Trek day 3

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  , Huanuco,
Monday, May 14, 2012

A slightly sore head doesn't dampen my mood this morning, due to the fact that we're on the last leg to Machu Picchu and I think I've made some headway with Frauline Eins last night.  The mood and morale of the group however is somewhat different, due to two of the Dutch girls and Paddy having their shoes stolen as we slept.  What makes it more frustrating is we saw the perpetrator telling us to go to sleep.  We didn't question that he wasn't the owner or fellow guest of the hostel.  It's getting closer to the time when I'm going to initiate my plan to catch any thief, anytime, anywhere, just so I can set about him.  Or her.  Maybe not her.  She's probably have me.

The choice of Zip Lining is not an appealing one, so I've got a three hour walk ahead while the rest of the group climbs into the canopies.  It is with great delight however that the Germans opt to go with me, as they came on this trip to hike.  Part of me still hopes that it's actually because Frauline Eins wanted to spend more time in my company.  Either way, I've got the opportunity to make some headway in glorious sunshine.

Compared with the second day, the walk is nothing really to write home about, but my companions more than make up for that, and spirits are high.  I try and learn German songs, I teach them Scottish ones.  The hours fly by.  At least until Frauline Eins' ankle gets the better of her as we liaise with the rest of the group, eat a bit of horrible dead cow, and begin the last leg along the famous train tracks to within striking distance of the prize.  She hops on the train, which gives me opportunity to pick the brain of her friend and find out if I'm in with a chance.

Looking back on the trek, if you've got the time and a decent head on your shoulders, there is no way you can't complete it yourself.  Any time you get lost, you just look around for the hundreds of other backpackers walking the route.  Literally when you reach the train tracks, you don't deviate from that until you arrive in Aguas Caliente, which is the major Machu Picchu tourist hub/trap at the base of the mountain.  I definitely think I'll be back to do it again one day on my own steam, which would be so much more rewarding.

At one point our guide looks up, and points to a tiny collection of stone buildings high above us as we cross a railway bridge.  That's it.  Machu Picchu.  Tantilisingly close, yet still so far away, just over the ridge of the mountain the looms and dominates the river valley.  It's unrecognisable from this angle, but there it is nonetheless, just out of reach.  My stomach does a back flip as we press on through the leafy sunlit vegetation.

Agua Caliente smacks of a Swiss alpine tourist resort.  Everything is geared to keeping Mr and Mrs Gringo happy.  There must be nearly a thousand tourist stalls and market stands, all selling very similar items at stupid prices.  I waste no time in buying an Alpaca T-shirt while Paddy opts for an Inca Cola number.  Everywhere you turn whites outnumber the locals, while every restaurant sells hamburgers, hot dogs, hot wings and pizza.  It's like it doesn't belong in Peru, but when you're about to see one of the most visited tourist sites in the world, you can understand it, you just don't have to like it.

It's not Frauline Eins' day at all when she discovers her ticket is for a male German whose passport number corresponds to that of Mr Typhoid, who also hails from her neck of the woods.  It's an almighty cock up, considering how rigorous and tight the security is on site.  She's told to lie and claim she's lost her passport, but that doesn't sound dodgy in the slightest...In the end I kick up a bit of a stink on her behalf and we're promised she's going to get in.  Apparently our tour guide "knows someone" on the desk.  I'm not convinced, but I'm doing my best to keep her smiling as we go for a couple of drinks.  Literally a couple; we have to be up at 4 to climb for an hour to see the sun rise over the Inca stronghold.

We're parting company on the corner just close to our hostel as she is waiting for her friend.  She's wearing a cosy woolly jumper, scarf and hat, and looks radiant in the glow of the numerous restaurant low watt bulbs.  All of a sudden it feels like Christmas, but I miss the opportunity and settle for a lingering hug and bid her good evening.  Still, regardless that I have a private room, for the first time I don't want to spoil anything this early, and retire to contemplate all the emotions that will come with first light.  Just what role she plays remains to be seen, but for once that will have to take a back seat;  tomorrow I see Machu Picchu.

(Maybe take a passenger seat...)  

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