Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru

Our friends Scott and Travis, from Atlanta, invited us to join them on a trip to Peru.  Specifically, Cusco and Machu Picchu.  We immediately said yes and the planning began five months ago.  Two weeks ago we met them in Quito and we spent three days enjoying the city.  One of Mike and my favorite things to do in Quito is to climb up to one of the spires atop the Basilica.  Scott and Travis, being the brave souls they are, joined us on the climb.  

We then continued to visit other key destinations in the city including the party district known as Foch Plaza.

We were also interviewed by several students for a school project they were working on.

The next day we were off to the Equator where we were greeted by this guy.

Here is Travis standing with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere.  

We participated in several experiments.  Scott and Travis attempting to balance and egg on the head of a nail.

Scott was successful and received the much coveted "Egg Master" certificate.

These are a few pics I took around the new United Nations of South America building located at the Equator.

We then enjoyed a traditional Ecuadorian lunch.  No, we did not eat the guinea pig.

The next morning we were up early to catch our flight to Peru.  First, we flew to Lima, Peru and after a short layover, we took a second flight to our destination of Cusco, Peru.  Our hotel was in the city center and was very nice.  

Most of my readers have said they enjoy pictures and not so much writing.  So, here are some random pics of the City of Cusco, Peru.

After two days in Cusco it was time to board the train for a beautiful three and a half hour ride to Machu Picchu.

Time was of the essence on this day.  After the train ride we then had to find the ticket office to buy our bus tickets for the ride up to the entrance to Machu Picchu.  Our entrance tickets, purchased five months in advance, to climb the mountain, Huayna Picchu, were only good from 10:00am - 11:00am, and we were quickly nearing the cut-off time.  The entrance gate to Huayna Picchu closes for the day at 11:00am, we arrived at the gate at 10:59am!  We were the last guests allowed to enter.  

None of us were aware of what we were about to get ourselves into.  We all thought it would be a little hike up a mountain to get a nice view of the ruins of Machu Picchu.  The peak of Huayna Picchu is 8,920 feet about sea level, or 1,180 feet HIGHER than Machu Picchu.  The trek to the peak was death defying to say the least.  Scott and Mike faired better than Travis and me.  We stopped several times along the way to ward off exhaustion and fainting.  Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? No! Would I recommend you do it? No!  The picture above was taken at the entrance gate.  One and a half hours later, and feeling near death, we were at the peak.  Enjoy the pictures.

Take a look at the rocky trail.  At this point Travis and I were wondering what on earth we had signed up for.  The same trail is used for going up and for going down.  

Here are Scott and Mike ahead of us.  See the hand cable?  Those were few and far between.

Finally, we made it to the top!

The journey down was more terrifying than the climb up.  This is at the peak, just when you start to go down.  Notice the narrow steps and no handrail!!  It took us an hour to get down the mountain.

Here I am after the climb.  I was dehydrated, hungry, and I swear I was hallucinating.  I felt like a zombie.  However, all four of us now have bragging rights for having conquered that beast behind me!

Here are pictures of the Machu Picchu ruins.

After exploring the ruins we took the bus ride back down to the town and enjoyed a late lunch by the river.

We also took time to shop for souvenirs.

Then it was back on the train for the ride back to Cusco.

Then, this happened.

Turned out it was a fashion show for Peruvian clothes modeled by the train attendants.

We stayed in Cusco for two more days enjoying the sites and food.

The next day, after four airports, and three flights, we were back in Cuenca.  Scott and Travis stayed a week with us.  For lunch one day we enjoyed hornado (roasted pig) and fresh juice.

Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, was in Cuenca.  Here are his guards outside one of the churches. 

A visit to Cuenca would not be complete without spending a Saturday night dining at Joes' Secret Garden.  The theme for the night was Mexican food.  

Over the next several days we continued to eat.  These pics are from the new Julius Caesar Restaurant.

And what is a vacation without pampering yourself?  The Piedra De Agua Hot Springs and Spa, in nearby Banos, was very relaxing and rejuvenating.

The rest of the week was spent enjoying a couple of museums.

We made sure that the end of Scott and Travis' visit ended with a bang!  The first night of the annual Corpus Christi celebration began with fireworks and the traditional candies.

From there we went to the club and danced the night away.

Their flight home was late Saturday afternoon.  We took advantage of the few hours they had left in Cuenca and visited the new City Museum.

Scott and Travis are now back home in Atlanta resting up from their two weeks in South America.  We had a great time and are looking forward to seeing them in a few weeks when we visit the USA.