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Lucy French’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 24 Aug 2008

Location: Machu Picchu, Peru

MapWhere do you start when trying to write about one of the seven wonders of the world?

Awesome, majestic, so much so the place takes your breath away. After three days of acclimitising to high altitudes it was great to arrive in Machu Picchu on the train and find I could breathe easily. We took the bus up the switchback road in the early afternoon at a time when all the crowds have left to take the train back to Cusco. Until recently only 2500 people visited the ruined city each day, but once it became heritage listed as a seven wonder, over 5000 people visit each day, so it can be very crowded. We arrived at 2.00 pm almost with the place to ourselves. It´s so hard to describe what´s it like to view a city in the clouds, because that´s what it is. It´s the only intact Incan city that wasn´t dissemated by the spanish, and that´s only because it was so inaccessible. Soon I´ll have photographs so give you some idea of the scale of the place, but it´s beautiful and remarkable and frankly, quite stunning.

The moment I arrived I felt I had come home, something I hadn´t felt anywhere else in Peru. The city feels like it is held by the surrounding mountains, and gives a sense of sanctuary and peace.

The first afternoon was spent going to all the different sacred sites in the city and meditating.

Today was the highlight. We got up at 5.00 am for a sunrise meditation, and it was well worth it. We did ceremony in the temple of the condor and then most of us walked to the Sungate which is nearly 2 hours steep climbing from the city itself. The Sungate is on the Inca Trail and lies high above the city. You walk a path that the Incan´s would have walked in ancient times and it is paved with huge stones quarried from the local mountains. It isn´t so much a climb, but a feat of endurance. My friend Candi and I were the last to arrive, being the least fit, but we made it and the view from the top looking down on the city was spectacular. By the time we arrived it was 10.00 am and the sun had come out from behind the clouds. Exhausted but thrilled to be there, we simply sat and enjoyed the stunning views. We were so glad we had walked up in the coolness of the early morning because by the time the sun came out, it was really hot. In the 30s at least. It would have been horrendous to climb up in that heat.

What took us 2 hours to climb up, took 30 mins to climb down, that´s how steep it was! You had to concentrate on each step, as the rocks on the pathway are irregular in shape and size, you have to be more like a mountain goat and at the same time be conscious of the drop offs on the side which literally go down to the bottom of the mountain.

My legs felt like jelly by the time we got back to the entrance to the city where we took the bus back to the town below and joined the rest of the group to catch the train from Machu Picchu to Cusco. Now that was an adventure! The four hour trip was very entertaining. It included a fashion show of local alpaca fashion garments, with models who came down the ailsles dancing to western music.

We have now arrive in Cusco for three days, and our hotel is 5 star deluxe heaven!!!!

I have totally lost track of time. I have no idea what day of the week it is. But I am falling in love with Peru, it is a truly magical place.