It all started with the movie. About 10 years ago, a friend of mine showed me a downloaded from the Internet popular-science film of Russian scientists “Peru and Bolivia long before the Incas.” I had a very vague idea about the location of this area. But an idea of going there and seeing these unusual constructions with my own eyes came to my mind. It took me a while to get to this region. I traveled first in many places of Southeast Asia and a little bit of Middle East. And finally this moment has come.
Tickets to Lima are bought. Mysterious megaliths of the past get closer. And the majestic Machu Picchu was the only place where I could imagine celebrating my 35th birthday. So, flights, including domestic ones, are booked, the plan for the first days is done, for the rest of the days I had a rough idea and wish list, and I was going to make up the details during the trip. At the end of the day my route went out like this: Lima -> Cusco -> Machu Picchu -> Ceusco -> La Paz -> Uyuni -> 3-days tour at Solar de Uyuni and Altiplano -> La Paz -> Tiwanaku -> Arequipa -> Colca Canyon -> Nazka -> Ica -> Lima. Exchange rate for September 2017: 1USD=3,22 soles. In Lima I was lucky to be hosted for the first night by a friend of a friend of mine. He showed a little bit around and helped to solve primary questions such as local sim card. It is always better to begin to get to know the country with someone local. I must say that I flew from Mexico, where I live recently, so from warm clothes I had only jeans, sneakers and light hoodie. In early September in Lima, despite the tropical latitude, it is pretty cool (probably because it’s located right by the of the ocean shore), so on the 1st day I had to go shopping. Alpaca sweater, jacket, leggins… Okay, now I think I’m ready to fly to the mountains – it’s gonna be even colder there.
Besides shopping, on the first day I took a walk at the seafront of Miraflores. I must say, my friend lived near the airport, means at the outskirts of the capital. Lima’s outskirts look rather depressive, like after bombing. Together with traditionally gray sky over this city (there are about 60 sunny days a year only) they made quite oppressive impression. A huge contrast to the clean, modern promenade of Miraflores. It feels like it’s not even different cities, but different countries.
The next morning I had a flight to Cusco. This ancient Inca capital is located in the Andes, at an altitude of 3,500 m. The whole city breathes with history, and is full of traces of different cultures. I was at such an altitude for the first time, so I did not know how would my body react to the likely occurrence of altitude sickness. It is difficult to say what exactly made my body feel weird – travelling, or lack of sleep, or sudden cold, or elevation, but the first 2 days I really felt somewhat unaccustomed, as just have recovered after high fever. But it did not prevent me from enjoying the unique atmosphere of the mountain town. Small, cozy, with stone pavement and 2-storey houses in the center, it is definitely permeated with the history of several cultures: pre-Inca civilization, expressed in polygonal masonry, Inca buildings, Spanish churches and balconies of colonial-style houses. And also it’s very tasty in Cusco! A huge number of small cafes and restauraunts in the center and an abundance of natural food, fruits and vegetables in the local market. Food and beverages in Peru are another special subject.
In Cusco I had 1.5 days to look around, make Bolivian visa, see something nearby and go to Machu Picchu, where I planned to celebrate my birthday. The remaining half a day after the flight I devoted to Cusco exploration. The next day I planned a visit to the Bolivian consulate for making visa (the procedure took me about half an hour) and the nearest seightseeing spots: Quariquancha – a Spanish church and a monastery built in the city center on top of the remains of polygonal masonry (entrance fee 15 soles) and Saqsayuman – ruins of the fortress at Cusco neighbourhood. I got there by local bus, about 30 minutes from the center. Desided to check “quickly” nearby to Saqsayuman ruins of the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, but hang out there until dark, so Saksauman had to be postponed til my returning from Machu Picchu. I walked by in the dark, going down to Cusco. The huge stones of the walls in the yellow light of street lamps and no one around looked mysterious and majestic.
The next day, having bought an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu for tomorrow in the government office for 152 soles (site for booking and payment http: //www.machupicchu. gob.pe ) and having printed out prepaid train ticket at the Perurail office (both offices are in the city center, near Plaza de Armas), I took a minivan to Ollantaytambo, to be exact, a jeep – at the bus station I was intercepted by the driver who took me and 5 other passengers there, 15 soles per person, less than 2 hours drive). The plan was as follows: arriving to Ollantaytambo, visiting local ruins, and at 7 pm taking the train to Aguas Calientes – a small town at the foot of the famous Machu Picchu. Fortunately, I had enough days, so I could spend as much time as I wanted to visit the ruins I was interested about. Many tourists heading to Ollantaytambo, take a tour or a private driver in Cusco to see the entire Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrada), which includes the complexes on the way from Cusco to Ollantaytambo: Chinchero, Moras, Moray, Pisac. In my oppinion, one day for all these sights is not just not enough, but catastrophically short. In addition, I do not like excursions, because usually you do not get enough time to see the place in detail and enjoy the atmosphere. I try to travel by myself, as much as possible, by taxi or public transport. I planned to come back to Cusco in 2 days to see the remaining sights… and just to enjoy the town itself, I fell in love with it!
At the entrance to the archaeological complex of Ollantaytambo, I purchased an entrance ticket to all local attractions, including this one, valid for 10 days (there are 2 options for tickets: either 4 sights for 2 days for 70 soles, or about 10 sights for 10 days for 130 soles). If you really plan to see the area, obviously, the second option is recommended. Having left my backpacks in a storage room, I went to one of the most impressive sights. And … well, what to say … You know, when I was walking along the ruins of Cusco and the Sacred Valley, my brain exploded with each passing day more and more. Yes, I very much support the theory of prehistoric highly developed civilizations we have no idea about, which trace remain only in stones. Although I treat these theories with caution and with a certain amount of reasonable skepticism, as there are too many fakes nowadays. I always try to separate the seeds from chaff. But it is not necessary there. Huge megalithic constructions created by polygonal masonry, mysterious and absolutely unreasonable from our point of view, high in the mountains just speak for themselves. They impress a way more than video or photo in the Internet. You have to be there, you have to look at these multi-toned granite blocks up on a high steep hill, you need to touch the smooth edges of the processed stones, so going after to any of the local museums, looking at the exhibition of primitive instruments of the Incas (for reference: the Inca empire is not as old as I thought, it existed approx 11th to 15th centuries only) to be trullTy astonished by the absurdity of the idea of creating such constructions with such tools. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to take pictures in Peruvian museums. Inka masonry in Ollantaytambo can also be seen here, as well as in other sights. Small rough stones on solution. Built over a series of huge smooth polygonal blocks, fitted to each other so close that you can not even insert a sheet of paper between them, with no solution used.
Of course, the most impressive and significant in the Ollantaytambo fortress are the monoliths of the Temple of the Sun. 6 huge smooth stones about 2.5 meters high and about 50 tones weight each. Up on a steep hill. On a small platform where it is impossible to fit the ammount of people whose power is needed to lift these stones up here. Having enjoyed Ollantaytambo, I went to the railway station. I was going to have 2 hour by train, Aguas Calientes, Birthday and … DREAM !!!