Machu Picchu

April 2, 2010

At long last, I am on my way to visit Machu Picchu.

They told me I would be picked up at my hotel between 5:30 and 6. I was finally picked up at 7 (after the guy had come to my hotel inquiring after someone else who didn’t exist!) He drives us across town, then parks at a gas station for a good hour. no explanation. Frankly, I feel like my day would be a whole lot better if I could get a cuppa  coffee!

It’s a van ride up past Ollantaytambo (where we stop for a quick pottie and coffee break–cute town but crawling with gringos!)

Gorgeous road. Dang! Too bad I am not riding!

I don’t get the opportunity to take too many pictures because I am in the van. It’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait-for-nothing along the way. Passengers are shuffled in  between vans as different groups with different agendas are coordinated. At the top of the pass most everyone unloads (including Eden) and gets on mountain bikes. The driver insists that I go by bike too, and I refuse to get out of the van. I BROKE MY HAND TWO DAYS AGO! we have an argument, he goes and talks to another “guide” and then they act like they are making a big accommodation for me to continue to ride in the van (that is full of people and going to Santa Teresa anyway!)

Well, it’s just a lot more of that. Van stops in a town, tells me (us) to get out, another van will pick us up.

Okay, I am going on faith here that it will work out, but so far I am not instilled with a great amount of faith.

It all works out, and I won’t give you the blow by blow, but basically in Santa Teresa I had to wait 3 hours for my hotel room to be ready…then they give me a room when I SEE the fellow get out of my bed. The hotel lady insists that the bed is clean, I insist not that I deserve clean sheets (I am standing inside the hotel in a 3″ puddle of water as we have this conversation). Ultimately I end up in another hostal–this one has an army of ants running own the wall of my room. When I ask the hostal lady about it she tells me to sleep in the bed on the other wall.

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OK, so here’s the van full of us on our second early morning…

being driven to where we will get out and hike the rest of the way to Aguas Calientes (Machupicchu town). There was a landslide overnight, and so the 3 hour walk now will be a 12 hour walk…

Start hiking!

At least it’s a nice hike (albeit straight up) through the forest / jungle.

We stop for a break up top. An opportunistic Peruvian has set up shop here…good for them. But no thank you, I will not pay $3 for a Gatorade.

So after this idyllic place we start down. Which is even harder for me because it is in the shade, and with the rains it is pure mud. I fall and use the broken hand to brace myself…not a good idea. The hand gets tied to my neck so that won’t happen again.

At the first tricky spot I find Eden and Nick waiting for me. Eden hold me hand (quite literally) almost all the way down the mountain. He and Nick are the Mutt and Jeff of the tour and keep me laughing despite myself and being the last one of the group to get down the hill.

We finally get down to the river and luckily there is a bridge.

Water is pouring out and over the mountainside. It’s so wet!

We get to Hidroelectrica, where out tourguide Gato informs us that there is no lunch. this is after hiking 9 hours. He tells us that we have to hike another 3-4 hours to Aguas Calientes to get food. There are other people seated there, eating. The 17 Israelis we are with start a revolt, I do it my way an go talk to one of the ladies serving food. No, there is no food for us. Everything that comes in has to be carried, and our tourguide did not pre-arrange food with her. But there is a place that serves food 5 minutes away, at Km 120 she says.

I go back to tourguide Gato and tell him this. He calls me a liar and says there is no other food available and that we have to walk to Aguas Calientes.  I tell him to send the other tourguide if it is only 5 minutes, to make sure tehre is food then organize the group. He turns his back on me. He yells at everyone and tells them to follow him.

Eden, cool cat that he is, decides to have a beer in the middle of all this. He suggests we pay the $8 an take the train instead of walking more. I ask the conductor if there is any space on the train, and he tells me no. Eden is not concerned, and orders another beer. If I have to walk I’d rather walk NOW than later in the dark.  I stress a bit.  Eden asks another tourguide to see if there is space on the train, and he comes back and says yes, that tickets go on sale in a half hour. We get the tickets and wait for the train to leave in an hour. When am I gonna learn to relax? I admire Eden.

The rive is completely wild…so much rain.

Ok, Up at 4:00 the next morning to cue up for the us (because I was too lazy to walk an hour uphill at 4 am!)

I took a picture of this industrious lady selling coffee to the people waiting in the line for the 5:30 bus departure…

MACHU PICCHU!!!!

Our tourguide Gato’s English was so bad, I elected to take the tour in Spanissh with another couple from our tour. It was an excellent choice–our Guide was very patient and basically gave us the “spiritual” tour of Machu Picchu. Enjoy the tour!

During the tour he also talked about modern Peruvian culture, and one of the important aspects is the coca leaf. He invited us all to try it, sort of as an offering, and shared his stash with us. Wow. First time I had chewed it with the charcoal mixed in, and it really “accelerated” the effects of chewing the leaf.

After the your I ran into Eden and Nick. Nick had a rough night! (They hiked up very early instead of taking the bus).

Well I decided since I had the ticket to Waynu Picchu, I might as well hike that too!

Just a little difficult with one hand…

Here’s the very rewarding, and very famous, view of Machu Picchu rom Waynu Picchu:

The hardest part was the climb back down…definitely rough on those that are scared of heights!!

It was exhausting, but  was (mostly) glad I went.

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