The lost city of the Incas

Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
Trip End Mar 19, 2006

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Today has been a bit of a disaster. So I have several hours sitting around before a night bus at 9.30 to Trujillo. I won't bore you with the details but it involves a non-existent tour of an archaeological site, the fact the electricity keeps cutting out here in Huaraz, everything being closed as it is Sunday, and lecherous men insisting on talking to my chest. Whew, rant over, promise.

In the meantime I will write some blurb here to go with the pictures I have put up of the day I had in Machu Picchu (have put lots of others up too - did you notice?!).

So, I had a couple of days in Cuzco before I could get the train towards Machu Picchu. After I got over the long bus journey, I had a look round the town and booked my train tickets (there's no road all the way to MP). The hostel I was staying in was nice, but did seem to be peopled by 18 year old wannabe hippies wearing extremely large sunglasses and saying things like "I had a breakthrough in my energy class last night". (I've found that there is a direct correlation between the idiot-factor of backpackers and the size of their sunglasses - its quite a reliable measure!) Still, a decent place to stay.

The next day I decided to do a tour of the archaeological sites close to Cuzco, as well as a couple of places in the town. I visited the cathedral, an Inca temple called Koricancha, and 4 places outside of town, including the entertainingly named Sacsayhuaman (sounds like sexy woman!) Its was good and got me warmed up for the main event, Machu Picchu!

There's no getting away from the fact that the Peruvian government has got the tourist dollar well and truly wrapped up in the Sacred Valley. Its pretty expensive, the most expensive thing I have visited in South America! The train alone cost 70 dollars, and its a lot when you think that a night in the hostel cost 7!!

Despite that, it was well and truly worth going. I went to the little town about 8km from MP the night before in order to beat the crowds coming directly from Cuzco (the train leaves at 6 ish and takes 4 hours, so you're assured of a little peace at the beginning). I found a hotel really easily and went straight to bed so I could get some sleep before getting up at 5 to make it up to MP early.

It was dark when I arrived so I hadn't really appreciated the location of the town - but getting up early the next morning I saw it was really beautiful - literally plonked down in a tiny space between almost sheer mountains, surrounding it on all sides, gushing rivers and lush jungle vegetation.

One of the great things about South America is the fact that you barely have to look for food and drinks at all sorts of odd times and odd locations. So on stumbling out of the hotel, there was a lady selling coffee and pointing me in the right direction to buy a ticket and get the bus, which perked me up considering it was still before 6!

The bus left soon after I got on (another rip off - 12 dollars for 8km!!!), wound its way practically vertically up a mountain, and deposited me at the entrance. At this point I realised it was really quite misty!

The guidebook suggested gong up some stairs to the top of the site to get an overall view of MP, so I trudged up the zig zag stairs to the top, got there and realised that it was really very misty indeed and I couldn't actually see anything! I was very glad of the plastic bag I brought to sit on, and settled down to wait for the sun to burn the mist off. At times, a breeze moved the whiteness slightly and I could see there was definitely something down below me, but not much more!

About an hour an a half later, which passed surprisingly quickly, the fog suddenly lifted all at once and I got my first view of the city. First impressions were that it was really small, but later I realised that that wasn't really true - think it was just that the mist was still hiding the mountains and valleys surrounding the area.

I think what makes MP so amazing to look at is the location more than anything. If you took the ruins and plonked them down on Bournemouth beach, they wouldn't be nearly so impressive. The fact that the site was undiscovered until 1911 means that some of the ruins are really well preserved, but its the sheer cliff sides and river in the valley below that make the place so amazing to look at.

No one really knows for sure what MP was for, but there seem to be two sides to it - the ceremonial side with temples and baths, and the living side with prison cells and houses. I spent about 3 hours clambering around, being stalked by llamas, taking waaay too many photos and generally realising that steps were going to be a big feature of the day! It was really stunning and quite amazing to see the whole place after seeing so many pictures of it.

I think I had got the second bus up of the day, arriving just before 6, so by the time the tour groups started arriving on the train I thought I deserved break so headed off to get a sandwich and a coffee. Which was incidentally one of the nicest sandwiches I have had in a while!

After another hour wandering around the site I decided it was pretty much time to go back to wait for the train. The funniest thing about the bus on the way down was the little kid who decided he was going to shout "goodbye" to the bus on every single switchback turn, all the way down the mountain. As the bus was heaving itself round the switchbacks, he would pelt down the steps in the middle of each turn, and position himself to yell at the bus as it was going past - for the whole journey! As a way of asking for money it was certainly more entertaining than the usual whining you get here so he made quite a lot out of our bus at the bottom of the hill!

After a quick night in Cuzco, I wimped out and bought a plane ticket back to Lima - just couldn't face the prospect of another 25 hour bus, and I figure peace of mind (and back) is more important than 40 quid. So I covered the journey in an hour instead of 25!

Then a bus here to Huaraz, which I am not liking at all! I should have known it was bound to be rubbish when two men at the bus station started having a fistfight for who was going to be a "guide" for me - not that I needed one. Anyway, am heading to Trujillo, on the coast tonight, and hopefully it will be better than here!! A good lesson learned that not everthing can be fabulous and wonderful all the time I suppose!

Anyway am off to collect the beast and get the bus, so hope you are all well and talk to you soon!

Sarah xxx
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