To know about a place that has mightily survived the test of time is commendable. But to set foot in that very place more than 500 years after its dissolution is an entirely different experience. When Drs. Surendra and Meena Ugale made their way to the wonderfully cryptic nation of Peru, this was the very adventure that they were most eager to encounter.
“It had always been a dream for me to visit Machu Picchu,” recounts Dr. Ugale. The opportunity to visit South America arose when Dr. Surendra Ugale was required to attend a conference in Rio. The rest fell into place when the couple decided to extend the trip to make their exciting dream come true.
Accompanied by Dr. Meena, their daughter Dr. Ayushka and future daughter-in-law Shruti, the family began their work-turned-vacation from the spirited city of Rio. As a city endowed with the most exquisite geography that any place could have, each visit to Rio’s vast beaches – brimming with life yet well maintained – was a refreshing sight to behold. Having been put up at Hotel Windsor Barra, situated right before the Barra beach, the family was able to visit the popular beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.
“We then visited the 2,329-foot tall Corcovado Mountain, upon which towered the magnificent structure of Christ the Redeemer,” said Dr. Meena, adding, “followed by the Pão de Açúcar, also known as the Sugerloaf Mountain.” Both captivating and severe in nature, these elevated spots allowed a bird’s eye view of the entire city – the only way one should appreciate the phenomenal landscape of Rio. The Olympic monument, on the other hand, was a futuristic looking architectural marvel. Meanwhile, the dock areas provided the perfect place to walk by and appreciate the massive yet lifelike and varied faces of Latin American Indians, painted by the artist Eduardo Kobra.
Finally, the moment had arrived for the Ugales to make their way back in time. The family flew across the continent from East to West; to Lima and onward to Cusco. While today this Peruvian city houses the airport that reaches Machu Picchu, Cusco also holds the title of ancient capital of the Incas – between 1200 and 1532 CE – when the Spanish took over the region and destroyed a number of original Incan structures.
“To this day, Cusco has many streets that still possess the original facade of the ancient buildings,” shares Dr. Meena. However, on the inside, the city has kept up with time, having furnished its interiors and built modern hotels and neat restaurants that serve exotic native cuisines. When it came to the local sightseeing, there were quite a few Spanish churches and much architecture to explore. Moreover, the neighbouring village of Pisac boasted a large marketplace with beautiful and exquisite local handicrafts and textiles, a few of which were up to 4,000 years old.
Speaking of things in the past, the next leg of this Peruvian vacation landed the family in Sacsahuayman and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a 35-minute bus ride from Cusco. Sacsahuayman is a temple fortress which to this day stands as proof of the Incan architects’ skills of smoothly blending manmade structures with natural landscapes. At the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the family visited the colonial village of Pisac, a place well known for its ruins as well as its busy markets. This was followed by paying a visit to the legendary Temples of the Sun and Water, and the Inca Terraces.
“We then made our way towards Aguas Calientes, a small town located at the base of the Old Mountain - Machu Picchu,” shared Dr. Meena. At long last, the Ugales were only a 25-minute bus ride away from making the ruins of Machu Picchu an everlasting part of their memories. “It was fascinating to witness the ancient hidden citadel, which was built at a height of 7,970 feet on the mountainside of Machu Picchu,” she reminisced.
While this trip might have revolved around reaching the famed and historic ruins of a bygone age, the variety of people and places the family encountered throughout the journey made quite an impact as well. “We came across the iconic South American llamas and their smaller cousins, the alpacas. The wool from baby alpacas make for the softest and finest shawls and sweaters,” said Dr. Meena. They even tried the famous local drink, the Pisco Sour – Peruvian brandy with lime and egg whites along with the delicately prepared ceviche, with large Andean corn.
As the trip concluded, it was quite obvious that Peru had a lot more to offer than just a view of its mysterious ruins. In this country of hard working people, the family was always personally taken care of. Despite the town’s rural appearance, there wasn’t a single trace of litter. While the dream of visiting this intriguing country had finally been fulfilled, a single trip has never been enough to completely satiate a traveller’s curiosity. Therefore, the Ugales now look forward to visiting the Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador! - as told to Roshni