About Machu Picchu

The Global Volunteer Network's Machu Picchu Fundraising Trek offers participants the opportunity to hike the Inca Trail to the ancient city of Machu Picchu in order to raise money to support the education and nutrition of Peruvian children.

The funds you raise will be used to fund feeding programs at schools in the Sacred Valley of Peru. The feeding programs provide children with a vitamin and a meal each day and have greatly reduced malnutrition in the region. Education levels have also been improved as the children now have the energy to concentrate during class. Your funds will also be used to run a leadership program for girls living at an orphanage in Anta.

To learn more, please visit the Global Volunteer Network Machu Picchu program page.

Recent Machu Picchu Journals:

Wise, Strong, Wealthy, Healthy: July 19, 2010

 Posted by Michael Broder at 9:00 am  Machu Picchu  Comments Off on Wise, Strong, Wealthy, Healthy: July 19, 2010
Jul 222010
 

July 19, 2010: Wise, Strong, Wealthy, Healthy

Many think that all Peru has to offer the world is poverty, crime, and Machu Picchu, but everyone who thinks such things is so incredibly incorrect. Peru is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever traveled to, and it contains within its borders so much natural beauty that is unknown to most tourists and world travelers. I came here expecting to see Machu Picchu and hopefully Lake Titicaca and for the rest of the time to volunteer, but I have had and will have the opportunity to see so much more than I ever hoped or dreamed of seeing. I went to Colca Canyon and Machu Picchu. I am going to Puno and Lake Titicaca tonight and the jungle for a week starting this Friday. I love everything about this place, and I hope that everyone has the chance to come here one day because the history here, the landscape, the people all make Peru an incredible destination for people who love to see the world at its best. Ok, enough sounding like a Lonely Planet guide book, but seriously this is the most amazing place. Now to tell you about my weekend journey to Machu Picchu, a breathtaking, magical, mindboggling wonder of the world.

On Saturday morning at about 5 am Emily and I woke up ready for our adventure to Machu Picchu. For a change, it was raining and icy cold and the two of us were exhausted from a lack of sleep. We were picked up at our accomodation by a taxi driver, and we were driven to another area of the city where we picked up two people who would be joining us on our trip. We were then driven up the steep roads and hills surrounding the city and at a few points had an incredible mountaintop view of my hometown, Cusco, Peru. Our taxi must have been fifteen years old because it was a hunk of garbage and could barely make it up the surrounding mountains without stalling. After about 30 minutes in the cab we made it to the Poroy train station where we would board our Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes, the small dumpy city that lies at the base of Machu Picchu.

The train was really fancy, for the seats were all comfortable and leather and the windows so large that one could see basically everything outside the train on both sides. Also, instead of having a real ceiling, the entire roof was basically covered with a bunch of decent sized glass windows, hence the name Vistadome train. The windows in the roof allowed us to get really cool views of the monstrous mountains that surrounded us when we were trudging through a deep canyon for hours. Since it was raining and cloudy it was a little difficult to take pictures of these beastly entities, but trust me it was so incredible to watch the clouds float over and past these towering giants. The train ride in full was about 3 hours long, but it was not that bad because we were served a delicious breakfast of bread and lox, fruit salad, and cookies and had spectacular views of the Andes mountain range. Once again, I tried to take pictures of these huge, powerful mountains but it is just impossible to capture their incredible size and beauty with a simple camera.

