We decided to cross over from Bolivia to Peru via the border point on Lake Titicaca which is in the Andes. Its considered to be the largest lake in South America and its also the home to the Uros. The Uros are Incan people who live on 42 floating islands. It is believed that they are the owners of the lake and that they have black blood because they do not feel the cold.
We visited one of their islands to see how they live and to get a better understanding of their culture. Life on this floating islands is simple but hard and it’s said that people who were not born there would not survive. Each island has a president and we were welcomed to meet his family and to visit his house. Today it is a very touristy place however it was still fascinating to meet these people and to step onto a floating island.
Our gateway to the Machu Picchu started in Cusco which in the 13th century was the capital of the Inca Empire. Many of the original Inca buildings, temples and places were destroyed when the Spanish arrived and they used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of a new city.
Today Cusco is one of the most important tourist destination in Peru. The historical centre is very impressive with its churches, cathedrals and plazas. It has a different flair to the rest of Peru and you can see the historical importance in every plaza, however like every tourist attraction there are lots of people trying to sell you something or coerce you into their restaurant, it can be a little bit annoying say “no gracias” for the millionth time. The town is 3400 metres above sea level which is not the highest that we have been however we struggled with the altitude, especially since we had to climb 119 steps to reach our hostel. It has felt like we have run a marathon on a daily basis. Overall though it has been a real highlight of the trip visiting Cusco and exploring the history.
From Cusco we took a 3 hours scenic train ride through the Sacred Valley and arrived in Aguas Caliente, a small tourist village and the staring point to the Machu Picchu.
Our aim was to get up early to see a spectacular sunrise over the ancient Inca Ruins. At 5:30am we were ready at the bus station, equipped with enough water and food and the cameras were charged for some cool shots. We were warned of early morning mist but on the day we went the fog was pretty dense.
Whilst waiting for the sun to come through we read about the history of the Inca civilisation. In the early 1900s an American explorer found by coincidence the Machu Picchu. He was guided by a little boy who showed him some archeological remains, the Lost City of the Incas.The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The location of the city was a military secret and was never discovered by the Spanish. The Incas walked 5 days from their capital Cusco to reach the isolated place, which today is known as the Inca Trail. How they moved and placed the enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. It is assumed that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area.
We spend 5 hours walking through this vast complex of Inca homes, warehouses and their temples. The sun never made it through the fog and it even started raining later on. It was still an impressive experience and well worth the early start. In the morning there was not many tourists but at at 10am the hordes arrived and I cannot imagine how it is up there during high season, when 2500 people are allowed to visit the place per day.
In 1983 Machu Picchu was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2007 it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is definitely a place worth visiting however it is quite an expensive trip which is also a little bit difficult to get to as there are plenty of places that you need to pay just to get to this impressive piece of history.
After 3 weeks we will be finally leaving the high altitudes and getting back to the beach. We will be heading to Pisco and then onto Lima to celebrate Christmas.