Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Breathtaking Machu Picchu

High above the Urubamba river
So, was it worth crossing the Atlantic and South America by train, plane and automobile (and catamaran) to see Machu Picchu? I was worried that the climax of our month-long trip might be a disappointment. But it turned out to be a real high point!

The ruins themselves are well-preserved and sprawl across the hillside. You can spend hours wandering through the various temples, buildings and terraces that rise hundreds of feet. The 45-minute Inca bridge trail through the jungle and along the edge of precipitous slopes was fun and a lot easier than the better-known four-day trek to the site.

It is this spectacular geography that really makes the city. Hundreds of metres up from the Urubamba river, it is ringed with mountains almost 6km high. The clouds tumbling over these peaks and through the valley change the views every few moments. One hundred kilometres of altiplano and dense jungle from local capital Cusco, you can see how the city was entirely missed by the Spanish conquistadores.

Cusco itself was a charming place to relax for a week. It took a few days to adjust to the altitude (3500m) and was tiring to climb even the slightest hill. But the local restaurants compared with the best of Rio and Buenos Aires, and we even managed to find some draught English beer in the highest Irish pub in the world. It's fun to act like a real gringo sometimes :)

If London wasn't such a spectacular city itself, I would be less happy to be flying home (via Lima and Sao Paulo) tomorrow!

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