiting Aguas Calientes. Thanks again, Elizabeth

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    1. Hi Elizabeth. So glad that you liked my story. Enjoy your visit to Peru. You will love it.

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  2. Hi Yvonne,
    Your blog is terrific -- going day-by-day and providing so many details make it very informative. Love your style of travel, too, as you seem to be a lite traveler. I'm planning a trip to Upper Amazon and looking for launch-areas or side-trips. Your essay on Peru makes me definitely consider it too... Do you have any other travel blogs?
    Ses

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  3. Hello Ses. I would love to travel to the Amazon region. This was my first travel blog. I wrote a detailed report on a trip to Egypt, howevr it is not in blog format, and there are no photos attached.

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    1. Yvonne: I am curious about your trip to Egypt. I was there in 1995 before any uprising. Can you tell me when you were there and what the climate was like. I'd love to return. I plan to travel in SA next month. Thank you for your detailed account.

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  4. Yvonne,
    Thanks for taking the time for writing this terrific blog.
    Myself and friends are visiting Peru in April, very excited to go. Reading this was really helpful.
    Happy travels, Karen

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    1. Enjoy your visit Karen. Peru is an amazing destination.
      -Yvonne-

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  5. What a great blog! My husband and I are going there in May and you'ew blog was a great way to get excited for our trip.

    We were thinking about staying at the Apu lodge, but wondered if the rooms had their own bathrooms or shared ones. Can you tell me please?
    -TRACY-

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    1. Hi Tracy. So glad you enjoyed the blog. The rooms at the Apu Lodge do have private baths. That was important to me. I would recommend that you bring your own bath soap because the hotels that I stayed in were quite stingy with this.
      Enjoy your trip.
      -Yvonne-

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  6. What a great blog. Reminded me of my trip to Peru in 2009. Love your photographs . i too when to olly and climbed the ruins as also in pisac those steps are very steep.

    jon

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    1. Thank you Jon. Yes, those steps were very steep :)
      -Yvonne-

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  7. hi yvonne.. your blog is great..you are a real traveler..i'm also planning to go to peru this year, almost similar dates. i was checking to find a tour, but you encouraged me to make it by my own.. thanks for your tips..
    julia (istanbul)

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    1. Julia, the advantage of not doing a tour is that you can go where you want to go, and see what you want to see...not hurdled into places that you have no interest in. Enjoy!
      -Yvonne-

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  8. Hi, Yvonne - enjoyed reading your blog. You seemed to enjoy your visit ... despite the few misadventures along the way. But then that's what makes some travels more memorable than others. Thanks for sharing your trip.

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    1. E Squared and Mui, Thank you much for your comments. Yes there were many memorable moments:-)
      -Yvonne-

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    2. Wow, I absolutely love your trip report. It is so much like the way we love to travel. Your pics are National Geographic like and your trip descriptions are awesome! Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure!

      Rede2g0

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    3. Thank you for your nice comments Rede2g0. So glad that you enjoyed the report.
      -Yvonne-

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    4. Yvonne,
      Did you book this on your own? I am trying to book a trip to MP and not having luck with the train and entrance fee websites... any advice?

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    5. Yes, I booked the trip on my own. I used the www.perurail.com website for my train ticket and had no problem. At the time of my travel, MP tickets could not be purchased online. They had to be purchased in person.
      Now, people are having difficulties obtaining tickets in advance. You can still purchase in person in Cusco or Aguas Calientes. Here is a link to the tripadvisor website on the topic. Good luck.
      http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294318-i3352-k5007667-Tickets_to_Machu_Picchu-Machu_Picchu_Sacred_Valley.html#37485485

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  9. Yvonne, thank you for sharing your trip and adventure. Absolutely wonderful! I can't wait for my trip to Peru in May!

