Jules Lund travelled to Peru in South America for two unforgettable experiences.
He was bound for the most recognised Inca site on earth Machu Picchu on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley. The 100th anniversary of its introduction to the world is in 2011 cause for great celebration.
The other exciting part is getting there. Aboard the Hiram Bingham train, the 3.5-hour trip from Cusco is regarded as one of the world's greatest train journeys. It winds through the Andes and Sacred Valley treating passengers to amazing scenery as they enjoy the luxuries synonymous with the company that also operates the Orient-Express.
Run by PeruRail, it takes 84 passengers in four wagons. There are two dining wagons and an observation wagon with bar. The trip starts in the high plains that grow potatoes and quinoa and passes agricultural terraces from Incan times. At around noon, the train stops at the small town of Aguas Calientes. Passengers shop at a maze of handicraft stalls run by friendly locals. Then it's a walk over a bridge for the bus to Machu Picchu.
That's the way Jules chose to reach the mysterious ruins. The other option is a four-day trek along the Inca Trail. He met people who had done that and they said it was worth every step.
On July 24, 1911, American academic, explorer, treasure hunter and politician Hiram Bingham paid just a silver dollar to Melchor Arteaga, a Peruvian local, to lead him to ruins on top of a mountain. It had been forgotten by everyone, except the small number of people living in the immediate valley. "Surprise followed surprise in bewildering succession," he wrote. "The site left me spellbound. Would anyone believe what I had found?"
It's impossible to imagine how the Incas built their city so perfectly and so high in the Andes. They wanted to be closer to the sky, the gods and be surrounded by sacred mountains.
The ruins are divided into two main sections by a wall the terraced agricultural sector and urban sector. The latter is made up of 140 structures or features including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences including houses with thatched roofs. There are 100 flights of stone steps, some carved from a single granite block, and many water fountains interconnected by channels and water drains. The sectors measure 20 and 10 hectares respectively.
Polished dry-stone walls fit together perfectly without the use of mortar. You would be hard pushed to fit a blade of grass into the joins.
The primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows They are in the sacred district. Intihuatana is an absolute highlight. The primitive calendar uses the sun to tell the time of year. Jules found that just holding his hands over it, he could feel warmth and energy.
In 2007, Machu Picchu was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. There are many theories as to why it was deserted by the Incas just 100 years after it was created and will remain a mystery. It's perfectly preserved as it was probably the only Incan settlement not found and pillaged by Spanish conquistadors.
It's easy to see why Machu Picchu has captured the hearts and minds of millions of travellers and its classic image is recognised around the globe. Between May and September 2500 people visit each day.
The Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel located next to Machu Picchu. Staying at the hotel offers guests the opportunity to explore late in the evening and early in the day.
The property has just 31 rooms and guests have the choice of international cuisine and Andean specialities in the hotel's Tampu Restaurant Bar, which has wonderful views. The Tinkuy Buffet Restaurant serves lunch.
Machu Picchu in south-west Peru.
two-day, one-night packages from Cusco to Machu Picchu cost $2589 for two adults. They run on Monday and Saturday year-round.
LAN Airlines has flights to Cusco via Lima from:
- Sydney $2609
- Melbourne and Brisbane $2679
- Adelaide $2889
- Perth $3079
Prices correct at June 11, 2011.
For further information
Ph: 1800 221 572
Ph: 1800 395 000
Visa: Australians do not require a visa to enter Peru. They do need a passport and return ticket.
Electricity: 220V at 60Hz using plugs with two flat prongs.
Time zone: GMT -5.
Currency: The sol.
International dialling code: +51.
It is recommended travellers to Peru see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.