Saturday, July 20, 2013
Cuzco and Machu Picchu
Where do I even start? My post before we left was way off base... I was worried for no reason about things I didn't need to worry about. At times I wondered why I would take seven children with me to Peru. It was the most amazing trip. We felt completely safe the entire time, thanks in part to our guide, who was also amazing. The main reason we chose to visit Peru, was to see Machu Picchu. I had heard rumours that it may be shut down to tourists in the next five years or so and wanted to make sure we would see it before it was. Apparently, tourists will still be allowed to visit Machu Picchu, but may not be allowed full access to the site as they are right now.
We showed up in Lima in the evening and were tired from a long day of traveling. We knew our guide would be there to meet us with our name on a sign. What we didn't expect, was that there would be hundreds of people holding signs with names on them! But my kids spotted him almost immediately in the middle of the crowd.
We had a quick layover in Lima and got up early the next morning to fly to Cuzco. We toured around the city a little bit by foot and then on bus. We visited Qurikancha, which was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. When the Spanish came, they built over top many of the Inca buildings. The city square is beautiful. The cathedrals are stunning. We went to Saksaywaman, on the outskirts of Cuzco, which is the former capital of the Inca empire. This is a huge area that the locals still use as a park to spend time with their families, typically on Sundays. You would see people playing sports, visiting and roasting potatoes in the ground. Many of the woman still wear the traditional Andean dress, which is bright and colourful. I loved the architecture and the people. Many woman dress up, carrying babies and baby sheep, so the tourists can take pictures with them (for money of course). Our guide asked that we don't take pictures with anyone carrying the baby sheep, because they take these animals away from their mothers and they often die. At one point, I was taking a photo of one of these woman and a security guard ran up to her and grabbed her hat and ran away. She wasn't suppose to be there. But the whole situation was a little violent, especially considering she had a baby on her back. Which may or may not have been her own child.
We also saw the mini Christ the Redeemer statue, which is a huge statue of Jesus that overlooks the city, much like the one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We then drove by bus to the train station, where went by train to the town of Machu Picchu. The train ride made me feel like I was back in the Canadian Rockies, until the vegetation started to become much more tropical. Along the way, carved into the mountain was a sign that said "C God". I had prayed before this trip that my kids would see God in the beauty of Peru. This was like a reminder to me to seek him in all I saw in the Andies, despite the poverty. The town of Machu Picchu is all touristy. We ate along the train tracks in one of the many restaurants. We tried the Inca Cola, which the kids loved! Tim and Abby enjoyed eating Alpaca, to me it tasted a little gamey. The food in Peru was amazing... we even ate Cuy (guinea pig).
I am not going to give a history lesson here. But these Inca people were smart people! There was so much information, that my brain couldn't quite grasp it all. We seemed to be given the best guide. He is doing a masters in Archeology and his focus is Machu Picchu. He is even writing a book that he hopes to have published in about a year. He is also a very good photographer and takes some beautiful photos. Micah asked me if Jose was married. I said no. He exclaimed, "But he has a beard!".
We split Machu Picchu into two days. The first visit was in the afternoon, and by this time most of the tourists had left, so the place was very quiet. We hiked to an Inca bridge. It was one of those hikes where I wondered if I would have nightmares later of my children falling off the edge of the mountain. Especially after being told that if they did fall off the mountain, there would be no way to get them.
The next day we went back in the morning. It was much busier. We took a tour with another guide and learned the same things that our regular guide had already told us. Josiah exclaimed at one point that walking up and down all the stairs was like walking up to Abby's bedroom... anyone who's been in our house will understand! Josiah also said that there must not have been any fat Inca's. The stairs are everywhere and built much like the stairs on the Great Wall of China.
We hiked half way up to the Sun gate, which gave some great views down onto the ruins.
*Zoe laying on the sacrificial table.
Zoe twisted her ankle and exclaimed, "Oh great! Now I only have one ankle!" A few minutes later she twisted her other ankle and exclaimed, "Oh great! Now I don't have any ankles!".
To be continued...