At 10:30 am we arrived in the dumpy village of Aguas Calientes that lies right below the site of Machu Picchu. We met with a guy who was to bring us to our hotel, which was a two minute walk from the train station, and he made us wait in a corner for ten minutes before we could go to our hotel for no apparent reason. All around us were steep green mountains that were that day covered for the most part in fog. Finally we were taken to our accomodation, which was pretty nice, and then set out to get some lunch. We went to the Plaza de Armas and had lunch on the second floor of a random restaurant overlooking the square. The guy that convinced us to come in the restaurant said that we could get any plate we wanted for 20 soles. We thought this a good deal because all the other restaurants were so pricy. Aguas Calientes is really a terrible place because its only purpose is to rip off unsuspecting tourists who have no choice but to buy whatever food and suveniors are available in the city. After lunch when we got the bill they charged us 8 soles tax. Later, we found out that they are not allowed to tax us, for there is no tax in Peru on food or clothing. The reason they offered us such a “good” price for our meals was because they knew they would get more money by duping us into paying an illegal tax. After eating lunch, me and Emily just sat in the restaurant and talked for an hour or so about how crazy it is that we are in Peru and how wierd it is that we are starting college in less than a month and a half. We then walked through the over-priced market, did not buy anything, and then returned to our hotel. I was so eager to find out if my new baby cousin was born, so I went to a nearby internet cafe and found out that Vera Grace Silk was born early that morning. I was so excited to have a new cousin, and I returned to the hotel with a huge smile on my face, excited to tell Emily the good news. Emily then took a nap while I read about Incan history in her guidebook. The Incas are so fascinating to learn about. They achieved the highest level of civilization within just under one hundred years of being an empire. I learned about the ninth Inca, or king, Pachacutec, who has statues built of him all over the country, and how he was the one who really turned the little Inca tribe into a huge empire. Right near my house in Cusco is a gigantic statue of Pachacutec, and I never knew why he was so revered until I read the guidebook. At the height of their power they ruled from around what is modern day Ecuador all the way down to central Chile. The only reasons why they were so easily destroyed and defeated by the Spanish were that the Spanish had diseases that the Incas were not immune to and the empire was divided when the Spanish arrived. The four characteristics that the Incas aspired to possess were to be wise, strong, wealthy, and healthy. If it were not for these four characteristics driving their personas, the Incas probably would not have been half as successful as they once were.

After chilling in our room for a few hours because of the dearth of possible activities in Aguas Calientes, we went out and got another really expensive dinner. We then got back to our hotel and waited until our 7:30 pm orientation from our tour guide. While we were waiting for the orientation, there were small, but extremely loud groups of natives parading around the city blowing trumpets and banging drums. It was so obnoxious only because there was no holiday being celebrated the noise persisted all night long. After meeting with our guide and figuring out that we would need to wake up at five in the morning to be able to see the sun rise from Machu Picchu the next day, me and Emily went to bed so we would be able to wake up that early in the morning.

We got up on Sunday, got dressed and packed our bags quickly, ate a rapid breakfast and amazing fresh-squeezed orange juice, and walked to the bus station from where we would take our bus up to Machu Picchu. As we drove up the mountain on switch back after switch back, we almost collided with about five or six different buses coming down the mountain. The road was only really one lane, so it was not very safe to be barreling up the mountain as we were doing throughout the painful 25 minute bus ride. Finally, we arrived at the top and got in line to enter the site. Our tour guide was late but eventually he showed up bearing the red flag that he said he would be holding the night before. At first, we walked up to the sight where you have the post card view of all the Machu Picchu ruins; however, it was really cloudy and you could barely see the site below. We explored the upper parts of the mountain away from the ruins that everyone sees in the postcars and took cool pictures of the sunrise and the massive green and snow-capped mountains that surrounded Machu Picchu. Eventually, the fog burned off and we could get that unforgettable view of one of the most beautiful wonders of the world. I know Machu Picchu is not one of the seven wonders of the world, but it ought to be because it was THE MOST INCREDIBLE THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. There is no way that any picture can show the awe-inspiring beauty of Machu Picchu, nor can any words do the site justice. All I can say is that if you want to understand how incredible, amazing, mindblowing, ridiculous, inspiring, beautiful, impressive, and unreal Machu Picchu is, you must go visit it. The contrast between the green mountain and the grey stone built on top of it makes for awesome views. The terraces are incredibly well-built, level, and their size and intricacy is so unbelievable. And the storage houses, temples, and sun dial are so impressive solely because they are sturdy enough to withstand the destructive forces of time. After we finished our guided tour, Emily, myself, and this girl Hazel we met through PATAS were exhausted and decided to skip hiking Machu Picchu mountain where there were supposedly incredible views of the ruins. Machu Picchu mountain is not actually the mountain with the ruins on it; rather, it is a really tall neighboring peak.

