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October 25, Cusco - Machu Picchu


The train station in Cusco. The locals go in on the left, the tourists to Machu Picchu on the right. The tourist train has comfortable vistadome cars, and will travel through villages and farmlands to the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River.







Mask of the sun, Inti, on the wall inside the station.










Two little guys, who’d probably rather be somewhere else, waiting for the train.







Our exhausted tour leader quickly takes advantage of the four-hour train ride. He probably needs a forty-hour nap. He has had one crisis after another to deal with, through no fault of his own. Just bad luck. Riders crashing all over the place. One broken leg, along with other injuries of a less traumatic nature. Damaged bikes. A trailer that is several hundred kilometres back in Puno, unable to go further and beyond repair without a new axle. João has been despatched to the other side of the continent to buy a new axle in Brazil, and the bureaucratic hassles surrounding that mission are mind-boggling. After unloading the pickup truck of luggage, Tony has gone all the way back to Puno to pick up Madeleine’s bike—so that she can ride out of Cusco under her own steam. Mauricio’s carefully planned schedule has gone up the creek in a hand basket.




The train climbs out of the valley where Cusco nestles.







Back and forth on special switchback tracks, through the suburbs of the city.






On the right is a glimpse of the lower track we just switched from. 






It’s eight o’clock in the morning; the city gets ready for a work day or a school day.












Did we happen to  mention that it’s chilly in the mornings up in the Andes?







Soon the landscape becomes more rural.














And greener.





















Heading towards the Sacred Valley of the Incas we start to see more agriculture.















Villages are strewn along the way.






With lots of construction.




















The village of Anta.







Locals hope to sell their produce to train passengers.







Penetrating the Sacred Valley of the Incas we see the remains of Inca agricultural terraces on the hillside.






The Urubamba River (also known as the Vilcanota), sacred to the Incas.














Off to work with plough over his shoulder.






This valley is said to be one of the most fertile in the world.







Corn with particularly large kernels has grown here continuously since the time of the Incas, and probably long before.














The village of Ollantaytambo.





A glimpse of snow-capped peaks of the Andes in the clouds.







Clothes lines are universal.







We took the easy way to Machu Picchu. Hardier folks do the four-day Inca Trail. This is the start of the trail. Local porters carry the packs for the gringos, but it’s not easy going even without a pack. It will take them four days to cover what we will do in an hour in the train. They climb up—over 4000 metres—and down, and up and down and finally come to Machu Piccu at 2400 metres. It’s for the fit. There’s also a seven day hike that goes up over 5000 metres.It’s for the very fit.



A glimpse of an Inca ruin.







A tantalizing glimpse of an Inca fortress above and to the right of the building with the red roof. Trust us, it’s there.







A “better” view of the fortress, unfortunately marred by power lines. It’s tough getting good shots from a moving train.






Deep into the Sacred Valley the vegetation is lush in the extreme.








And the river winds and winds.










The valley is quite warm. The ruins and terraces of the Inca fortress Wiñay Wayna on the slope to the left of the lovely flowering tree.








The spanking new railway station at Aguas Calientes (Warm Waters).







The little town of Aguas Calientes is directly below Machu Picchu.










Basically a tourist town.






Buses wait to take tourists up to the ruins.