Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On the Road to Machu Picchu

Anyone who wants to visit Machu Picchu must fly into Cusco.  But the ruins are actually several hour away by bus and train.  
Cuscu and Machu Picchu are in the Andes Mountains.  The Andes Mountain chain is the longest in the world, running through most of South America.  The tallest peaks in Peru are over 20,000 feet.  We spotted some glaciers along the way to Machu Picchu which is only at an elevation of 8000 feet.  Cusco, by the way, is 10,000 feet.

Our first stop was an overlook above Urubamba and the Urubamba River.  Currently, Urubamba is only a town of about 3000 and is largest major town in the Sacred Inca Valley on the way to Machu Picchu.
The town sits along the Urubamba River, which eventually drains out of the Andes and into another river which feeds the Amazon River.

We stopped at the pottery shop of Pablo Seminario.  This is one of his workers creating one of the pots he sells in his retail shop.

The shop uses styles and techniques utilized from Peru's ancient cultures.  These are placques which have been pressed into shape.  They will be dried, then painted before they are available at the retail store.

These small pots, cuts and placques have been painted and are drying before being fired and glazed.

They work their clay in the way of ancient times by pounding out all the air.  One way they accomplish this is by walking on the clay.  When they believe all the air is removed, they flatten the clay into slabs like those in the back of the picture.  After a few days of drying, the clay is ready to be formed into pottery.

Pablo Seminario's son is a veterinarian, so they had several animals, such as this llama.

Some pottery designs are carved into the clay such as this woman is doing.

Here they are painting the pottery.  All paints are from natural plant and mineral dyes.

Pablo started his artistic endevour in the 1970s when he started decorating pottery using pre-Spanish designs.  Designs are chosen purely for their look, and he does not claim to be making replications of ancient culture pottery.  Today he is know for what is called the seminarian style of pottery and much of the work he does himself is commissioned artwork.

Pablo is an architect by training and he approaches his pottery with the same deliberate design as one would any project.  His pottery can be found in the Cusco Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and as far away as the Chicago Field Museum and even the Smithsonian.

An example of his drawing out the design before starting to work in clay.

Downstairs in his garden we found this parrot.
I was most impressed with his pottery and the studio.  Of course, I did buy a couple of small, practical pieces, too.

The original entryway into Ollantaytambo, also known as the living Inca city.

Much of the city still exists in building built prior to Spanish colonization.  This was the royal home of Pachacuti, one of the most famous Inca Emporer.  It is at the neck of a valley and is where the last Inca leader, resisted the Spanish conquerors.  

Most streets are more like alleyways and will not accomodate today's vehicles.

On the outskirts of town is the ceremonial center known as Temple Hill, although many consider it to be a fortress because of its high walls and the way it could be defended.  The terraces around this area was used for farming.

Although you didn't see this a lot, it was more common to see people in the old style native dress here than in Cusco or Urubamba.

Typical of the homes found along the road on our way to Ollantaytambo.

At Ollantaytambo our bus ride ended and we boarded a train for the final leg of our journey to Machu Picchu.  Ollantaytambo is one of the starting places for those who are hiking the Inca Trail.

After a 1 1/2 hour train ride we arrived in Aguas Calientes, located at the base of Machu Piccchu.  Known for years as Aguas Calientes because of its hot springs, several years ago the new mayor renamed the city to Machu Picchu because it is the starting point for all tourists visiting the ruins.

The view out my hotel window, overlooking the Urubamba River.

Up the hill and across from the train station and market is the town square.

The town is not very large, probably having a permanent population of about 2000, and this is reflected by the smaller church located on the square.

My next blog will be the final blog on my trip to Peru and will be all about Machu Picchu.

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