Machu Picchu

Trip Start May 03, 2005
Trip End Oct 31, 2005

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

I defy anyone not to be impressed by Machu Picchu. After the disappointment of missing out on the Inca Trail, I was a little worried that I wouldn't have the same experience travelling up the hill to the city by bus.

I got the train from Cusco to Agua Calientes (Machu Picchu town), dropped my bag off at the hostal and headed straight up to MP at about 11am. At the entrance I was swamped with what felt like a zillion people, all dithering around the entrance. Arggghhhh! After a steep climb in what felt like a herd of sheep, I managed to get my first proper glimpse of the city - WOW!!! It is just like all the postcards and photographs that you see. Amazing! I was still feeling a little claustrophic so I headed in the opposite direction to everyone else to have a look around. The city is huge! The only downside of this decision was that I always seemed to walking up when everyone else was walking down and I think I made it harder for myself but at least I got some peace and quiet.

After a quick sandwich in what I later realised was the cemetary area of the city (although they have never found any human remains there) to restoke the fire so to speak, I headed back over to the entrance side of the city which seemed to have fewer people around. The Incas were absolutely obsessed with steps and building things on the most excruciatingly steep mountains. If you ever plan to come here make sure that you are fit - it is gruelling! Having made it back up to the side where I had come in and fled from the sea of people, I saw a sign for the Inca Bridge and thought, that sounds really nice - walking over the river, chilling out and reliving a bit of history... Another word of warning - they never tell you how far away things are! So I set off, thinking, this will be about 10 minutes there and back....after probably half an hour I came to the end of the path. I should have known as an American guy passed me on the way and said, "watch out for some of those rungs - I really didn't trust some of them". The "bridge" was, well, 3 rungs that curved at a strange angle and the rest was buried in overgrowth. I felt cheated! After getting back into the city I had a breather and earwigged a guide telling the history of the city. It was much too late in the day to climb Huaynu Picchu so I opted for la puerta del sol instead, which is where the inca trail enters the site. I thought, I can relive a little of the inca trail - Happy days! So off I marched (literally) uphill, thinking, I really don't want to stop because this is really quite tough and I just want to get there. I kept thinking, 5 more minutes, 5 more minutes... At one stage, a snake rushed from the path just ahead of me - it was quite small and brown with scary looking markings. I was pleased that it was moving away from me! Saw so many butterflies, birds and lizards - it was lovely. 1 hour later I struggled up the steps to la puerta del sol. Omigod! Once I recovered my breath I was able to appreciate the view. It really was beautiful and worth the effort.

By the time I got back to the city it was 5pm and I was wrecked so headed back down to Agua Calientes in the bus. On the way down, there was a boy who raced the bus down steps (the bus zig zagged down the mountain but the path is more direct), shouting "Adios!" to everyone onboard at the bottom of each set of steps. It was rather amusing (my colleague had told me about this before I came so I knew what to expect). If nothing else, it's good exercise for them. At the end, the bus driver let him onto the bus and he collected money for his efforts. It must be worth their while but I can't help feeling there's exploitation going on - probably of the tourists!

I bumped into the french couple that I had travelled back from Manu with in a bar and had a beer before heading back for the most welcome (and best) shower I've had in a long time. I really don't know why it is so difficult to get a decent hot shower in this country.

On sunday I had originally planned to walk up to the city rather than catch the bus but decided to challenge myself to climb Huaynu Picchu instead. I had wanted to get to the city at 6am but was so knackered that I forsook the chance of seeing condors at dawn. I got to the city at 07:45 and quickly dashed around the areas that had been swamped the day before - the hitching post of the sun, the palace and the condor temple. I then had a quick rest before signing in to climb Huaynu Picchu. I'd heard stories of people dying climbing this mountain. Seemly one guy died of a heart attack and someone else fell off. For the first time in my life I wished I was 10 years younger and that I hadn't skipped gaelic football training before I left London. I thought my heart was going to explode from my chest at times - just imagine an unending zig zagging of steep, uneven, steps for an hour and you will get some idea of what it was like. I befriended a dutch girl on the way up and was quietly pleased that someone was finding it harder than me. It was funny (well, rather annoying really), everyone on the way down seemed so fresh and were helpfully (or unhelpfully) offering timescales on how much further we had to go. It's funny how people's perceptions can be so off! I have to say that I had a real sense of achievement sitting on top of the mountain and looking down on Machu Picchu - it was really beautiful! I imagine that it's like childbirth - you forget how hard it is once it's over. I wasn't in a hurry to descend (even though the guy at the control point had put a return time on my ticket - I'm not convinced that anyone would have come looking for me anyway if I hadn't come back down) and basqued in the sun for a while to dry out and recouperate. As always, the descent was so much quicker, if a little hairy in places where the steps had worn away, and it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I looked up at the mountain from MP to see where we had been.

We then bumped into an irish and two american guys at the cafe and ended up going to lunch together before heading for the train back to Cusco. I slept well that night!

I'm now back in Lima (working really hard as you can tell) for about a week before heading to Iquitos and Manaus in Brasil. It was a bit of a shock to the system going into the supermarket last night - I was a little spaced out - like a fish out of water. It's actually really sunny and warm here today - unheard of in August in Lima!!! I'm certainly not complaining. Quite pleased that my colleagues are asking how much weight I've lost - looks like there is a positive side to a bout of the runs afterall. Happy days! Think I'll be resting up here before my next adventure - watch this space!


Loads of lurv

Dympna xox
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