• img_9711img_9683 img_9684 img_9686Our last stop is the seaside city of Valparaiso.

We decided to stay here in preference to another 2 nights in Santiago. We like the sea, we’d heard about the liveliness of the city and we thought it would provide a rest before the journey home. It’s been a busy time.

Unfortunately our luggage was lost between Cusco and Santiago airport. So our late arrival turned into an even later night. Luckily for us our booked driver Carlos waited and we finally got to Valparaiso at about 2am!

Needless  to say we washed the smalls!

Our hotel is beautiful and overlooks the big harbour.

We took to the streets in our only clothes and didn’t stop all day. It’s a vibrant, slightly grungy, dynamic, friendly and extremely colourful city.

Graffiti is everywhere. The city is well know for it.

I loved it.

we went on the trolley bus, the funicular, we walked  we took a walking tour and finally at 6pm we sat with a gorgeous view

Then dinner and a funny night which included me dancing in the street and singing at a bar with some Germans!

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Magical Machu Picchu

Travelling needs to flexible.

Our plan to rise before sunrise to be at Machu Picchu (old peak) was shelved. It rained all night and there was heavy fog so we pushed our leaving time back to 7.30.
Our guide Jo Ricardo from Chimu Adventures arrived promptly and was all smiles and full of sayings. ‘The early bird catches the worm’ ‘make haste while the sun shines’ ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket ‘. It was like he’d swallowed a book of proverbs.
A brisk walk to the bus station to a very short queue and we were at the main gate when Joe announced ‘no time like the present ‘ as we entered the gate.


Right from the start I was captivated by this amazing sight. We walked with Joe for 2 and a half hours as he brought the story of the Incas alive for us.


Joe resting while we take photos

The building of this city, how the Incas lived, how potatoes were as precious as gold, the invasion of the Spanish, the customs of living in such a remote place, and the discovery by Hiram Bingham. Hiram Bingham III was an American academic, explorer and politician. He made public the existence of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911.p1000628


The walk with Joe was the history part. He gave lots of information and took us to the most intact and important buildings on site. Then he left us to discover on our own.


Dressed ready for walking Including one walking stick to aid my poor knee


We were keen to go to the Sun Gate. This is the Top Gate which is the entry port for those intrepid walkers who have done the 3 night / 4 day walk up from Ollantantambo. People like our Rob and the Youngs’ and Baartz’. I have such admiration for them as it’s not an easy walk.

So Steve and I set off up hill for what we thought would be an hour walk. The path was rocky and shaded in part by vegetation and you needed to concentrate on your footing. We were passed by young groups of all nationalities. After about 35 mins of steady slow walking stopping for photos we thought we were only half way when we rounded the corner and there above us was the gate. It took about 40 mins. We actually got there before so the younger ones who tended to sit on the way up and have a break. We walked steadily!



Was it worth the climb. Yes, yes and yes. The cloud came and went and revealed, as if by magic, the ancient city of MP below. We sat in silence on a rock overlooking this magical place thinking. It’s a special place and as the Incas thought – close to God, if that is your belief. It’s certainly a spiritual place and apart from a few noisy people every now and then it’s quiet.

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We loved it. Coming down is a different walk. Going down is hard on knees but again we moved steadily. Stopping for photos of some men planting ground covers, and a posse of three spotted hens, we made it back to a shaded terrace overlooking the city of Machu Picchu. Quicker time.


The walk back from the Sun Gate


See the City of Machu Picchu behind Steve


The livestock on the track

A little more walking to the guard house.

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Some photos and by 2pm we cp1000712alled it a day.
We would love to have climbed to mountain next to MP – Huayna Picchu. Word was it is a hard climb quite treacherous at times because of its steepness and narrow track. But if you can climb and don’t suffer vertigo then go for it. We would love to have stayed another night and go up but ………
we were satisfied.

We sat at the cafe overlooking the old city and had a beer before returning back to the hotel for a shower and the train ride back to Ollantantambo and then car to Cusco.
A late dinner with our new swim buddy friend Bill , father of Swim Trek owner Simon Murie, from London. We were exhausted but happy.
In a separate post I’ll give some suggestions of ways to plan for a visit to Machu Picchu

Secret Valley Tour onto Machu Picchu. 

Pick up at 7.30am and a new guide with a name that sounded like Alora! He spoke with gusto and is a born story teller. He was raised in Ollantantambo so when we reached there he was in his element.

First stop, a llama and alpaca farm. Close up they are inquisitive faced messy haired creatures.

The drive towards the top of the valley is a sight. After so much rain it’s green and flat with crops growing toward the hills and mountains which are terraced, intact from Inca days. My how those Incas worked. Al told us that they all knew ‘no work no food’ so to the locals it was as important to grow potatoes than it was to have gold ‘ because you can’t eat gold’.


View of the Sacred Valley



First stop Pisac. We walked up hill and got a very good story from Al about how the Incas survived. Potatoes! We climbed to the top – the guard house where the view was magnificent.

Next stop the town and a rather good look at a jewellery shop with explanation of the design, materials and stones used.
As it was Valentines Day I was spoilt with a pair of silver and mother of pearl earrings.


Young man in the bakery in Pisac

Onto lunch at a hotel that was Monastery. A beautiful place in a very humble town. Mind you we could have stopped at any of the road side roast guinea pig stall to try the local delicacy.

We shared lunch with a couple from a NSW country town. Steve happens to know his brother!
Then it was onto Al’s home town of Ollantantambo. It’s charming.

p1000531He was so excited to tell us about the 200 steps we would walk to the temple, the faces that can be seen in the rock face, the point where the sun appears on summer solstice. He explained how clever the Incas were to be able to transfer rock to such high places, to cut it straight. To join it without mortar. Impressive.


p1000548By the time we climbed down it was onto our next adventure. Our train to Agua Caliente.

There are several trains going slowly up to Machu Picchu. The top shelf ride is the Hiram Bingham. It’s expensive. We had decided on the next class down. But I was so disappointed.
It was hot when we boarded. We weren’t seated together. I was on the aisle next to a big bear of a man and across from the toilet. Not a good place for a view. Steve was a row in front. On the aisle as well. He offered to swap but I stuck with my bad seat and after a while struck up conversation with Carl, a most interesting Austrian man. A retired naval architect. He’d lived a lot in South America and had with him 14 other Austrians. He was their tour leader.
We chatted most of the way. He was a font of knowledge and funny as well. So my bad seat turned into a good seat. Never can tell. Steve was quite jealous. No view though!

Our flash hotel had sent someone to meet us and carry our 5 kg bag to the hotel. We had a suite. Very nice. It’s a good 60 step climb to our room with its heated outdoor spa pool. I wanted to stay in the room for dinner but we were meeting Barry our swim trek friend, who had arrived in style on the Hiram Bingham train!

Our guide also met us and we made a plan for the morning. We are hoping for fine weather as it’s raining steadily tonight.

It was Valentines night so we made a lovely threesome in the dining room by candlelight, eating our 3 course included in the tariff meal.

Too excited about tomorrow to sleep. So listening to the rain and imagining.