    Ryan

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    1. Hello Ryan. Enjoy your visit. May will be here before you know it :-)
      -Yvonne-

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  10. Thanks Yvonne

    You have a real gift for story telling. I loved your blog, especially how you wove the photos and the narrative together and had pictures of many ordinary, but really interesting things. For example, you'd say "and then big doors opened into a court yard" and I'd imagine the court yard and then I'd see the photo and it looked pretty different from what I'd imagined. Also so great the way you talked about your emotional journey too, cause travel is also pretty emotional. A friend and I will be heading to Peru in 2 weeks. He's a bit older than you and I'm a bit young and I pray we have the stamina you had. (though to be honest, in your photos you look about 40). Bless you for sharing this. I think you're a generous soul. Mark

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    1. Hi Mark,
      Your remarks are so generous and I truly appreciate them. I have taken a liking to creative writing and this was one of my first attempts :-)
      You have most likely returned from your trip. I hope your visit was as memorable as mine.
      -Yvonne-

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  11. Hi Yvonne,
    You are the woman I have been looking for! :)
    I have posted several questions recently on TA about being on my own for 4 days while my hero does the MP trek. I have had very positive feedback but of course I still worry. :)
    Thanks to you I will stop worrying and will stay positive about the experience!
    Just one question...would you have done anything differently?
    Gaye

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    1. Hi Gaye,
      I want to apologize for not responding to your comment on my blog. I had meant to get back to you but became very busy and forgot. First, thank you much for your kind words.
      You asked if I would do anything differently. Yes, I would have taken longer to plan my itinerary rather than the 2 weeks I rushed to obtain what info I could. This was a big trip and I feel that more details would have made for a smoother visit.
      In hindsight, I may have remained in Cusco a couple of days before traveling to Ollanta...since I was not doing the Trek and most likely would not have had issues with altitude sickness. Since both Pisac and Chinchero are nearer to Cusco, I would have saved a lot of time not taking the bus from Ollanta.
      Also, I would have visited the market in Pisac the day that I visited the ruins, even though it was smaller than the Sunday market. I would have then left Cusco for Lima on Sunday, rather than Monday...the only day of the week that the Fountain light show does "not" take place in Lima. I really wanted to see that.
      My other disappointment was not visiting the weaving community. I would have planned my visit to Ollanta to coincide with a day that I could have toured there.
      Otherwise, I would change absolutely nothing for my visit to Macchu Picchu. I was fortunate as the rules for obtaining tickets changed the month following my visit, and many travelers were not able to gain entrance.
      That was a really good question. Thanks for asking...and enjoy your trip tremendously. You will do fine without your hero :-)
      -Yvonne-

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  12. Wow that was pretty awesome. What a great trip..it sounds like minus a few snags, you really had a successful trip. Truly a trip of a lifetime. You go girl!

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    1. Thanks much for your comments. Yes, it truly was a trip of a lifetime:-)
      -Yvonne-

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  13. Dear Yvonne,

    I am going to Lima, Cusco and Machu Pichu in June 2012. I enjoyed your blog and photos so very much. It was a great preview of my adventures ahead. I will be doing the four day hike on the Inca trail. I feel a lot more comfortable with the area, now that I read your blog.

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    1. Enjoy the hike on the Inca trail. From what I've read of others' comments, it will be a rewarding experience. I wish I could have done it years ago.
      -Yvonne-

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  14. Hi Yvonne,

    Thank you for sharing your blog. I am planning a trip to Peru late this year and I can't decided on whether I should plan the trip on my own or go with a tour group. Your blog helps a lot. I have traveled on my own, but for some reason is having a hard time getting around selecting hotels and transportation in Peru.

    Theresa

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    1. Theresa,
      Peru is one of those destinations that traveling with a tour group is ok, depending on what you wish to experience. My very first trip to Italy, I went with a tour group and was so happy that I did. With a tour group, you can cover so much.
      It I had planned to visit the Amazon region and Lake Titicaca, I would have preferred traveling with a tour group. I felt that traveling within the Sacred Valley, Cusco and MP regions was manageable traveling solo, even though I didn't get to see everything I had hoped. I'm sure you will make the decision that best suits you.
      -Yvonne-

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  15. Yvonne -

    You are a woman after my own heart. I, too am a solo traveler, and I can certainly relate to some of your adventures, especially the part about being ill in a foreign country - LOL!

