Machu Picchu at last

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
Trip End Sep 06, 2008

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Three plane rides, a taxi, a train, and now we are just a 20 minute bus ride away from Machu Picchu.  But first we had to fuel up for the long day by enjoying some complimentary buffet breakfast.  The usual suspects again of breads, jams, and fruit.  You could order off a menu also, for something more substantial, but that was not necessary.  After breakfast we went back to the room to load up on bug spray and suntan lotion.  Each day I had gotten a sun burn on a different part of my body.  It started on the first day on my neck, so I made sure to lather up my neck.  Then the second day I got burned on my arms, so I got that covered.  Also I heard the mosquitoes at MP are quite bad.  They are much smaller than your typical mosquitoes, but pound for pound their bite is one of the worst.  They leave bullseye shaped bites that bleed immediately and itch like crazy.  You cant just spray your clothes either, or the mosquitoes will go up your pant legs and have their way with you in uncomfortable areas.  I know deet is bad for the environment, but I wasn't taking any chances.  I think Amy and I used an entire bottle (airport regulation size of under 3.5 oz) of bug spray that day.  Now we were all set.  Went down to the lobby and waited for David (same tour guide) to arrive by train to show us around.  

David showed up around 8 and we immediately went over to purchase our entrance tickets and bus tickets.  We then hopped on the bus and made our way up the mountain.  Legend has it that there are 12 switchbacks going up the mountain to the top, I counted 13 though.  Perhaps the Peruvians are superstitious or something.  The only things up at the top of the mountain are a hotel (the Sanctuary Lodge which runs about $2400 soles a night, a Kuna store (which is Peru's equivalent of Burberry or Prada selling alapaca goods), and bathrooms (that cost 1 sole each to use, and in stadium fashion, the urinals are trough style).  We entered the gates of Machu Picchu, but had to wait for David.  Locals had free admittance to all the sites throughout the valley, but apparently not in Machu Picchu.  They are admitted for free on Sundays only, but had to pay a discounted price all other days.  I couldn't really understand him (since I don't know Spanish), but he had a piece of paper and was trying to fight this fee.  Once he was finished we went inside.  There are 2 paths you can take.  The first takes you up, which is a somewhat difficult climb, but takes you to the top and gives you the view that you see in most pictures.  The other path takes you down to the bottom where most people finish the tour.  We went up...slowly, as there was a group of old people (the 56+ crowd) all using canes (not to be confused with walking sticks) in front of us.  Unfortunately the path was small so it was difficult to go around them, but at the first break, they let us pass.  

We finally got to the top, and the first thing that came to my mind was a line from the movie Rudy.  "This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen!"  The difference is I am not an elderly man in rural Indiana, getting all teary eyed over a football field with touchdown Jesus in the background.  Perhaps Rudy's father should get out a little more.  But this was a great view, the same view you see in every MP picture, although pictures don't really do it justice.  This is what we came all this way for.  Luckily the old folks were blocking more people from coming to the top, so we had plenty of time to take pictures in this area.  After a few pics (had to make sure we got a good one for our holiday card this year), David explained the different sections we were about to tour.  

We started by entering through the main entrance to the ruins.  We then walked through the quarry (place where the incans took, shaped, and cut the rocks), to the temple of 3 windows (can you guess how many windows there are), and up to the sun dial. The sun dial at MP is the only sun dial that was not partially destroyed by the Spanish.  In fact it is almost completely in tact, only a small piece in the corner is broken off, which happened in the 90's while filming a beer commercial.  The tour continued to the sacred rock.  This rock is in the shape of the mountain that is located behind it.  If you touch the sacred rock, you will get good energy and good luck.  Unfortunately you are not allowed to touch it anymore as the acid from hands has deteriorated the rock.  Back in this corner of MP is where you can take the trail to hike Wayna Picchu (the big mountain you see in the background of every picture).  Only 400 people a day are allowed to take this hike and it is supposedly very steep (and very dangerous, 1 person each week falls off the mountain, from what we hear).  This will be saved for tomorrow.  Around this time you can clearly see who used bug spray and who didn't.  There was a guy walking around in front of me who looked like he just came off the set of Survivor.  He probably had 100 bug bites all over his legs.  I started to laugh at him until I noticed that I had about 5 bug bites on my right elbow.  I guess I missed a spot while applying bug spray, and the mosquitoes attacked.  The tour continued by coming back towards the front with checking out the farmer's houses, then the virgins' houses, and finally to the temples of the condor and sun.  

After the tour we went to lunch.  Again we were left with 2 options (and only 2 options).  Spend $30 for the buffet inside the Sanctuary Lodge, or eat at the sandwich shop outside.  Amy and I split a turkey panini (which despite the 24 soles, was pretty good) and a water.  Water was selling for 10 soles (equivalent of $3.33).  Compare this to the same bottle of water sold throughout Peru for 1.5 to 2 soles.  I also had a zone bar (peanut butter).  Once lunch was over, we donated 1 more sole to the bathroom gods and started our hike up to the sun gate.  The sun gate is located in the mountain behind the entrance.  This is the area where you spot MP for the first time if you are on the Inca trail.  We decided to go for the reverse commute and boy was it tough.  Again, not really tiring or steep, but very tough to breath.  I was quite winded when I got to the top and needed a long rest.  The hike back down luckily was a breeze.  

We took the bus back when the hike was over and headed back down to Aguas Calientes.  Still counted 13 switchbacks.  Our hotel is the first hotel in Aguas Calientes, so the bus stopped right out front for us to get out.  We waived goodbye to David, and went into the room to change.  Afterward we walked around Aguas Calientes to get a feel for the town.  Everyone said that it was overpriced, small, and crappy.  I agree with the small part, but was pleasantly surprised with the rest.  Town has a small square surrounded by hotels/hostels, restaurants, and internet cafes.  We had to get back to the hotel because Amy had a massage appointment to restore the feeling in her feet after all the hiking.  Meanwhile I watched an old episode of Lost on a channel called AXN.  It was the 3rd or 4th episode of the first season where we learn that Locke is more of a weirdo than expected (and a paraplegic).  Definitely one of my favorite epis.  Amy got back, we got ready, and went to dinner.  Tonight I went with the Chicken Diet Soup for an appetizer.  Not sure why it is called Chicken Diet Soup, but it is pretty much chicken soup.  I guess it is called 'diet' in peru as long as the food is not fried beef.  For my entree I selected the veal stew over risotto.  Very good but a tad salty.  I had ice cream for dessert.  Once again we were in bed at 9.
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