Peru Part 3 – The Andes

Back to Cusco to finalize plans for the rest of our trip and to for plenty of News Year’s Eve fireworks. We enjoyed the first day of the year with a hike to a beautiful ruins site overlooking the city, surrounded by forest and farmland. We happily discovered this to be a “local” outing. The big tour busses whizzed right by on the way to larger historic sites, leaving this area free for family strolls and soccer games.

These ruins would later come to give us a pretty good laugh. When at the site, called Sacsayhuaman, we had no idea how to actually pronounce the name. Then we met a bubbly young Peruvian-American gal who gave us the tip that it sounds like “sexy woman” (when said with your best Spanish accent, of course. OK, maybe you had to be there).

Between the Spanish colonial city of Lima and the grand Incan city of Machu Picchu, Cuscoprovides insight into how these two cultures have collided. Here you can visit a Dominican convent that has been built atop an Incan sun temple – quite the architectural juxtaposition.

We visited several other ruins in the SacredValley around Cusco before finally getting our plans in order to visit Macchu Pichu. First, we had to get our entrance tickets. Since being voted one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World in 2004, interest in the site has skyrocketed – along with the price of admission. They’ve also implemented a limit on the number of visitors admitted each day, so it’s generally advised that tickets are booked well in advance.

overlooking the Sacred Valley from Pisac

A couple months before departing, we attempted to do this using the online booking system. However, after a couple dozen failed attempts at completing the 23 step process required, we finally gave up and just called the main ticketing office in Cusco. Who told us that January tickets weren’t even available to purchase yet. Awesome, thanks for posting that notice on your site. (It felt a little better that we didn’t meet anyone else who had successfully booked their tickets online). Fortunately this wasn’t the busy travel season so we were able to get tickets directly from the ticketing office, just a few days in advance.

Overlooking Ollantaytambo ruins

Getting there was another decision. From Cusco, which has the nearest airport to Macchu Pichu,  travelers must then get to Aguas Calientes, the nearest town to Macchu Pichu. There is no road to (or in) Aguas Calientes so the only way to get there is to take a train or to walk.

Hence, the popularity of trekking the Inca Trail (or it’s new cousin Salkatnay) to M.P. While this hike, favored by anyone remotely shape, through the beautiful high peaks of theAndes sounds like the route Aminda and Josh would choose… it wasn’t. Doing the trek requires going with an expensive tour and after researching tours we decided that we just didn’t want to spend the money to hike with a bunch of strangers and have someone else put up our tent and cook for us. Plus, being the rainy season, not only would we be sucking air up at 10 – 12,000 feet elevation, we’d be doing so in the mud. Not knowing if we’d even be able to see the views through the rain and clouds.

Everyone else enjoys a nice, comfortable tourist train for a four hour ride through the valley. Not really our style, either. But, with a little help, we found a compromise.


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