    Well done on the blog and your your successful travel venture! Where are you off to next, if I may ask?

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    1. Thank you for your kind remarks. I have no immediate travel plans other than the routine Caribbean and Mexico visits. However I am an impromptu person so whatever strikes my fancy-lol
      -Yvonne-

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  16. Hi Yvonne, your blog is awesome. I love your writing skills and you did such a wonderful job of sharing your experiences. I too am a solo independent traveler. I have always wanted to see Machu Picchu for a very long time but didn't want to take a tour to do it. Reading your blog I am inspired to make my dream of visiting MP a reality. Thanks so much for sharing your photos, experiences and your lodging and dining tips.

    Happy Travels,
    Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy. Thank you much for your comments. Do visit Machu Picchu. It is an experience you will never forget.
      -Yvonne-

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    2. Hi Yvonne,

      I wanted to stop by again to tell you that in a little over two weeks from now (19 months later), I'm leaving for Peru. Reading your blog really inspired this trip. I've always hesitated going, because I lacked the confidence visiting Peru as a solo female (also mature) independent traveler but reading your blog gave me the confidence to finally make this dream trip come true. I wanted to say thank you again for taking the time to share your experiences. I am sure that this will definitely be an experience I will never forget.

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    3. Hi Kathy.
      Thanks for updating me on your plans. You will have a wonderful time. Peru is very safe for traveling. And with 19 months of planning, I'm certain that you will avoid most of the mishaps I had -lol
      Please do let me know how your trip went.
      -Yvonne-

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  17. Yvonne - thanks so much for sharing! We are visiting in June and I loved reading about your adventures. Normally my attention span is super-short but your report was so interesting, detailed, humorous and well-written, I could not stop reading! Well done. I am glad you enjoyed it and now I am even more excited for my trip.

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  18. I loved reading your post! And, I applaud you for traveling alone! That takes a lot of guts.

    I loved the humor in your story - and how you shared your 'mistakes'. I made a similar taxi mistake in Paris this past summer. It was scary, but turned out OK! And, I actually got teary eyed at your 'guardian angel' who led you down the steeep steps.

    I tend to do the more touristy things when I travel, and I enjoyed seeing a different way of traveling!

    Last thing... thanks for reminding me that we do age and we need to do some things NOW... before it gets too hard!!!

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    1. Hello Dana. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed my blog. I believe the most memorable trips are those where things don't go exactly as planned :-) I felt totally "safe" here.

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  19. awesome blog!well done... u are an inspiration to many...

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    1. Thank you coolrara. I appreciate your comments :-)

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  20. Hi Yvonne,I really enjoyed your blog,great style- both interesting and informative. I'm going to Peru in June so I'm bookmarking it to read again. Did you write it each night? Thanks for sharing. Joan

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    1. Hello Joan. I am so glad that you enjoyed my blog. I did not think of writing this until I returned home, and based this report on the photos I had taken. so no, it was not written nightly. Looking back, I wish I had more photos of the Cusco area and Lima. I guess I will have to return to obtain them -lol. Enjoy your visit.

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  21. Hi Yvonne! I just returned from my own impromptu trip to Peru, and I used your blog for more information than any guide book or website out there! I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the detailed information you've put in this article, and thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful blog!! I am so grateful for it!!!
    Sincerely,
    Elizabeth
    P.S. My dad and I LOVED the trout at Mayupata, we went twice :)

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    1. My response to your comment went into a seperate post. Thank you much for your kind words.
      -Yvonne-

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  22. Wow Elizabeth. I can't believe that people are still reading my blog 2 years after my trip, and that it was helpful to you. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Mmmm! I still think of that trout at Mayupata -lol What a difference 2 years make. I've beefed up my physical activity and am now an avid runner. I've actually lost over 20 pounds since this blog posted, so it's great to view the "before" photos of myself :-)
    I'm glad that you and your dad enjoyed your trip. I'm hoping to return soon with my daughter.

