Amazon Jungle, the Final Frontier

Dawn in the Tambopata National Reserve, accessible only by boat, one and a half hours up river from Puerto Maldonado we find ourselves in the heart of one of the best preserved tropical rainforests in the world. The songs of hundreds of birds resonate in the ancient trees and the unique sound of the Howler Monkey reverberates in the jungle. So the peace of the early morning fog lifts in the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon.

P1000963 After a 30 minute boat ride along the Tambopata River from our Eco Lodge we arrive at Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake with the anticipation of seeing for the first time the giant Otter, Caiman, Horned Screamers and an array of birdlife. The elusive Otter remained elusive this morning, however we were treated to a spectacle by the Horned Screamer and the Black Caiman while gently and silently floating across the lake.P1010064

For those with a quick reflex, a spot of fishing saw us catch Piranha from the Lake. These small fish with very sharp teeth turned out to be not quite the man eating fish that Hollywood has been known to portray, but I still would not like to be in the water with them.

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The 3 days spent at the Eco Lodge were amazing, with our comfortable accommodation open to the sights and sounds of the jungle. Our group of women’s own adventure travelers were treated to nature walks through the jungle where we observed the Parrot clay lick from a specially built blind. To our amazement there was a flurry of birds frightened away, and in the blink of an eye we had the absolutely unique sighting of an Ocelot (a large cat related to the Leopard) attempting to pounce on the unsuspecting Parrots and Macaws. It was right there in front of our blind, a mere 15 metres away and in clear view. We held our breath as the sighting lasted about a minute before the Ocelot disappeared back into the jungle.

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That was certainly a once in a lifetime experience for us all. The Amazon Jungle, The Final Frontier was also the final part of our amazing Chile and Peru Adventure.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Machu Picchu – through the Sungate

The first view of the Citadel of Machu Picchu is absolutely amazing. You cannot help but to marvel at the sight. The lost city of the Incas is built on a saddle shaped ridge slung between 2 giant peaks. Near vertical slopes drop away on either side, down to a massive bend in the Urubamba River.

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Looking down at the Citadel of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

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Looking up at the Sun Gate in the top left corner of the photo

Our group of adventurous women hiked up to the spectacular Sun Gate (INTIPUNKA), this is where the Citadel is viewed for the first time by those that trek the Inca Trail.

P1000865The second day visit to the Citadel saw us catch the early bus at 5.30am from Aguas Calientes, in order to experience the quiet and mystical feel of a sunrise over the Citadel. Even though the morning was shrouded in clouds, the surreal and spiritual experience was overwhelming.

Three members of our group led by our fearless leader Jose climbed the towering Huayna Picchu which is the pinnacle peak overlooking the Citadel. Pan, Sharn and Robina achieved the very steep climb to the top in 45 minutes, from where the view is spectacular.

We enjoyed a tour detailing the fascinating history and archeology of Machu Picchu, and the rest of the morning was spent walking through the ruins imagining the life that existed there. Machu Picchu should be experienced at least once in your lifetime.

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The small town built over the Urubumba River below the mountain is called Aguas Calientes (meaning Hot Waters). It enjoys hot springs, a melting pot of people and plenty of market stalls, this was our overnight stopover.

Our journey then takes us to the bustling city of Cusco, filled with restaurants, shops, churches, museums and people from all over the world.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Across the Andes to the Sacred Valley

On the 28th of September we flew across the Andes mountains from Lima which is on the coast to Cusco which is in the mountains at 3,000 metres.

Peruscenery From here we traveled to the Sacred valley, a most beautiful valley with the Urubumba River flowing through the centre. We had the privilege of visiting the local Sunday markets in Chinchero which has got to be the most beautiful outdoor market in all of Peru, surrounded by snow capped mountains and spectacular scenery as far as the eye can see. Both Liz and myself were fortunate enough to celebrate our birthdays in this special place.

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The following day we visited some of the archeological sites at Pisac and Olyantambo, along the Sacred valley. There is so much fascinating Incan history all around.

