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We took the 8:30 train from Ollantaytambo and arrived in the town of Aguas Calientes around 10 am. The town sits at the base of the mountain on which Machu Picchu is built, at an elevation of 6,693 feet. We were fortunate to be sitting right across from a group of Brittish tourists who had hired a guide for their entire trip, so we got a free narration of all the interesting manmade and natural things to see as we passed them on the train. One of the most striking things to me was the dramatic change from temperate alpine climate and flora to jungle alpine clime all within the the space of about 100 yards.

Arriving at our destination, we boarded the next bus in line for the 25-30 minute ride up the mountain. The narrow road winds up and up, constantly twisting and turning back on itself, to an elevation of 7,972 feet, and the entrance to Machu Picchu. I snapped this picture on the ride up because this scene just looked like it should be on a postcard.

We found a really cool guide at the entrance to the park who took us around all that day, and later rode with us back down the mountain to Aguas Calientes where we parted company in the late afternoon. We entered the park close to 11:00 and headed down a trail that led around to the base of Huayna Picchu, the mountain which overlooks Machu Picchu and the Urubamba River from a height of 8,835 feet. There is a temple and terraces on top as well as a particularly amazing view of the river valley below. The only rain we had the entire trip was a light misty drizzle localized at the top of the mountain. It felt good after the long climb.

To get to the top requires a climb of 37,462 stone steps. I know. I counted. I also died several times along the way. But the view is worth it. I was actually surprised at how solid the steps were even after all these centuries. They don't slide or rock at all. So, though the mountain is quite steep, and the steps generally wind along the edge of the mountainside (and a few thousand foot drop), you never really feel in any danger of slipping or falling, even with a bit of rain. They are that well designed and constructed. Here is the view from the temple area on top:

Up among the clouds, you really are where the gods live. It's not hard to see how certain mountains were regarded as sacred or magical places by the ancients. I still regard them as such today.

After a brief stay at the summit, it was time to come back down. Down was sooo much easier. I love Down. :)

And now to explore the great city of MACHU PICCHU! Here, except for a few things, I will mostly just let the pictures do the talking. There are four different routes you can take through the ruins and each requires a different type of ticket. Our path included the middle and lower areas of the city. . .

Here are some pics of the Temple of the Sun and area close around. Notice the smooth, dressed blocks of stone used in its construction. The area that looks like carved stone steps at the front of a cave is the royal mausoleum directly underneath the Sun Temple.

Something I found interesting: Machu Picchu is built at the junction of two fault lines. In the picture below, it's that green strip of grass between the two rock walls. You can literally straddle two tectonic plates!

The floor carving/mosaic in one of the pictures below is of a llama in repose. Its saucer-sized eye is filled with water now. The photo at the end is of a real llama, of course. Not a carving at all. Nope.

Around 3 in the afternoon, we boarded the bus and headed back down the mountain to town. We had another great meal at a local restaurant along the riverside, then did some shopping in the bazaar before catching the train back to Ollantaytambo later that evening. The indoor/outdoor bazaar is huuuge with just tons of beautiful stuff. I kept thinking, "You are in a twisty little maze. All the passages look alike."

The train ride back was pleasant, but because of the darkness and the resulting inability to see any of the beautiful scenery, as well as a couple of unexplained stops, seemed twice as long. We did, however, see a strange light in the sky not long after pulling out from the station, which at first we took to be a plane until it did some fancy maneuvers like stopping suddenly and reversing direction a number of times, or disappearing and reappearing in a different part of the sky. Not saying it was aliens, was aliens! :) It's not an uncommon occurence around Machu Picchu, as we later found out.

We arrived back in Ollantaytambo a little after 8:00, just in time to grab a pizza and some hot chocolate, which is especially delicious in Peru. It's made with real Peruvian cocoa and milk. We also made a new friend, as you can see. (While Lima may be Cat City, the mountains have completely gone to the dogs!) Tomorrow, Friday, we will meet up with our cabby from Wednesday and ride back to Cuzco. We have a plane to catch in the evening back to Lima.


Friday morning, we say goodbye to our host, and the Kamma Guest House, and meet our cabby at the central plaza a couple of blocks down. We have decided to take the scenic route back to Cuzco, through the Sacred Valley to see some of the landscape, a few scenic overlooks, and a couple of interesting sites.

Shortly after leaving town, we came upon this:

If you enlarge the pictures, you will see several metal cannister looking things on the side of the hill, near the top. Those are hotels suspended on the side of the cliff that travelers climb up to. In the photo with the cars driving by, you can see a couple of platforms much lower down. A person is standing on one of them, while another is ziplining up to it. This is how they begin the climb. It was really pretty neat to see.

Here is a bit of the scenic Sacred Valley which runs all the way from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. The blue building in the town below is the bullfighting arena. There is also a zipline here, that you can see in the foreground of the middle two photos, which goes from just below our overlook to the mountain on the right. I guess ziplines are a "thing" here.

I don't remember the name of this place. It is a Spanish town built above some Incan ruins along the valley. We, fortunately, came at the right season. During the high tourist season a few months from now, much of the valley will be brown and dry. For us, coming at the end of the Summer rainy season, it was green and blooming!

Our last stop before Cuzco was at this small town to see how alpaca yarn and clothing is made. And, of course, to feed a couple of hungry llamas. These lovely ladies handed us mugs of tea and carefully explained and demonstrated how they wash the wool, the various natural pigmentations they use to dye it, and how it is woven into strands, and, later, into clothing. They had a large variety of beautiful handmade garments for sale and I picked up a nice earth-toned, zippered, alpaca fleecy for an incredibly reasonable price. The fleecy has a llama pattern on it in case you were wondering. Naturally. ;)

That night, we caught the plane back to Lima. Saturday was spent just chillin' and taking care of a few necessary things like massages and Covid tests before our midnight flight back to LAX.

Well, that's it for the show. Hope y'all enjoyed it. Peru is really a wonderful place to visit. I think we accomplished everything we set out to do and we had a really great time. I highly recommend going if you can swing it. It's totally worth it!

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