Friday, April 24, 2020

Visiting Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu (By Jet Lagged Jaff)

My Visit to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
Modern Day Machu Picchu. Image: Chelsea Cook, Pexels
One of history's most famous archaeological sites is that of Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city built on the side of Huayna Picchu Mountain, located in present day Peru. In January, our friend JetLaggedJaff was able to visit this amazing world heritage site, and share his thoughts on visiting. Take it away!



Before I discuss my visit to this magnificent civilization, I want to give a little basic history behind it.
As some of you may know, Machu Picchu was built back in the 15th century and eventually abandoned in the 16th century. Machu Picchu was used as a royal estate built by the Incan Emperor Pachacuti. Construction of Machu Picchu began in the 14th century, after the Incans defeated the Chanca people in the territory. It was built as a refuge for the Incan aristocrats. 

Located nearly 8000' above sea level, mountainous weather and fog are common climactic elements.
There is no known reason why the Incan citadel was abandoned.  Historians suggest that a number of outbreaks caused the fall of the Incan people, eventually causing it to be abandoned. In 1572, the last of its rulers came to an end. Historians also suggest that political campaigns done by the conquistadores caused it to fall and be abandoned. Aside from these hypotheses, there is no clear evidence why this amazing civilization became abandoned. At this point, there are only theories with no hard evidence.

How does one get to Machu Picchu? 

So first, I flew into Cusco, Peru. Then, you have to transfer to a train to Aguas Calientes. If you are going around their summer time, you will be using a bi-modal (bus/train) service. There are only 2 train companies tourists can choose from, and have very limited schedules; they are PeruRail and IncaRail. 
Since I went in their summer time, I took a bimodal service through IncaRail to Aguas Calientes and spent the night there. I took a bus from Cusco to Ollatantaytambo, which was about 2 hours, and then transferred to a train to Aguas Calientes which took another 2 hours.  Overall, I enjoyed my experience on the IncaRail and it was overall, an amazing experience. There was drink and snack service, the people on the train along with the staff were very polite, and the views on the Andes mountains were breathtaking. 

Pictures and words can only do so much, eventually you need to visit these places yourself!
From Aguas Calientes, you can either hike up the mountain where Machu Picchu is, which takes about 2 hours, or you can take a 30 minute bus ride. I ended up taking a bus up to Machu Picchu so that I could maximize my time. Machu Picchu only allows you to visit for a certain amount of time, so that the flow of tourists is constantly running, and to prevent overcrowding. 

Image of the Machu Picchu trail map via The Only Peru Guide
Machu Picchu was like stepping into a piece of history and seeing firsthand how the Incan civilization lived and operated. You can see the different houses that people lived in, the different temples that are present in Machu Picchu, the farming terraces, and the many llamas and alpacas that were roaming around Machu Picchu, and let me tell you, there were a lot. It was an amazing experience and you won’t regret ever going there. If you make a trip to South America, this amazing landmark is a must!

After I visited Machu Picchu, I then journeyed to the mountain of  Huayna Picchu to begin my hike to the very top!

While Machu Picchu sits at just under 8000', Huayna Pichu reaches a maximum height of nearly 9000 feet!
Before I discuss my visit to Huayna Picchu, I want to give a little basic history behind it. 

Huayna Picchu is the mountain that rises over Machu Picchu. It was home to the high priest and local virgins at the top of the mountain, with colonies built along the track to the top and descending onto the bottom. Every day before sunrise, a small group of people, along with the high priest would descend down into Machu Picchu to signal the beginning of a new day. 

It was also the look out point for Machu Picchu in case of any threats from the surrounding tribes. Thanks to Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu was always prepared for any potential invasions. 

You can see nearly everything from the top of the site.
I got the chance to climb Huayna Picchu. It was an amazing, but very challenging experience. It was my first time mountain climbing and it was definitely exhausting! Was it worth it? Yes! When you get to the top of the mountain, which takes about two to three hours to ascend, you get beautiful views of Machu Picchu and of the Andes Mountains. 



Once I reached the top, I did not want to come down, it was such a thrilling experience! Do I recommend doing this? Yes, but with proper preparation. Before visiting, I suggest training for it by running, climbing, or hiking. While you don’t have to be in top physical condition, some preparation will definitely pay off in the long run. Before climbing, I recommend stretching, warming up, and bringing lots of water. Trust me, it will make the climb that much easier, but it still will be challenging. Lastly, pack some good running shoes or hiking boots. 


Overall, visiting these places was an experience I will never forget! I went to Peru for one week, and planning the Machu and Huayna Picchu parts of the trip was probably the most time consuming, but it was definitely worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. Once the travel restrictions have been listed, maybe you can visit this wonderful place yourself. If you want to know more about how you can also be prepared for your travel, read one of my latest blogs on common fears that people have when traveling and how you can conquer them. 

Thank you for reading and for your support and this is Jet Lagged Jaff taking off until next time! Goodbye for now! If you need any travel tips or support, please send me a message on Facebook through the Jet Lagged Jaff page or at jaff@ptkycreative.com. 
Also, please check out my travel blog! I regularly post once every one to two weeks on different travel tips and destinations that I recommend.

