The next best thing to walking the Inca Trail and arriving at Machu Picchu at the end of a 4 or 5 day hike is to walk a section of the Inca Trail from Machu Picchu back to the Sungate, perched above the site. For me this was a great therapeutic experience that ranks on a higher scale than my many walks up Castle Hill in Townsville or Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane. Fortunately the high value compensates for the reduced frequency, and I will settle for a once in a lifetime experience for this walk.
I have long been fascinated by Machu Picchu, and I wasn’t dispapointed when I visited there on what turned out to be a beautiful day. The site is situated in the “cloud forest” environment, down the river valley from Cusco. It felt just like the tropical rainforests of north Queensland, except that the mountain cliffs where extreme and the site was off the scale in terms of wonders of the world. I was impressed by not only the construction achievements of the Incas in building on top of a mountain ridge, but also the design of the site and the buildings that are inspiring in so many ways. After travelling to the little service town of Aguas Calientes by train the preceeding day, we made an early start and were on site shortly after sunrise to welcome the trekkers on the Inca Trail and to avoid the large influx of day trippers from all over the world who frequent this site.
My visit to Cusco and the adjoining Sacred Valley included the usual Inca and pre-Inca sites and featured Colonial churches, including a catecomb. The Inca architecture has always fascinated me and I was impressed by the style and function of the stone walls, terraced farms, forts and temples, many of which have withstood centuries of earthquakes that proved too much for Spanish colonial and more contemporary buildings. There were the usual classical visits to hand weaving demonstrations and to markets, where I duly attempted to purchase gifts that I could successfully bring back to Australia without exceeding weight, size and quarantine restrictions. My best purchase was a shawl for my wife ! My worst was a set of music shakers for my grandson. These were made of gourd and included forbidden seeds, and were confiscated at Sydney airport !
I was fortunate when I arrived in Cusco, centre of Inca civilisation in the Peruvian Andes, to meet up with a friend of my sons who has been on extended travel through South America. Brendon had less than 2 hours before he was to take the plane to Lima, and we decided we would visit the local market in Cusco to have some lunch. While circumspect about how the food preparation might affect us in some of the eating places, we negotiated our way to a stall where we enjoyed a low cost 3-course local meal. Several days after Brendon left, I returned to the market for another meal and also indulged in the mango smoothie that Brendon had his eye on but had no time to try on our earlier visit.
My involvement in the Sympass meeting in Parana State in southern Brazil provided the opportunity to visit other parts of South America. Of all the possible iconic places, I chose Peru for a short visit. This was to explore Inca archeology and particulary to visit Machu Picchu. Such a visit takes you to Lima, national capital and home to more than 9 million people. A truly facinating city, Lima is situated on the Pacific Ocean and experiences an unusual climate where it hardly ever rains. The coast of Lima is an imposing site with over 80 m high cliffs of cemented gravel topped by medium rise buildings in a high risk earthquake zone. The Pacific coast provides marvellous amenity, and I was fortunate to have been hosted on my arrival by family members of a friend – Stephen and Cynthia. I hope you enjoy the video of my outings in Lima.
Iguazu Falls are located on the Iguazu River, bordering Brazil and Argentina, and just upstream of the Iguazu River and Parana River junction. The national park on the Brazilian side hosts many thousand of visitors to the “top” of the falls each day. Similar facilities with more extensive access to the base of the falls are provided on the Argentinian side. On the weekend I was there the crowds flocked to see this wonder of the natural world.
I know there are about 30 types of extreme sports for holiday makers. Typically I am not into these, but I doubt there could be a water sport to compare with the raft ride into the Iguazu Falls on Macuco Safari…I mean literally into the falls! The adrenalin rush of the ride was matched only by the awesome beauty of the Falls. The preparation experience was like strip poker, where we were told to leave all valuables and everything perishable on the land. Many reluctantly clung to essentials such as passports, wallets, phones, hats, shoes, thinking “I won’t leave these behind even for this”. Through encouragement these things were progessively relinquished at the various staging points down to river, and by the time we got to the jetty and understood what we were in for, most had surrendered everything they were clinging to. Even then I wore my cap onto the boat and although concealing it “safely” under my coat, came to the end of the ride without it. Enjoy the ride !