Machu Picchu

So that's pronounced Ma-chu Peek-chu. And quinoa, by the way, is pronounced keen-OH-ah. That's according to some Inka descendants who told me it was a Quechua word and they originally cultivated the stuff. But I'll probably just keep calling it keen-wah, so people don't give me funny looks.

The photos of Machu Picchu were taken over two days. The first day was gray and rainy with interesting clouds and mist. This is the day that I hiked in to MP from the Inka Trail.

The second set of photos are pleasingly sunny and I look far better in those photos, as these were taken a day later after I had spent the night and had a shower in Aguas Calientes, which is the little town below MP.

After waking at 3:30 am on the fourth day of our hike, we started trekking in the dark towards the Sun Gate. The sun rose before we arrived and we shed layer after layer of clothes and rain gear.

Finally, we arrived at the Sun Gate for our first view of MP way below us. It was cloudy and misty, but the views were unique and pretty.

We made the final walk down to the city, and joined the thousands of tourists there who had taken the bus up early that morning from Aguas Calientes.

Machu Picchu, according to our guide, Puma, was a temple, a fortress, and a university for the advanced people called the Inka. Their capital was Cuzco. Pilgrims and students made the challenging trek, fighting the altitude, weather and distance to the hidden city of Machu Picchu to study, worship, and work. The place was never discovered by the Spanish, who destroyed sites like these all over Peru. The Spanish also disturbed and desecrated graves to loot the precious metals that family members buried their loved ones with.

A number of settlements near to MP were built and provided staff and food for MP. We passed several of these along the hike. They are so well-preserved and fascinating. Many of them still have their original water supply/plumbing providing a steady flow of water into the village.

Puma gave us a guided tour and we took lots of photos, but we were pretty tired and hungry, so since I knew I was returning the next day, I headed down the mountain the to town and my hotel.

We ate a delicious lunch, had a pisco sour drink, and got cleaned up. It was a welcome return to normalcy.

The next day, I rode the bus up to MP and since the sun was out, I hiked back up to the Sun Gate. Thinking I was done with the climbing, I hadn't taken my altitude meds and really had a tough time with the much warmer weather and altitude, but I made it and it was absolutely worth it.

I walked all over the site and had a great time taking photos and enjoying the stunning views. I was surprised by just how the big MP is. The photos don't show the size or scale. There are terraced agricultural fields, homes, quarries, lookouts, temples, graves and astronomical equipment in the sprawling town.

I returned to Aguas Calientes, got lunch and a massage and took a train back to Ollantaytambo, where we had started the trek 5 days before. A shuttle bus took me to Cuzco. After a brief night in a hotel, I started making my way back to California.

At some point on that return journey, I started feeling sick. I spent six hours in the ER upon my return to San Diego. I had a severe UTI, Giardiasis and dehydration.

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