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December 16, 2004

Machu Picchu


Yes, finally we made it to the culmination of our trip, the craziest Inca city in the craziest location ever! We finally made it to Aguas Calientes (translation: hot waters), the tourist-driven city at the base of Machu Picchu, pretty early in the morning after a 4 hour train ride which left at 6:15am (my first real train ride - not counting the sugar-can train in Hawaii). After eating some breakfast and finding a decent hotel (with somewhat non-functioning plumbing) we decided to do some exploring. Alas, however, it started to POUR RAIN, and we had to buy some crazy ponchos, somewhat like out ponchos in Turkey. I had a little trouble in the artisan's market with the poncho, though, knocking over some little chess men. I offered to pay the lady, but we got into a little argument and that was the end of that. Anyhow, it finally cleared up (A: cleared up as in we walked away from the anger), and we decided to go for a little walk up a mountain. We were wholly unprepared for this, it was kind of on a whim to check out this little trail, and it ended up being about an hour-long ascent up crazy steps and wooden ladders. Finally a little further than half way up, we decided that we shouldn't continue, because we had no food or water. It turned out to be a good idea because as soon as we got down it started pouring again. We were very glad to be eating our lunch (mmm... lomo saltado and the best juice ever) out of the rain, with a very nice view of the rushing river.

That evening, I decided to check out the hotsprings, which were okay. The water wasn't that warm, and there were too many Peruvian teen boys (some kind of school trip I think), but the view was completely incredible. The mountains just just straight up into the air, somewhat reminiscent of the chief in Squamish, but more of them all covered in beautiful green vegetation. The clouds were rather low too, which was neat.

The next morning we were up early in order to be one of the first people at the top of Machu Picchu. The bus takes about 30min, and the weather at that point was still pretty cloudy and drizzly. We decided to get a guide, which was definitely worth it. She was quite knowledgeable and pointed out all sorts of obscure things like where the blood drips from the sacrificial table shaped like a condor! Anyhow Machu Picchu was pretty surreal, especially after seeing many photos. The thing that struck me most about it was the location! It really is in the middle of nowhere, way up on the top of a mountain, and the scenery around it is fantastic. The colours were great, and the low clouds made for a pretty neat morning. After touring around all the ruins for about 2 hours, we did a little walk to the inca bridge, which is pretty neat, because the incas built this rock wall up against a cliff, with some logs over a little chasm. We couldn't figure out where they could be going, the trail pretty much went into nowhere. After we did a very excruciating hike up to the top of Waynu Picchu, the jutting up mountain you see in all the pictures. I made a point of not stopping the whole way up, which was very difficult. I started out setting the pace for Alistair (à la Floyd Landis) but then he took over and dropped everyone (me) à la Lance. It was very difficult, but the view at the top was great. The sun came out later in the day, after we came down, so we explored the ruins a little more and took some photos. We saw some very interresting animals, including some things that looked like wombats, I have no idea what they were... and a couple salamanders.

So, that was Machu Picchu. I'm really glad that I went. The photos don't really describe the feeling of being there. I secretly wish that I was born an Inca (nobility of course) so that I could have lived there. Oops, I guess the secret's out.

OK here's Alistair with news about today's adventure...

On a bit of a whim and with much enthusiam from Lisa, we decided to go white water rafting today. For $20 we got a full day's adventure and a really tasty river side lunch. Our guide picked us up along with seven other gringos around 9am this morning and we drove for about two hours outside of Cuzco. Two of the gringos were going bodyboarding, another was kayaking and the rest of us were in the raft. I have never been white water rafting and I have to say that is was a blast. We froze our rear ends off, but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The river was quite swollen from the recent rains, and so the rapids were really good. We had two Peruvian kayaking experts accompany our convoy down the river (pseudo guides) and they did a lot of showing off! Barrel rolls, surfing, spins etc... It was very cool.

Ok, Lisa summed up Machu Picchu very well. It was my second visit(I was there with my Mom in May of 2003) and it was definitely worth the return trip. I took a good hundred or so pictures, and I have tried to post the ones that show the scale of the place the best... We are off to Lima tomorrow. Our trip is over in one week!

Posted by Alistair Howard at December 16, 2004 05:55 AM


Wow, Al, lookin' rugged. Rrrow! And who are those two retar-- I mean -- special needs kids sitting on the raft? That looks like some trail (a.k.a. vertical ladder -- where did you stumble upon it?

Posted by: Sandra at December 17, 2004 08:14 AM