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Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 19

Our intrepid traveler's three-month journey on a cruise ship: Visiting Machu Picchu

By Armando F. Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: April 3, 2013

Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 19

The traveling schedule starting from the cruise ship in port ofLima, Peru.

The city of Lima is on the coast of Peru. We flew inland to get to the beautiful and historic Cusco which is the closest city to the Machu Picchu archeological area. Cusco is in the interior of the country and it would take 22 hours by road to get there from Lima. Cusco has a domestic flights airport and the plane trip is just under an hour. We are flying southeast over the Andes mountains from the Lima airport.

The airport and jet are modern and we are in a jet with 124 passengers. As soon as we left the Lima airport we began to experience some air turbulence but it was only for a very short period. Looking out the window we could immediately see snow covered mountains. I reminded myself that this is the summer months here.

The altitude of Cusco is approximately 11,000 feet above sea level. There is always of a chance of a short rain during the day. The locals wear light jackets and it will be cool in the evening. Several persons shared that they felt a bit lightheaded but no major issues. We were offered coca tea to help us adapt to the altitude.

The maps shows that there are about 14 other archeological sites of multiple sizes scattered throughout this area.

Machu Picchu is only one of those areas and it has a concentration of sites within this world renown area. Machu Picchu is still 66 miles northwest of Cusco. Machu Picchu grounds are within a national park at about 9,000 feet in altitude. In the entrance area into the park area there is a village called Aguas Calientes.

The Machu Pichu park can only be accessed by local train at the Ollanta station. Odd but there are no direct roads to here. The mountain range around it makes it prohibitive. The tourist trains are quite comfortable and the trip is also about 90-minutes.

Something special about the short train ride is that when one begins from the station you are in the Peruvian highlands. As one passes the halfway point, the train begins to enter the Amazon region. The rivers running along the train tracks will all enter the Amazon river. The vegetation viewed at the beginning is farmland and upon reaching the park, it became rain forest. Machu Picchu is actually on a very high jagged mountain within the eastern Amazon rain forest. Close observation of pictures of the site normally highlight light fast moving rain clouds in the vicinity. The weather that day we were there was very comfortable with an occasional mist rain.

To summarize the major steps we took to travel to Machu Picchu, we had to disembark the cruise ship in Lima, fly into Cusco, take a small tourist bus to the train station, and then a train ride to the park entrance. There are shuttles that take persons into the park and take you to the base of the archeological site. So the time it would take to travel and go from Lima to reach the entrance of the park would be a minimum of 6-8 hours plus any waiting time in-between.

It ultimately took us three days to get to Machu Picchu and return to ship. Two days for air travel back and forth and the one day we had to go into the park which was exhilarating and exhausting. We left our hotel in Cusco at 3 am and returned at 7 pm (sixteen hours). We were actually only on the site for only 4 hours.

Was it worth it? For us personally, the response is YES! It's the location and the journey getting there that made it very special.

While we were waiting to board the trains, we saw persons from many parts of the world visiting this site. We could hear persons speaking French, German, Chinese, Italian and many more. Some had come to walk around the site for a day while others were climbing in and around the area. Some were camping for a few days. Visitors at the site were of all ages and quite a bit of them were exchange college students attending South American universities.

As best as I could assess, the majority of us were excited and exhilarated to have visited here. For many of us, it was a lifelong goal to visit here. One discovers that its both the journey and destination that motivated us. We are driven to fulfill our dreams of seeing the historical sites of the world. It heightens our personal life experiences and adding depth to our views and understand of our great and diverse world.

We are certain that what we learn through our travels will continuously influence our personal perspectives and be past on to those we come in contact with.

I will continue, as I have throughout my life, to encourage everyone to always travel and explore.

It's not just a journey to see and appreciate what is out there, but also to discover what is uniquely inside each of us.

Now to go to the airport to fly north to Quito, Ecuador, spend the night there and then fly to the coast to the port to Manta where we will once again board our cruise ship. We will be traveling on the ship northward and our next destination is Costa Rica to do some river rafting on the Corobici River. It will be the second time I raft in Costa Rica.

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