My South American Adventure part 2

Date: January 15,2015 By: Laura Ross Categories: News

Traveling in November 2014, this part of my journey travels by train through the green Sacred Valley into the cloud forest – the place where the heat of the Andes meets the rain in the Peruvian Amazon and onto the unforgettable Machu Picchu…

The train journey from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchuaboard Peru Rail is magnificent. From Ollantaytambo the train descends into the valley and the Andean foothills as you pass crops grown on old Inca terraces, ruins and local villages. Colourfully clad children wave as the train passes. The Vistadome service has comfy chairs and large windows and a glass ceiling to make the most of the spectacular scenery. It’s exciting to see the hikers tackling the 4 or 5 day Inca Trail starting their long trek to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Then the scenery starts to change as you start to approach the Cloud Forest – lush green tropical forest. Red bromeliads fight for space on the trees, plants overhang, hummingbirds flitter between bright flowers, and the mountains become carpeted in rich green foliage following the rush of the Urubamba River. Snow-capped mountain tops can be viewed through the roof and the train toots its horn as we arrive in Aguas Calientes. Like many towns that service a major tourist destination, this one was built quickly and sometimes insensitively and the Andean pan pipes echo around the higgledy-piggledy streets.

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The river could be heard rushing past from my hotel window and the rain battered against the panes. Was this the day I was going to see Machu Picchu? Leaving my sunhat behind I took the bus up to the site which climbed up the hill for twenty or so minutes along a series of switchbacks. We climbed up stone steps to reach the site with that iconic view. It had stopped raining but all I could see was swirling clouds. But then they seemed to lift a little and over the next half hour, the site revealed tantalising glimpses of herself to me before hiding again. It added to the magic and the mystery and when the sun finally burst through the clouds the wait was worth every moment. Nothing prepared me for the sheer scale of the whole area – the 360 degree views from the site make you feel like you are on top of the world. Like a condor you can see the richly green mountain tops and a walk to the Sun Gate takes you higher and further away from the crowds. I felt quite humbled and teary from up here, in awe of the Incas and their extraordinary ability to build such an incredible place in such an inhospitable environment in the 1450s. Peru had got under my skin and as I retraced my steps to Lima, I was sad to be leaving this otherworldly place…

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