Narrative - Page Five
Later that morning we departed from the Ollanta Railway Station
on board our train to the fabled Machu Picchu.  We arrived at the
Machu Picchu Station in time for lunch at the beautiful Machu
Picchu Pueblo Hotel.  After depositing our luggage there, we
boarded a minibus that climbed the steep, zigzag road up to one of
the most famous archeological ruins of all -- Machu Picchu!  This
is really an impressive ruin, hidden for more than 400 years by
semitropical jungle.  It lies in a saddle between two peaks, with
sheer mountainsides falling almost vertically to the Urubamba
River far below.  Known as the "Lost City," Machu Picchu's
existence was virtually forgotten even by the native population
until its rediscovery in 1911, by Hiram Bingham.  We wandered all
through a maze of empty plazas, chambers and dwellings.  We
could only guess what inspired this archaeological wonder.  Our
guide told us that it was built in the style of the Late Imperial Inca,
but it shows no evidence of pre- or post-Inca habitation.  The site
was apparently constructed, occupied and abandoned, all within
the span of less than a century.  Our guide also pointed out the
significance of the various stone structures and discussed some of
the theories put forward to try to solve the many mysteries of
Machu Picchu.  Returning to the hotel, we were given the rest of
the afternoon to explore this really gorgeous region.  We had an
option to either visit the many other ruins associated with Machu
Picchu or to go off in search of the spectacular Andean
Cock-of-the-Rock.  We were told that the bright orange-red male
birds put on quite a show as they display for the drab brown
females, strutting on traditional mating grounds called "leks."  We
were able
to explore the wet montane forest along a discovery trail offering
unique giant tree ferns, orchids and Birds-of-Paradise, as well as
other species such as Torrent Ducks, Mitred Parakeets, Roadside
Hawks and the occasional
fer-de-lance, one of the world's
deadliest snakes.  Butterflies were all around us as we walked
along the White Water Trail.  Huge rock formations and falling
water made wonderful backdrops for all the wildlife of the area.  
There was also an orchid farm and some thermal baths.  The
bird-watching was excellent even back at the hotel and its
extensive grounds, which are a haven for wildlife.  We spent some
time just watching all that activity before having dinner there at the
hotel and, finally, calling it a night.
Day Eleven - Tuesday, April 4
At dawn, we left the hotel and got back aboard our minibus for a
return visit to Machu Picchu.  We enjoyed hours there in virtual
solitude before other visitors arrived on the morning train. We
stayed in Machu Picchu, that most memorable of  Inca sites, all
morning, with a break for lunch at the restaurant adjacent to the
site.  In the afternoon, we returned to Cusco where we had dinner
at our hotel, the Libertador, and retired for the night.
Narrative continues....