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  23. Thank you for sharing your trip online. This is a wonderful photo journal. I especially loved the "everyday" life shots throughout. I am headed to Cuzco in 1 month and can't wait to see these sights for myself :)

    Daphne

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    1. Hello Daphne. Thank you for your kind remarks. Do enjoy your visit next month :-)

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  24. Hi Yvonne, firstly to congratulate for your blog, secondly, I missed my job. skipped breakfast ,still in bed reading your amazing blog so engaging that I couldn't stop reading, my taxi driver is gone, waited for me since last night I guess (just kidding) lovely journey, I have marked as favorite so I can read it again.Peru is such a beautiful country.

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    1. lol - Thanks so much for your kind comments. I can't believe this is still being read :-) So glad that you enjoyed reading of my experience.

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  25. Hi Yvonne, I just returned from my trip to Peru and had a fabulous time. Based on your recommendation, I ate at Mayupata 3 times (more if they had been open when I walked by) :).

    I wanted to stop by to thank you again. It was your blog that gave me the confidence to take this trip as a solo female traveler. And if I had not found your blog, I would not have had the pleasure of standing with the clouds on Machu Picchu!

    I would recommend Peru to anyone who might be interested. I felt perfectly safe, and although I feared getting altitude sickness, I was thankfully fine. (I did take all the precautions though and brought medication with me just in case). The driver who picked me up at the Cuzco airport to drive me to Ollantaytambo gave me some coco candy and it actually helped with that first kick of high altitude in Cuzco after getting off the plane. It did take me a while to make it to the baggage claim (in fact I was the last one to arrive) :), but I adjusted surprisingly well after a couple of days acclimating in Ollantaytambo.

    Thank you again for sharing your personal experiences and for writing this blog post. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Hi Kathy. Wow! You went and returned. I am so happy that you had a great experience. I'm even more happy that my blog encouraged you to travel solo to this wonderful country. Machu Picchu is a destination that many only dream of visiting. It is such a unique experience. Didn't you absolutely love Ollantaytambo? Glad that you decided to dine at Mayupata. Can't find cuisine like that anywhere else. Your comments make me want to return :-) Happy Holidays to you also.
      -Yvonne-

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    2. Hi Yvonne, yes, I loved Ollantaytambo! I spent 12 days in Ollantaytambo taking day trips to the other towns in the Sacred Valley while I adjusted to the high altitude before I went to Machu Picchu. My hotel allowed me to leave my big luggage with them and pick it up before heading to Cuzco.

      I stayed in Hotel Sauce rather than Apu lodge. I thought it was a great place too. Having visited the other little towns like Pisac (which I visited), Urubamba and Chinchero (which I really loved), I think Ollantaytambo was my favorite town in the Sacred Valley. I also took the local bus (transferring in Urubamba) which I remembered that you did on your trip. I wanted to see the Pisac Sunday market and remembered your experience taking the bus so I thought I would give it a try. :) What an experience. So much fun and a great way to hang with the locals. When I went to Mayupata, I described what yo had and they knew exactly what dish it was and sure enough when it was the exact same dish. I had that all three times I dined there. :) Other than Mayupata, I also ate at the Hearts Cafe which I thought had pretty good food as well. So many fond memories. I would love to return there someday. Thanks again for taking the time to write your blog post and share with so many of us and make "our" dreams come true.

      Happy Holidays.
      - Kathy -

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  26. Dear Yvonne,
    What a great blog, I truly enjoyed from top to end. I am from Melbourne Australia and really looking forward to go to Machu Picchu myself this year. Your blog definitely one of the most helpful guide out there internet.

    Yudo

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    1. Thank you Yudo for taking the time to comment on my blog. I'm pleased that you found it helpful. Do enjoy your visit.

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