Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Machu Picchu: A Near Fiber Free Post

While all of Peru was amazing, everyone knows and asks about Machu Picchu. Our group actually visited there towards the end of our trip. No, it was not the highest point that we visited: that was Picotani at 17,000 feet. Machu Picchu is about 8,000 feet, and I was no longer taking altitude medication by the time we got there. The air was a bit thin, however, and there was a little shortness of breath with lotsa walking or climbing stairs, of which there were many.

We took the train from Cusco (11,000 feet) to Aguas Calientes.
Much of the track had been rebuilt since the floods in spring of this year (2010) and discarded tracks were seen along the Urubamba River, which ran along the train line. Above right photo is of our train on a curve; the white area on the mountain is actually a landslide. Aguas Calientes was notable for our incredible hotel, Inka Terra, and for a huge tourist target market ("mercado"). The following day we boarded a bus at 7:30 am which took the switchback laden Hiram Bingham Highway up to Machu Picchu.

Stepping through the entry gate to see the city was pretty thrilling. The Incas built this facing the morning sun in winter. Somehow, archeologists have confirmed the uses of many of the buildings and spaces. Of course, there are terraces on which the Incas farmed, exploiting different elevations for variations in temperature, water, and soil nutrients. Bromeliads seen in the photo at right.

Below is a photo of me next to the Sacred Rock, the outline of which mirrors the outline of the mountains behind it.

OK, so it's not an entirely fiber free post; there were a number of llamas roaming and grazing. No, I was not one of the dopey tourists feeding them crackers.

Llama is not as soft as alpaca and is not bred

for color as alpaca is. But the fibers are soft and lofty for spinning. Llamas are friendlier and larger than alpacas, and look cute in hand knit chullos if one has a mind to dress one up. The lady at left did. She was at a scenic spot where our bus stopped for a photo op. She had her llamas at the ready for a photo in return for a couple of solas.

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