I just realized I never explained to you how we ended up going to Macchu Picchu. I just kind of threw one sentence about it into the last blog and expected you all to guess. Sorry :) So, anyway, we got back from our trip to Ica, about two or three weeks ago, and our professors start saying mysterious things about moving class outings, and don’t buy soccer tickets for that weekend, and maybe we’ll get to see Macchu Picchu after all. Marta, our teacher, spent practically all day tuesday closeted up with the international studies office here. We knew SOMETHING was going on. However, they left us in suspense until they got everything nailed down. That meant we found out Thursday during Conversation class, about 12 hours before we left for Iquitos. I was so excited!!!! I had been so disappointed when it was cancelled, and now we were finally going!!! However, in all the excitement of the jungle, my other news got buried. But now you have it, I went to Macchu Picchu
We left Thursday in the wee hours of the morning, or as they say here madrugada. Like, 3 am in the morning we are getting on the bus to take us to the airport. It’s starting to be a habit, being at the airport at 3 am, after 3 weeks in a row. It’s so busy there, even at 3 am in the morning. Unfortunately, our flight got delayed :( We got on the plane on time, but they made us get off because the plane need some repairs that apparently could be affected in an hour. We did eventually get back on that plane but my ears were cracking like crazy. Eventually we made it to Cuzco safely, go our bags, located our tour guide, and headed off to the hotel. We were supposed to have like 4 hours to acclimate to the higher altitude, but with the delay in the flight we had more like two hours before we were supposed to be ready for our tour of Cuzco city. Time for a quick snack and some internet before taking off on this new adventure.
Around 1 we bounded back onto the bus to head off to this really complicated sounding church. It was really something. It was this church that was originally built as an Incan religious place. Majorly cool. Our guide kept pointing out the differences between the Incan architecture and the Spanish architecture. The Incan style is much, much sturdier and less likely to be hurt by earthquakes or natural disasters. Unfortunately, like most things, it is not impervious to human attacks. The Spanish saw all Incan religious sites as a threat and had everyone they saw destroyed. That is what makes Macchu Picchu so special. It is the one Incan ruin that the Spanish didn’t find and take apart (well, make the Incans take apart) stone by stone. The original structure is 80% there. Other Incan ruins are more like 30% intact. Anyway, then we headed off to the Cathedral. It had a LOT of art in it. I we couldn’t take any pictures :( I was sad cause the art was REALLY cool, but I do understand why people would want to steal it. Apparently people used the pics to make copies and replace the real things with their copies. When we went to the basement, our guide informed us that the ashes of the head of Inca Garcilaso were buried there and I realized something. You see, Inca Garcilaso is the author of one of the short stories that I read in my Latin American Lit class last semester. Those of you who were unlucky enough to be anywhere near me last semester got more than an earful about how much I HATED that class. It was really hard, I struggled with the words, struggled with the material, the sheer quantity of pages I had to read in Spanish, struggled to understand what the teacher wanted to teach us about Latin America. Suddenly, there in the catacombs of this church in Cuzco, this class made sense. It hadn’t been pointless. Everything I had learned about was real. This author, the most important author of Peru, I had read his works. His words about the Incan beliefs about the Sun God and his two children establishing the city of Cuzco, this I had read as well. As the weekend unfolded, these were not the only parts of that class that came to the front of my mind and made me marvel at how much I had depreciated this class which was now allowing me to get so much more out of Cuzco. Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways.
After the church we got on the bus to head out to this set of ruins that sounded like Sexy Woman, and the guide pronounced it that way to make sure we would remember the title of the ruins. It was cool. Lots of old ruins. Apparently some prince got confused when he was in a war with his enemies and started yelling at the stones to fight with him, thinking they were warriors. The legend says the stones were so suprised they came to life and helped him win the war. I loved the headsets we had for this tour. Our guide spoke into his microphone, and we had headphones and could walk around and take photos while he was lecturing us on the history. It was great. After lots of picture taking, he took us down through this cave where they did human sacrifices. It was dark, short, and scary. We were all really freaking out the whole time. Eventually we all made it out though, and got back on the bus to head to the next ruins. These ruins were a set of waterfalls where priests of today go to bathe in the mornings because it is a holy place to bathe. It was cool. There were women with llamas and traditional clothes everywhere trying to sell pictures or other things, talking to us in Quechua, Spanish and broken English. I can’t imagine trying to make money that way. Our guide tried to teach us how to say “I’m broke” in Quechua, but I honestly can’t remember how to say it. We learned sooooooooooooo much in those four days I’m suprised I remember anything :) Then we headed to this other place whose name means Labyrinth in Quechua. we saw another site where they sacrificed things and took pictures of where a BABY had been buried alive as a sacrifice to the Pacha Mama. Yikes :( Right outside the Labyrinth was a gorgeous view of the entire city of Cuzco. I took a ton of pics.
Then we headed to this store that sold alpaca stuff. I liked that they tried to show us the difference between real and fake alpaca, but their stuff was SOOOO expensive. 80 soles for a hat? No way. Not when I can get a fake one for 5. I didn’t buy anything, but apparently not everyone shares my opinion because not everyone walked out empty handed.
We got back to the hotel and got ready to head out for dinner. We found this funky little cafe called Jack’s cafe that had this very European/American menu, not Peruvian at all. I had Pea and Ham soup. It was fabulous, thick and delicious. I mean, it wasn’t Peruvian, but it certainly wasn’t something I would ever eat in the U.S. either. So, well worth the experience :) We headed back and went to bed, because the next morning we were headed to Macchu Picchu, early.
