Magnificent Machu Pichu – a Closer Look

I had to restrain myself from subtitling this post “A Llama’s Eye View”! They are so engaging (from afar) and I couldn’t get enough of them. However, the real attraction at Machu Picchu is the amazing architecture. The citadel at Machu Picchu (which means Old Peak in Quechuan) dates to the mid-15th century when it was built under the aegis of Inca Sapa Pachacuti. (NB: The term Inca applies only to the rulers and the civilization; the indigenous people are Quechua.)  Continue reading “Magnificent Machu Pichu – a Closer Look”

Machu Picchu – Getting There is Half the Fun

There are two main ways to get to Machu Picchu with variations on each. You can hike for four-five days along the Inca Trail or you can take the train to Aguas Calientes followed by a bus ride or a moderately challenging 90-minute trek to the sanctuary.

View from the train to Machu Pichu
Excuse the reflections and Admire the Exquite View from the Train!

After three days in the Sacred Valley, we opted for a hybrid route. We took the train  from Ollantaytambo to the prosaically named  Km 104 station (so-named because of its distance from Cusco).  If you blink, or nod off, you could definitely miss it! Continue reading “Machu Picchu – Getting There is Half the Fun”

Peru |Highlights of the Sacred Valley

Peru’s Sacred Valley took my breath away – literally and figuratively. The valley floor is at 3000 meters above sea level outside of Pisac and descends over its 100 kilometers to just above 2000 meters near Machu Picchu. Also known as the  Urubamba valley, its namesake river meanders the entire length and irrigates the otherwise arid region.   Continue reading “Peru |Highlights of the Sacred Valley”

Galápagos Close-Up: Santa Cruz Island

Charles Darwin and the Galápagos are inextricably linked in many people’s mind. After all, this archipelago and its inhabitants gave birth to his theory of evolution. Darwin only spent five weeks on the islands, but what he observed resulted in his masterpiece On the Origin of SpeciesSanta Cruz Island is the most populated island in the Galápagos and home to the Charles Darwin Research Center. Continue reading “Galápagos Close-Up: Santa Cruz Island”

Galápagos Close-Up: Santiago Island

Only a few miles away as the pelican flies, Santiago Island is as different from its neighbor Rábida as night from day. Its stark cratered surface reminded me of the moon.  Sea lions, marine iguanas and American Oyster Catchers were abundant, and we saw fur seals (which are actually sea lions – a fact that caused great confusion) for the first time. yellowwarbler_santiago

This bright Yellow Warbler with its colorful plumage was a standout, especially on Santiago’s moon-like surface. Continue reading “Galápagos Close-Up: Santiago Island”

Galápagos Close-Up: Rábida Island

rabidaredbeach

Rábida Island is relatively small, with steep rocky cliffs and only one beach where it is possible to land. The distinctive deep red color of its sand is due to the high iron content in the lava. The island is known for these maroon beaches and its abundance of birds. (The small black bird mid-photo above is a penguin!) Continue reading “Galápagos Close-Up: Rábida Island”

Galápagos Close-Up: Isabela

While many people associate the Galápagos with Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution, what they may not realize is that the islands themselves evolve over time as well.   The tectonic plates that caused the volcanic eruptions that became islands continue to move eastward at the rate of a few inches a year.  Continue reading “Galápagos Close-Up: Isabela”