Friday, June 26, 2015

Peru, Part 2: Aguas Caliente and the Cloud Forest

Peru Part 1: Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Peru Part 2: Aguas Caliente and the Cloud Forest
Peru Part 3: The Amazon Rainforest 
Peru Part 4: Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Peru Reading List

I loved Aguas Caliente, perched right in the Cloud Forest below Machu Picchu!

After our 27 mile, 4 day backpacking trip up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Trace and I decided to spend the night in Aguas Caliente, aka Machu Picchu Town, aka Gringoville. Yes, it is very touristy! There are no roads into the village, so no one can leave by auto. Buses shuttle up and down the mountain from Machu Picchu to town, and there is a train that connects it to the outside world. It gave me a very laid-back, gritty, granola vibe, and I have to say I really liked it.

A beautiful Chestnut Breasted Coronet, one of the four species of hummingbirds we saw in the Inkaterra nature preserve.
We stayed at the fancy-schmancy Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo hotel. We decided to splurge and it was totally worth it!! Of course, we looked and felt like the Beverly Hillbillies compared to all the other guests. Our "cheapy" room was $550, and it makes me vomit in my mouth a little bit to realize we paid that much for only ONE night. The other rooms/villas/suites were $700+ per night and as you can imagine, the clientele was pretty preppy and upperclass. As bumpkins and tightwads coming off a 4-day camping trip, Trace and I felt a little out of place but we tried to pretend we were High Society and we both were happy with our pick. We will probably never be able to afford such luxury again!

The Highland Motmot, moss covered trees with bromelaids!
 Inkaterra is located on a nature preserve and even has a bear sanctuary (for endangered Andean Spectacled bears)... it has free excursions throughout the day for visiting the bears, bird watching tours, and a huge tea plantation and orchid growing program. It was pretty amazing and I have to say, worth every penny!

Four roosting guan in the Cloud Forest.
Trace and I took part in a couple of the birding and nature tours, but unfortunately we didn't see  the highly-desirable Cock of the Rock, national bird of Peru. We did see several type so tanager, 4-5 types of hummingbird, Highland Motmots and Andean Guan, which are like wild turkeys. They were just all so beautiful!

Slate-Throated Redstart.

Hiking the nature preserve at Inkaterra with camera and sketchbook in hand!

I can't round out a post on this blog without mentioning dogs! Aguas Caliente was POPULATED with Peruvian Hairless Dogs, in the U.S. known as Peruvian Inca Orchids. Whenever we left Inkaterra and went into town, we saw one or two zipping about on their business. Dogs in Peru are not spayed/neutered and leashes seem unheard of. Many dogs were homeless but these guys seemed to live with people, just not be hanging out with them.

Best picture I could get of an Inca Orchid dog, somewhere in town near the main square.

I have to say, our overnight in Aguas Caliente was one of my favorite days in Peru. It was hot and HUMID, but nothing compared to our future time in the Amazon. Temps seemed to hang in the low 70's so it was a bit uncomfortable for me- Trace thought it felt very Florida-like and didn't mind at all. Everything about the Cloud Forest was spectacular... the birds, the orchids, the bromelaids, the moss, EVERYTHING!  If I ever visit Latin America again I would definitely make it a point to see more of these amazing ecosystems!

Some sketches from the Cloud Forest... Blue-Grey Tanagers feeding on banana feeder and Chestnut Breasted Coronet and Green & White Hummingbird at Inkaterra's feeders; "Water Bottle Plants" and other interesting flora we saw on our nature hike. I used pens and markers... which, FYI, can explode at high altitudes! I lost several during our trip!! Just sayin'!!


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