And so the official road trip begins! Today’s trip was to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, for sunrise. We made it just in time to see the sun hit the Northern Window, and light up Turret Arch. Absolutely beautiful. After that, we made it through the park quite quickly, hoping to beat the heat and the crowds. But still we were there for almost seven hours, checking out a few different sites. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Delicate Arch, which is probably the most famous site in the park. But with the desert heat, I think I’ll come back in winter sometime instead!
Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world – more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, apparently – and is about 150km outside of Arequipa in Peru. We made a two day trip there, taking in a few sights, walks, local performances and buffet lunches along the way. Although the bus was cramped and bumpy, the view was pretty good – the canyon is up to 4000m deep at some points!
I knew nothing of Machu Picchu until about 5 years ago, when a friend of a friend mentioned a holiday there. I remained completely ignorant of this mysterious Incan empire amongst the mountains until planning this trip, but quickly realised this may be paradise for a photographer. When the sun shines you can see for miles, with the sun hitting the terraced edges and creating dark mysterious shadows. Or get up early and see the mountains in mist, with early morning sunshine trying desperately to pierce the thick cloud. Sigh. Sounds so dramatic, doesn’t it? It was. Absolutely gorgeous, and so worth the long walk and early starts. Oh, and a hint to anyone intending to visit – ask your guide to have you at the Sun Gate by the afternoon, and Machu Picchu itself for the following morning – it was a real treat to avoid the crowds!
And so it begins! We were up at 5am for a train out of Ollantaytambo, and at Kilometre 104 we jumped off to begin our trek to Machu Picchu. The skies were clear, the air was cold, and we were in for a good 14km hike, from 2000m above sea level to 2700m – and most of that ascension was in the first 5km. It was a tiring walk but absolutely worth it, with amazing sights and landscapes the whole way along. And then, at about 1pm, we arrived at the Sun Gate, for our first glimpse of Machu Picchu!
When you mention the Sacred Valley in Peru, the mind goes straight to Machu Picchu, of course. But along the way, there are gorgeous small towns, spectacular views and many more Incan remains worth ogling. I truly hope anyone that visits Machu Picchu gets to see all the different sights, like we did, especially the sights in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Here is a collection of the views before we even got to the big one!