My journey through South America has now taken me to new lands. Having done my almost regulation trip to Chile, Peru beckoned. Excitement was all I felt as I made my way to Incaland. Funny I think, as I recall a local Peruvian later told me how people know of Machu Pichu but the mention of Peru is met with an astounding look !! I had but a week in which not only to make the best out of my trip but also to ride up to 14,000 ft to indulge in some training on a Copper concentrator my company is building in the Peruvian Andes.
For a non- South American, the appeal of Peru starts and ends with Machu Pichu, the Lost city of the Incas. That’s exactly what I did. Arriving into the historical city of Cusco (pronounced Cosco if you are an Inka) is an experience in itself. Perched at 11,000 feet you start to feel the high altitude and physically fit or not, shortness of breath is not an uncommon phenomena . Cusco is the capital of the Incas. The Inca Empire had over 9 million citizens in the 14th century. That is truly amazing. You start to get the sense of their advanced way of life and their administrative structure when you consider that magnitude. Cusco was the city that Spanish conquestadors got to , led by Fransciso Pizzaro and his band of 177 men in 1533. Machu Pichu was their second capital and was a residence for the elitists; philosophers, noblemen and a school that was an equivalent of a Brahminist society. That was however never discovered by the invaders. Cusco and all cities in the vicinity bore the brunt of the invasion. Injected with diseases unknown to the Incas, a vast majority of them perished. What is truly amazing and awe inspiring is the the journey from Cusco to Machu Pichu. Contrary to popular belief, you actually travel downhill from Cosco. From 11,000 ft to 8,000 ft. A 90 min car ride to Ollantaytambo, then a 100 min train ride in InkaRail to a Agua
Calientes station and then a 20 min bus ride to the top. That’s when it srikes you. The majestic fog covered mountain stares at you with the grandeur of the Inka Kingdom truly comes to light. Everything seems insignificant at the first sight of the magnificence. Then the reality and the realization of the architecture, the terraced slops for agriculture, the highly advanced solar clock, the sun temple, its all surreal. The Inka Pachakuti watches over you as you explore the area and a million camera flashes popping. The architecture , especially the masonry by means of interlocking keys in the stones and how they have withstood the centuries is not something you would expect in that part of the world. As everyone says and agrees, “Its once in a lifetime experience” and no, it is not over rated at all, unlike the Niagara Falls, may be.
The area around Cusco which accounts for the rest of the Empire; Pisac, a city where the farmers delved. This is the place where they discovered over 5,000 Inka mummies. A city which was one of the many raided by the conquestadors still retains the original drinking water fountains. I felt like Tintin in Prisoners of the Sun. I was half expecting a Llama to spit in my face.
Cusco is the heartland of the Incas. Inca-pharma, Inca-foto, Inca-cola , its all about the Incas.
Peruvian people and food. Wonderful . That’s how I can summarize. Peruvian food with its own blend of spices would appeal so much to an Indian tongue and when accompanied by the lovely Peruvian hospitality tastes even better. Rest of Peru? Well from what I have seen on my way upto the mines is another impoverished third world economy. Peru with its copper and Molybdenum should find a way out of the misery of its people and progress and follow Chile’s example and you would hope they don’t go the way of their eastern neighbors.
Overcrowded urban centers in Lima, Arequipa, Trujillo and Cusco make up for probably around 60% of the population and it is uncertain if the existing infrastructure can continue to sustain this growth. Spirits of people can take some battering sometimes, but not everyday, everytime.
A trip upto the 14,000 ft mine site
had its own challenges, not least the eight hour ride in a pick up truck and the trip down was accompanied by fog, rain and several 3,000 ft drops, all that on a 100% dirt road. Challenges and opportunities do not come unattached. With every challenge you see an opportunity and that’s what the journey is all about.