Sophisticated Living Indianapolis

MAR-APR 2013

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More than Machu Picchu A religious festival outside the Church of la Compa����a de Jesus in Cusco. Street scene in Aguas Calientes. Bright and early the next morning (I���d told Noraly at Kensington I���d rather spend my time exploring than sleeping), we were collected at the hotel by Rossio Echarri, our most knowledgeable guide for the day who escorted us on a private, full day tour of Cusco���s cultural, historic, and archaeological points of interest, including the impressive walled complex of Sacsayhuaman, built by the indigenous people of the Killke culture around 1100 AD. It���s hard not to stand in wonderment at the precise ftting of the massive stones (the largest of any building in prehispanic America) comprising the terrace walls. Positioned on a steep hill, the expansive site boasts panoramic views of the city. Strolling the Plaza de Armas, we happened on a religious festival outside the Church of la Compa����a de Jesus, during which hundreds of festively costumed dancers swayed in unison to the rhythmic drumbeats. A persistently patient street peddler (there are many), who couldn���t have been more than nine-yearsold, fnally convinced us to buy his wares after he rattled of the names of US presidents (in order) all the way back to Richard Nixon! I came to realize quite quickly one major beneft of a private guide was the ability to stray from the itinerary if an alternate activity piqued our interest, like our impromptu stops to visit several artisans. On day three we were picked up at 6:30am for the 1.5-hour drive to Ollantaytambo where we boarded the royal blue Hiram Bingham Orient Express for the scenic ride to Aguas Calientes. Te highly polished interior of the train car and the crisp white linen tablecloths certainly seemed at odds with my dressed down hiking attire. There was a convivial atmosphere among the passengers throughout the duration of the journey, and by the time we arrived at the station, everyone had become fast friends. The train station presented a scene reminiscent of the airport in Lima, with people from all walks of life (and levels of personal hygiene) coming and going. Once again, a Kensington Tours sign with my name on it stood out among the chaos. After a short walk through the craft and bric-a-brac vendors encircling the station and picking up some bug spray, at our guide���s request (one of the best pieces of advice we received judging from bug-bitten extremities of many we passed), we joined the queue of those waiting for a bus to Machu Picchu. The 30-min ride gains 2,000 feet of elevation via harrowing switchbacks; when a bus passed in the opposite direction you���d be hard pressed to ft a sheet of paper between them! You can also reach the entrance by foot, taking a strenuous trail that dissects the switchbacks and loosely follows the 1911 route of Hiram Bingham. 42 slmag.net

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