When the hotel wakeup call went off at five am, I was not ready to get up. Too early :( But we had a nice long bus ride, followed by a two hour train ride, followed by a half hour bus ride before we actually got to Macchu Picchu at like 12, so it was ok. The train was awesome. I had never ridden in a train before, and the train seats were reversible. The scenery was gorgeous, I kind of felt like I was driving through Wyoming. That is a strange thing to say I know, but it was green and mountainous and I haven’t really traveled that much. We got to Macchu Picchu town and were met by our guide and had to wait some more even though we were already running late. Eventually we made it up to Macchu Picchu and the wait was well worth it. My first thought “this is a holy place, God is here”. Honestly, I understand why the Incans chose it to build their holy temple. It is a place to take a holy pilgrimage. I wish I could stay up there for weeks, have a worship session their with acoustic guitars and thousands of voices raised in praise of the Father in this place. It was very peaceful and I felt very close to Him, more so than in that ostentatious place we saw the day before that was supposed to be the second most beautiful church in the world. For me, that cathedral yesterday was not a church, it was a museum. Similarly, this historical site, Macchu Picchu, was not a piece of history but a place of worship. I wish we had all day to just be their and soak in the beauty and peace of this place, but we were running late and only had 2 and a half hours to take in all the history adn wonder of one of the 7 wonders of the world. So off we went, taking pictures, learning the history, “doing the mandatory” because you cannot come to Peru and not go to Macchu Picchu. It is just not allowed. But I wouldn’t want to miss it anyway. Because it was amazing. What the Incans had done, how long it had stayed up, the intricacies of their religion and lives. I loved it. It all ended too soon and we were back on the bus, eating lunch at a buffet, back on the train, back on the other bus and at 9pm, back at our hotel and the Macchu Picchu day was over. I would have loved to have even just a couple more hours, but I was so glad to have the chance to see Macchu Picchu, it was unforgettable
The next morning we didn’t have to get up til 7 am, and after waking up at 2 am and at 5 am, this felt like sleeping in. At eight we got on the bus, again, to head out on our tour of the Sacred Valley. We saw this really, really great zooish place. Great animals, Allie petted a deer. But the best part was the condors. The guy got them to fly down right over our heads so we could get a good look at them in flight. One of them about took my head off it flew so close!!! Then we saw how the natives make their homemade cloth: spinning, dying, and weaving. It was cool. Then we headed off to Pisac, another set of ruins. It was pretty, but the best part of this one was the terraces. They were so green and so pretty. We climbed all the way to the top and it was a great view from there. Then we headed to the markets in Pisac town. We got a little lesson on how to make silver and how to tell it was real and then they set us loose. We went crazy. All of us are starting to realize we are almost out of time to buy souveneirs.
Lunch was a buffet, again, in a place about 50 minutes away from Pisac. It was good. I liked the chicken and the lamb, but mostly we all loved the desserts :) They were fabulous. Then, we were off to Ollantaytambo, the ruins of 200 stairs. More history here. Finally was informed about why the Southern cross was so important, because it is like the North star of the Southern Hemisphere. Also, we found out about the face of the Incan King. It is certainly interesting that they would go to all the trouble of carving it into their mountains. And they drug the hugest rocks I have ever seen up those mountains! Honestly, it was really cool. Then we climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more. Being a little scared of heights, climbing down was terrifying. However, totally worth it to have gone all the way up. Then it was back on the bus, back to Cusco where it was raining buckets. Allie and I tried out her new chess set in the hotel lobby while we waited out the rain. I won, well she gave up, but I was going to win anyway
Around 8:30 it stopped raining and we decided to head to Cusco Central and get some supper. The restauraunt we were looking for, one with cultural dancers, turned out to not exist. BUT we got to see something cooler. One day a year the entire world turns out the lights for an hour and we got to see the protest in Cusco and all of the lights go out and eat dinner on the square during this hour. It was pretty awesome. Marta decided to order cuy, which is guinea pig, a Peruvian specialty. We all tried it and honestly it was interesting, I didn’t really like it. But I’m glad I tried it :) However, I really like the alpaca I ordered, it kind of tasted like venison and it was yummy :) We even got free lemonade :) Good night, despite the lack of dancers. We headed back to the hotel, and I made it an early night.
The next morning, some of us were up at 6 so we could go to a Palm Sunday Service in the Catedral in the center of Cuzco at 7:30. It is a once in a lifetime experience, and I wasn’t missing it. I loved the service, it was in Spanish rather than Quechua so I mostly understood it. The palm leaves in Peru are much different than in the states, they are like a flower boquet, or something that is put on a grave make out of different pieces of palm leaves. Very different. They are sold EVERYWHERE on Palm Sunday. Anyway, it was a fast service, so we were back at the hotel by 8:30 and getting checked out by 9:30 so we could finish up our souveneir shopping, get some starbucks (first time I have ever been to a real starbucks and it was in Peru, weird huh?), and hop on the bus to wait for our late plane. Planes here seem to have a tendency to be running late, but that meant that I finished Crespusculo (Twilight) and could send it back to Carla with Allie. Also I got to spend plenty of time studying for my grammar test. Eventually we got on the plane and got back and my family picked me up from the airport
When I got back to the house, the party for Carla, my ecuadorian cousin, was just getting over. Carla, Allesia, Mari, and I played cards, discussed semana santa and basically just had a good time for hours. Eventually I did go to bed, exhausted. What a great weekend