South America 2009 – Peru (3)

Monday, 16th February – Saturday, 21st February

The train arrived at the station at Agua Calientes where we were met by our guide. The coaches were waiting to take us up the mountain to Machu Picchu. This journey up through the mountains set the scene for what was to come.

As we entered the site we saw views familiar from magazine articles, but it was the setting that was spectacular. It was sunny but the site was surrounded on all sides by cloud covered mountains.

We walked up a steep path to get sight of a familiar view looking down on the site. The site is divided into two halves, one with the temples and buildings for the ‘upper classes’, on the other side the buildings of the workers. The stonework was not as impressive as that we had seen at Cuzco and Ollyantaytambo but we marvelled at the terraces and how the Incas had brought up the soil from the river down below.

We had lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel just outside the entrance, said goodbye to our guide, and then went back into the site to explore on our own. Later in the afternoon we made our way back to Agua Calientes and our hotel, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu. That was set in beautiful grounds. The following morning was damp but we took a couple of tours in the grounds of the hotel to see some rescued Spectacled Bears and the Orchid garden with over 350 varieties. Late in the afternoon we took the Vistadome train back to Cuzco.

The next day we took a flight to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon basin. We transferred to our lodge, the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, by motorised canoe along a wide river. Our time at the lodge was spent on a number of treks with our guide Percy, and we were paired with an American couple – Jackie and Ron from Los Angeles.

The lodge was of a high standard but the electricity (from a generator) was switched off at 10pm. We were kitted out with wellington boots as the trails were wet, it being the wet season.

The first afternoon we had a short trek through the grounds of the lodge, then, in the evening, a night walk where we saw tarantulas and night monkeys. The following day was fine and in the morning Michael went on a canopy walk in the grounds, and in the afternoon we went to a nearby island and waded along flooded trails with the water over the tops of our boots.

Our final day took us to a reserve with a 5km walk to a lake (Lake Sandaval) where we had a canoe ride. It became very wet and slippery on the muddy trail. We did manage to see capuchin and spider monkeys, cayman, and fish eagles, but were eventually absolutely drenched. The weather cleared in the afternoon and we went on another canoe ride through riverside lagoon at the Conception reserve and saw many Hawkins; large, primitive, hawk like birds with a call like a dog.

We left the next day in pouring rain for our flight back to Cuzco, then on to Quito in Ecuador the next morning, via Lima.

Trad. – El cóndor pasa