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The next 2 days were spent trekking through beautiful hills and valleys with a backdrop of mountains and the most stunning vistas to arrive at a small community village where our group of Women’s Own Adventure were greeted with the warmest welcome possible. As honored guests we helped the families plant 5 trees as a memorial of our visit to their community and had a wonderful opportunity to interact with these lovely people.

peruweaving We stayed in their homes and spent time at the pre-school with the beautiful children. In the morning we trekked back to our lovely hotel in the Sacred valley to enjoy another wonderful Peruvian meal.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Our Chile and Peru Adventure has begun.

A group of 10 women travelling with Women’s Own Adventure arrived in Santiago ready to practice our Spanish and get into the culture of South America. After a walking tour of this beautiful city we visited the Pre-Columbian Art Museum which has the most amazing art pieces from the whole of South America.

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Today we had the pleasure of visiting the artisan market at Pueblitos Los Dominicos where beautiful arts are crafts are made by the very talented local artisans. The variety of creative pieces is amazing.

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We were then met by our local chef who took us shopping for an array of fresh seafood and herbs for our cooking class of a mouthwatering Chillean meal. The afternoon was filled with plenty of local wine, great food and lots of laughs.

Tomorrow we leave for Lima, Peru where we will be met by Carmen and a group of small children from nearby villages. With Carmens help we are able to give gifts of clothing that we have brought to Peru for the poor families.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Machu Picchu Peru – a History Lesson

Everything about Machu Picchu makes you marvel that it ever came to exist. The lost city of the Incas is built on a saddle-shaped ridge slung between two giant peaks. Near vertical slopes drop away on either side, down to a massive bend in the Urubamba River. Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned less than 100 years later. It is likely that most of its inhabitants were wiped out by smallpox before the Spanish conquistadores arrived.

Machu Picchu was hidden by jungle since the 16th century until it was rediscovered in 1911.

Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As Peru’s most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually threatened by economic and commercial forces. In the late 1990s, the Peruvian government granted concessions to allow the construction of a cable car to the ruins and development of a luxury hotel, including a tourist complex with boutiques and restaurants. These plans were met with protests from scientists, academics and the Peruvian public, worried that the greater numbers of visitors would pose tremendous physical burdens on the ruins.
A growing number of people visit Machu Picchu (400,000 in 2003). For this reason, there were protests against a plan to build a further bridge to the site and a no-fly zone exists in the area .UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
The population of Machu Picchu is believed to have numbered over a thousand and the people were so distant from other settlements that they would have produced much of their own food. This accounts for the intricately terraced fields, which have survived remarkably intact thanks to the care and skill that went into their construction. Maize and potatoes were grown, and advanced irrigation techniques were used to ensure that rainwater didn’t just run off down the hill to the Urumbamba River far below.

Most of the construction in Machu Picchu uses the classic Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The Incas were among the best stone masons the world has seen, and many junctions in the central city are so perfect that not even a knife fits between the stones.
Other Inca buildings have been built using mortar, but by Inca standards that was quick, shoddy construction. Peru is a highly seismic land, and mortar-free construction was more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. Inca walls show numerous subtle design details that would prevent them from collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top, corners are usually rounded, inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms, and “L” shaped blocks are often used to tie outside corners together. Walls do not rise straight from top to bottom but are offset slightly from row to row. As a result, Machu Picchu is a city that has stood up well to earthquakes over the years.

The Incas never used the wheel in any practical manner. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones is a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position. After they were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away.

The space is composed of 140 constructions including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences (houses with thatched roofs). There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps – often completely carved from a single block of granite – and a great number of water fountains, interconnected by channels and water-drainages perforated in the rock, designed for the original irrigation system. Evidence has been found to suggest that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the houses in turn.

According to archaeologists, the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District, to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility.

Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses to live in.

In the royalty area, a sector existed for the nobility: a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the Amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the Ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.

As part of their road system, the Inca built a road to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail.
No one knows for sure why Machu Picchu was built. Some surmise that it was a royal or religious retreat for one of the Inca rulers. Certainly its remote location and altitude of nearly 2500 metres would seem to rule out any trade or military function. Whatever its use, the obvious effort that went into its construction indicates that it was considered important and held in high regard by those who created it.

View our Peru Adventure to Machu Picchu