1 Deep, down in a valley below the ruins of Machu Picchu is the little tourist town of Aguas Calientes. From here we will take a 30-minute bus ride to Machu Picchu.
2 Inca Warrior in the center of the town plaza.
3 Hibuscus in bloom in the plaza.
4 Expensive shops and restaurants surround the plaza.
5 Another shop with a thatched roof.
6 Our hotel is back in the corner of the plaza--Gringo Bill's. In front of Bill's is a demolition crew that worked in 24-hour shifts. They used sledge hammers, shovels and wheelbarrows to remove the old building to make room for a new one. No motorized vehicles are allowed in this town.
7 Inside the front door of the hotel, steps lead to the office and rooms upstairs.
8 There is no roof over the front entry way of the hotel, so these plants flourish with natural light and water. It rained most of the time we were there and our clothes were always wet.
9 These tropical plants in the entry way were 3 stories high.
10 The Urubamba River runs through the center of Aguas Calientes, past Machu Picchu and eventually into the Amazon River.
11 There are Incan villages on the mountains surrounding Aguas Calientes. Because of the rain and the shade when I took this photo, they are hard to see, but if you enlarge the photo, they stand out more.
12 Enlarge this photo to see more building done by the Incas.
13 I was excited to see this roof high poinsettia growing in the town.
14 Angel's Trumpet growing by the Urubamba River.
15 "El Pollo Loco," the crazy chicken, restaurant.
16 Pretty bush by the side of a building.
17 Before we left Gringo Bill's, I discovered that there was a terrace on the top floor of the hotel. The next 5 photos of Aguas Calientes are from that viewpoint.
18 I read that poverty and luxury are side by side in Peruvian tourist towns, and Aguas Calientes is certainly an example of that.
22 It was sunny and warm when we first arrived at Machu Picchu. The crowds hadn't arrived yet, so we had just the 7 of us in our group with a Spanish speaking guide.
23 Una Picchu is the name of the little peak on the left, and Huayna Picchu is the name of the big peak on the right in the background. We had thought about climbing Huayna Picchu, but gave it up when it started raining because of warnings about slipping off trails and falling into valleys below!
24 It is thought that about 300 people resided in this royal retreat built by the Inca ruler Pachacuti around 1500 AD. The Incas were conquered by the Spaniards in the 1530s, but there is no evidence that they ever visited this site.
25 The remains found in this site were mostly women, but there were remains of a few men and children. For almost 400 years the city was hidden under jungle growth, like the castle in Sleeping Beauty, waiting to be "awakened."
26 Rock wall and thatched cottage in the foreground, green terraces in the background.
27 Four years ago our guide told us that earthquakes had caused the damage to this wall, but our guide in 2008 said it was caused by settling over the years, not earthquakes. Maybe nobody knows why!
28 This rock was shown to us as an example of the process that Incan workmen used to split rocks.
29 Hiram Bingham, who discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, called this "the most beautiful wall in America." The workmanship is exquisite.
30 Temple of the Sun, which is connected to "the most beautiful wall."
31 The next 5 photos show some of the flora that was discovered growing at Machu Picchu.
36 The domestic water supply system created by Incan "engineers" carried pure water from a spring on Machu Picchu Mountain to 16 fountains like this. This water was used by the inhabitants; it was not used to water crops on the terraces. The Incans relied on the rain to do that.
37 Rock sculpture that was named Intiwatana in the 19th century. The name means "place to which the sun was tied" in Quechua, but scientists consider the name a mistake because the stone has no relationship to the sun that they can establish.
38 The structure on the left is the highest point in the city of Machu Picchu.
39 More stone buildings. Have you noticed the difference in the quality of workmanship between the rock walls of the temples and the "most beautiful wall" and the ordinary buildings for food storage and living quarters?
40 Wild hares nest in the rocks at Machu Picchu.
41 By the end of our tour, rain was beating down on us. Moses looks at a rock while others take shelter in doorways.
42 The Urubamba River, deep in the canyon below, winds around 3 sides of Machu Picchu.
43 Behind those clouds is Machu Picchu Mountain.
44 This photo, taken during a very bumpy bus ride, is of a 12-year-old Peruvian boy who ran down the mountain, keeping up with our bus, as we took the 30-minute bus ride from Machu Picchu down to Aguas Calientes. Over and over, he would cut through the brush and be standing in the road as the bus approached, shouting "Buenos Dias" and we on the bus would shout and clap. It was raining hard and the road was very muddy too. At the end of the ride, he hopped on the bus and asked for money, and we were very happy to reward his stamina and ingenuity. We were told these boys could run up the mountain just as fast as they ran down, too.