The conquering of Machu Picchu, Peru

From the 14th – 21st April 2012, I’ve had the incredible fortune of visiting Machu Picchu in Peru – one of the few 7 Wonders of the World still left on my Bucket List. I had just arrived back from a whirlwind Easter holiday visiting Venice and Rome, and skiing for a few days at La Ville, in Italy. My highlight was definitely attending Easter Sunday Mass with His Holiness, Pope Benedict, in St Peters Square with 50,000 other people.

Cuzco Peru

The streets of Cuzco, a city in southeastern Peru.

After Easter and four days at the office in Witbank, I departed for South America in search of the Lost City of the Incas. Now 100 years old, since its discovery by Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu’s legends and myths live on.

Landing in Lima

After 22 hours travelling from Witbank to Sao Paolo, Brazil, I transferred to Lima, Peru. Lima, a population of 9 million, is right on the sea and I was very surprised to see the sophistication of the city staying at the J.W. Mariott on the Lima Promenade.

After just 4 hours of sleep, it was back to the airport for me and off to Cuzco – from a population of 9 million in Lima, to 300,000 in Cuzco! And what a surprise. It was like going back in time, at least by centuries.

Cuzco is a typical film setting of South America in the 1800’s. I stayed at the Hotel Monasterio, a monastery which was originally built in 1595 on the site of the palace of Inca Amaru Qhala.

The history of Hotel Monasterio

Church of la Compañía de Jesus in Cuzco.

Church of la Compañía de Jesus in Cuzco.

In 1598, it was founded as the Seminary of San Antonio Abad by the sixth Bishop of Cuzco, Monsignor Antonio de la Raya, to train Catholic priests.

The building was seriously damaged by a great earthquake in 1650, and upon restoration, the beautiful Chapel was added. It’s decorated in the indigenous Baroque style with gold-plated pictures frames and truly magnificent paintings by the best artists of the Cusquenian Art School, depicting scenes from the life of San Antonio Abad.

In 1692, by Papal Edict from Pope Innocent II, and the Royal letters Patent issued by King Charles II, the seminary became a Royal Pontifical University. However in 1816, a Royal Decree from the King of Spain rescinded this authority, and the institute reverted back to being a seminary until May 30th 1965 when the building was remodelled into a hotel.

The hotel remains a national historical landmark, protected by the INC (National Institute of Culture) and has retained its characteristics and charm. It’s a fantastic model of the colonial Renaissance style, consisting of three sections in different levels.

The Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco

The Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco.

The heart of the Hotel is the central courtyard with its soft fountain and 300-year old Cedar tree surrounded by gardens and the famous stone cloisters.

The Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu

After one night at the hotel, I left early to board the luxury train called Hiram Bingham. This magnificent line between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, widely considered to be one of the world’s great train journeys, was built at the beginning of the twentieth  century to link the highlands of Cuzco with the Urubamba Valley and the Amazon Basin beyond.

The train descends from the station of Poroy to the plateau of Anta (Pampa de Anta), a patchwork landscape of typical Andean crops such as quinoa, corn, potatoes, and beans. The Pampa de Anta is reputed to have been the battleground upon which the armies of the great warrior-statesman Pachacutec repelled the invading Chanca tribe, thereby launching the Incas into their golden age of imperial expansion.

…Continued in From the highlands of Peru to the lowlands of the Amazon basin



  1. From the highlands of Peru to the lowlands of the Amazon basinPaul Erskine | Adventurer | Humanitarian - May 7, 2012

    […] leaving the Hotel Monasterio, I climbed on board the Hiram Bingham luxury train that would take me from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. After leaving the station of Poroy, we descended to the plateau of Anta (Pampa de Anta), passing […]

  2. Vasco Da Gama Yacht Race 2012, from Maputo to DurbanPaul Erskine | Adventurer | Humanitarian - May 21, 2012

    […] Da Gama Yacht Race 2012, from Maputo to Durban After returning on Saturday 21st April from a whirlwind trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, I started packing for Maputo on the 25th of April, getting ready to take part in the Vasco Da Gama […]

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