*This post was written by Ana’s husband Darek, who has been known to say, “I am married to South America.” Though born in Poland, he shares his wife’s passion for the people and the land, as you will see.
Hola! Let me catch up on our past few days of travel. We visited Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is located north of Cuzco, Peru, about 1 hour ride by bus. It is a beautiful place, a very fertile, deep valley with lots of corn and potato fields, which this region is famous for. Peruvians claim the original domestication of corn and potatoes and thousands of varieties of those vegetables. Indeed, the corn and potatoes are excellent and are the main staples of the local diet. The Peruvian soups are delicious, I even joked with one of our guides that Poles and Peruvians are “soup brothers”. The Peruvian cuisine is very tasty.
Anyway, that day we visited the Valle Sagrado and some more ruins of the Incan city of Ollantaytambo. That night and the following, we stayed in a lush and exotic spa/hotel called Aranwa located in the midst of cornfields in the Sacred Valley. This was Ana’s surprise for me, and a truly luxurious experience. I got a 20-minute freebie massage and we used the spa’s three different Jacuzzis. They also prepared a great Pisco sour, Pisco being a South American brandy.
Monday, 26th of October we did a day excursion to Machu Picchu. Initially we had it planned completely differently, but due to a hiccup in scheduling by our tour operator we were 2 days early for our start of the Inca Trail.
So we took the train from Pacha to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the foothill of Machu Picchu, then a bus 25 min up the hill to the entrance to the park and met with our guide Vladimir. A short walk from the entrance and we finally saw what we came for, the ancient city set on the high mountain plateau. The moment was a bit surreal, to finally see the place you only know from pictures and which is so deeply engrained in our minds as one of the most spectacular places of cultural heritage on earth.
The weather was cloudy but we could see most of the site, took a lot of pictures and walked around for 3 hrs enjoying the stories and explanations of our guide. This city was one of the major 4 Inca cities dating back to 15th century. They abandoned it in 1530’s as the Spanish conquistadors were advancing. Interestingly, the Spanish never found out about Machu Picchu as the Incas destroyed parts of the trail leading to it. The place was known to local farmers and was “discovered” to the western world in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American. He took the first photos which were published for the rest of the world to see.
Machu Picchu is everything one can imagine. A mystic site, a vestige of once powerful and sophisticated culture, a spectacular display of human engineering and a sad reminder that even the powerful can someday vanish.