Cusco (Daytrip to Machu Picchu), Peru

We met Londoners Nick Rabin and Kim Davidson celebrating their honeymoon in Peru.

Mate de coca (coca tea) is a delicious, energizing drink that has been popular throughout the Andes for centuries. Since processed coca leaves produce cocaine, the tea is not found anywhere else in the world.

The stone terracing, which allowed crops to be farmed on a mountainside, is an extraordinary show of man’s will to make things happen. We have found that mankind has figured out ways to survive under harsh conditions all over the world throughout history.

Alpacas roam freely at Machu Picchu offering photo opportunities for visitors. Machu Picchu attracts more tourists than any other site in South America.

The Inca structures were so finely engineered that many still stand after hundreds of years despite many earthquakes in the region. The Spanish were never able to build without mortar or with such huge stones.

Massive stones, some of which weighed more than one ton, were carved and erected without mortar throughout the Inca empire.

One of the main reasons Machu Picchu has become so popular is because of its unique setting and views.

The second highest spot at Machu Picchu was apparently used for various ceremonies.

All the stone from Machu Picchu came from four nearby quarries and was hauled to the top of the mountain without wheels or horses or oxen.

The ruins of Machu Picchu are superior to most other Inca ruins, since Machu Picchu stood at the top of a mountain and was abandoned hundreds of years ago.

Machu Picchu was basically a small town of 600-800 people, about which little is known definitively.

Machu Picchu stands 2,380 meters above sea level offering incredible mountain and valley views.

9 September 2001 – Woke early to make the 6 a.m. train to Machu Picchu, which turned out to be a delightful, relaxing train ride through villages nestled along the Andes. At certain times while descending or climbing a mountain, the train passed a point intentionally and then reversed in order to meet up with another set of tracks – zigzagging, as Jim calls it. The conductor leads the train on a 100-year-old track, which conquers high peaks by zigzagging over a smaller space instead of curving over a larger mass. Our modern “tourist” train, with every amenity – toilet, toilet paper, padded seats, a few foot rests and even a morning snack – costs more than the “Peruvian” train, which is subsidized for nationals.

After visiting the impressive Machu Picchu (see video and listen to audio for more on this), we returned to the base where the train drops off tourists for the 30-minute bus ride to the ruins. Here, oodles of stalls selling cheap tourists trinkets clutter the dirt roads. We sat in a wall-less restaurant with a cement roof and drank coca tea made from 10 coca leaves and steaming water. Mate de coca is refreshing, and, rightly or wrongly, reminds me of diluted green tea. The people of the Andes have been drinking this concoction, sometimes sweetened with sugar, for hundreds of years, and also chewing the leaves for taste and energy. Since cocaine comes from processed coca leaves, the drink isn't easy to come by except in this part of the world, but its popularity in Bolivia and Peru has led to a booming business in coca tea bags.

Machu Picchu
  Machu Picchu (Jim)