Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Cusco Travel Blog› entry 8 of 34 › view all entries
Cusco and the Sacred Valley (which contains the famous Machu Piccu, although has a lot more besides!) is almost certainly going to be on the circuit that any visitor to Peru would take. The bus from Puno in the morning was full with other tourists and we sat through the cheesy films that they showed on the 6 hour journey (although at times it felt a lot longer!) across the Altiplano - the area of the Andes which stretches around Lake Titikaka and around to near Arequipa, as far North as near Cusco and as far South as La Paz, Bolivia. It was an interesting journey to begin with, although was pretty featureless for many miles and we were glad to arrive in Cusco.
Our first Hostel was "Hostel Los Ninos", which was founded by a Dutch woman in the 1990´s to raise money to help fund projects to help street children in the area. The building inside was beautiful, a wonderful colonial courtyard and our room was very tastefully decorated (if a little chilly!). Sadly, we could only stay here for one night and the sister hotel for another night as they were entirely booked-up.
On Jeremy´s last trip, he was very ably looked-after by a tour company and one of their operators - Edith. We met-up with Edith who very helpfully arrange our train tickets to Machu Picchu, entry and also a sepeate tour to Ollantaytambo and Pisac, other sites important to Inca history.
Our impressions of Cusco were that it had a huge focus towards tourism, which is entirely undertandably - there are so many "Gringo´s" wandering around the place, although most seem to be Dutch and German rather than Americans. It has beautiful Plazas and colonial buildings, although there is still some magnificent original Inca stonework remaining (which was built to withstand earthquakes, although the Spaniards didn´t do this!).
We had an early start to Machu Picchu, leaving our Hotel at about 5am. The Peru Rail Vistadome train snaked its way up of the steep hills of Cusco´s suburbs with a series of switchbacks which left the train passing cheek-by-jowl to the houses that sprawled over the hills. Eventually, the train moved along the Rio Urubamba and between the Occidental and Oriental mounts of the Andes - a hugely spectacular journey and it is easy to see why this is know as one of the most beautiful train trips in the world.
We spent a good few hours around Machu Picchu, which by now was very busy with tourists. The sun beat-down mercilessly and there was very little shade, but it provided a spectacular vista of the site itself and the surrounding mountains and the "Cloud Forests". The more humid heat and the lush greenery was a reminder as to how close the site was to the Amazon Basin and Villcabamba, which effectively was where the Ina´s made their "last stand" against Spanish Invasion.
As we made our way back on the train in the afternoon, we saw the other side of the route that we took in the morning and more spectacular views of the Sacred Valley. It was a hugely enjoyable day.
The next day we explored around Cusco and went-out with our friend Edith, who Jeremy had met 5 years ago when he last visited Cusco and kindly helped us organise some excurisions whilst we were in Cusco.
On the Sunday, we took a trip along the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, which was a fortified Inca City in the most spactacular scenary. As we meandered back up alonside the Rio Urubamba, we stopped-off at other places that are of interest and saw some amazing views of the sun setting over the Andes before heading back to the hotel and then onwards on the overnight bus back to Arequipa.