We sat on one of the hundreds of terraces, ate a snack, and just contemplated the beauty of what our eyes were taking in at the moment. From the terrace, we were gazing in awe at the surrounding giant, green, mindblowingly beautiful mountains. Machu Picchu is actually considered the highest point in the Amazon jungle, so I guess I can say that I have been to the Amazon. I am leaving to live in the Amazon jungle for a week starting tomorrow morning, but at the time I was in Machu Picchu I did not know that I was going to move my volunteer placement to the jungle for my last week in Peru.

At about 11 am, four and a half hours after arriving at the site, we decided to head back down to Aguas Calientes to get something to eat before we left for Cusco. Before I left the terrace I told Emily that I knew that I definitely would be back to Machu Picchu one day, but next time I will be seeing it through different eyes. It was just wierd to think how much I will change between now and when I return but what I am looking at will remain the same for all of those years. Just a cool/ bizarre thought.

When we got back to Aguas Calientes we found a Polleria, chicken place, to go to lunch. I got papas salchichas, which is a dish of fries covered in pieces of hot dog. After lunch, we had almost four hours to spare before our train left for Cusco, so we went back to our hotel and chilled for a few hours. I listened to music, watched the replay of the FIFA World Cup Finals, and read a childs book that romantacized Incan history. The time passed slowly, but eventually we got on the train and started our journey back to Cusco. For dinner on Peru Rail they served us four pieces of sushi, which tasted so good after not having ate asian food for more than four weeks. This meal made me nostalgiac. I really miss home food because there are so many different tastes. In Peru, potatoes are the staple and rice and chicken usually follow. I love chicken, but I do not think that I ever want to eat another potato ever again. At one point during the train ride home, the stewardess put on a fashion show of very expensive alpaca clothing for everyone in our rail car. It was really funny to watch because the train was not riding smoothly, so the “model” could not for the life of her walk straight. One time she actually got whatever she was wearing stuck on one of the passengers chairs. I was laughing the whole time the fashion show was going on because it was so ridiculous. After the show, the stewardess went from seat to seat trying to sell the goods she was just wearing. The women from Germany who was sitting across from me bought one of the wierdest looking items for 475 soles, outrageously overpriced alpaca wear. I got my alpaca sweaters for 30 soles each, but she apparently thought that was a good deal.

Finally, after an almost four hour train ride, we arrived in the station right outside of Cusco and were picked up by the same driver who brought us to the station the day before. During the whole ride back to the house, which was almost 30 minutes, I talked to him solely in spanish about a number of different things. He was telling me that he raises guinea pigs and chickens to eat, and he has two dogs and a cat just for pets. He was telling me he was happy that Germany did not win the world cup because he does not like Hitler, and he was nice enough to stop at the top of one of the mountains overlooking Cusco to show us how pretty the city looked lit up at night.

My trip to Machu Picchu was an incredible journey that I enjoyed to the max. Everyone must witness its incredible beauty and presence situated in a beautiful part of the Andes. The Incas achieved some amazing feats during their short empire, but Machu Picchu may be their number 1 accomplishment.

Early this morning on July 22, 2010, I arrived back to Cusco after traveling to Puno and Lake Titicaca. This trip was equally as incredible and fascinating as Machu Picchu. I wish I had time to do a blog on the highest navigable lake in the entire world, but I am leaving for the jungle tomorrow morning at 5 am and I am not returning until the day before my flight takes me back to the states. If I can, I will try to get that done before I leave, but I am not sure that that will happen. Anyways, I have had an unforgettable experience in Peru. I am so glad that I chose to spend six weeks of my summer in this truly enticing, magnificent, enchanting, and sublime South American country. I have had the time of my life throughout the past five weeks I have lived here, and Cusco, Peru is truly my home away from home. I miss everyone from home, and I cannot wait to tell you all myself about how life-changing this experience has been for me. Goodbye for now. De Cusco, Hasta Luego amigos.

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