Further reading: Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time (eBay) (Amazon)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Havana Rantoul & Eastern Railroad

The Havana Rantoul & Eastern Railroad was one of the very few narrow-gauge railways in the State of Illinois.

Construction began in 1875, and eventually the line ran from LeRoy, IL to West Lebanon, IN. A Havana-LeRoy segment of the road was proposed, but never constructed. (Right of way)

Image: "A westbound Illinois Central train passes the Sabina station en route to LeRoy. This was the first grain elevator east of LeRoy on the colorful “Punkin’ Vine.” (Jack Keefe)
It was built in response to the Illinois Central Railroad, whom financier Benjamin F. Gifford believed was charging exorbitant freight rates. Locals referred to the operation as the Punkin’ Vine, alluding to its narrow trackage.

Havana Rantoul & Eastern RR Stock Certificate. (Amazon)

Like many short lines, it ran on a shoestring budget, and had little in the way of rolling stock. Less than five years into its life, it was purchased by the Wabash Railroad.

Havana Rantoul & Eastern Timetable, 1885, at this point under the Wabash flag.
In 1886, the Illinois Central, the line for whom the railroad was built to compete with, acquired the road, and ran it as a subsidiary called the Rantoul Railroad. During IC's ownership, it was re-gauged to standard gauge.

Passenger service along the route ended in the 1930's or early 1940's. Most of the line was abandoned pre-1980, but an 8 mile stretch of the line still operates as the Fisher Farmers Grain & Coal Railroad between Rantoul, IL and Dewey, IL. (DeBruler)

Image: Eric Coleman, FFG&C RR 1828
Thanks as always for reading!

Monday, April 6, 2020

From Railyard to National Icon: Toronto's CN Tower

As the North American railway network contracts in size (while improving efficiencies and moving more tonnage overall), there are many examples of former railroad property that has been converted into prime real estate, as many railyards were once built in and around major cities in the United States and Canada.

Chinatown Square in Chicago, and Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh are two of the many examples of this, and something we've discussed before

In Canada, the Canadian National Railway turned a redundant railyard into Toronto's Entertainment District, which houses, among other venues, the Toronto Railway Museum, and the CN Tower, the subject of today's blog.

JetLaggedJaff visited the Tower in 2015, and shared his thoughts on the visit.

CN Tower Stock Image
The CN Tower, also known as The Canadian National Tower, was constructed from 1973 to 1976. It was built over the former Railway Lands. The Railway Lands is a neighborhood in Toronto near the waterfront that used to be a large railway switching yard. After CN ownership, it was transferred to the Canada Lands Company. 

"The Railway Lands between Front St and the Toronto Waterfront, c.1919." Rail lines were built up between the 1850's-1920's. Image: Canadian Postcard Company, Wikipedia Commons
After the train yards shifted away from Toronto and into Vaughn in the 1960s, the yards in Toronto became redundant and the railway lands began the process of abandonment.

With newly opened land, development started in that area, including the building of the CN Tower. The Tower was the only part of the proposed MetroCentre that actually became reality. From its opening, until 2007, it was the tallest free-standing structure in the world and is now the 9th tallest free-standing structure in the world. 

In 1995, it was declared one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World. The CN Tower is a communications tower, observation tower, and a major tourist attraction in Toronto. Today, it is a signature icon of Toronto’s skyline as it attracts more than 2 million visitors.

Toronto's Skyline as seen from the tower. Image: JetLaggedJaff
I had the pleasure of actually visiting the CN Tower 5 years ago when I went to Toronto. It was truly an amazing experience to view the tower from the outside and the inside. You get amazing views of the city, the Toronto Islands, and of the railway that passes by the tower. The railyard may be gone, but the main line still passes just to the north of the tower. Toronto Union Station is less than a half a mile away.

Image: JetLaggedJaff, Billy Bishop Airport
One of my favorite views was watching the planes take off from Billy Bishop Airport. You can either take the elevator to the observation deck or you can go even higher to the SkyPod. I had the opportunity of going all the way up to the SkyPod, which is 446 meters (1460 ft) off the ground.

Editors Note: No way in hell. Thank you.
Another cool feature of the CN Tower is that it has a glass floor at the observation deck, and it was really, really cool to stand on. I admit, I was really freaked out that I was standing on top of the glass floor, but then someone told me that it can practically handle anything and I was like “phew”!

Overall, if you are visiting Toronto, this is definitely a must-visit. I promise that you will not regret it.

A panoramic view of the city taken from the SkyPod.
As stated already, the railway heritage of the land is still present, as the Toronto Railway Museum occupies a significant portion of land adjacent to the tower, and has many different pieces of rolling stock on display along Roundhouse Park, which preserved an old railway roundhouse as part of the museum.

Image: CN 6213 on display. Image: Discover Ontario Museums
Further Reading: Toronto's Railway Heritage (Amazon),

For more on Jaff's travels all across the world, visit JetLaggedJaff on Potoky Creative

Thanks as always for reading!