Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Phew sorry for the delay in completing these Peru posts, I got side tracked by a long weekend in San Francisco - the hills of SF were a breeze in comparison to my Peru trip - but I hope to post more on that later, although it's really going to depend on how work goes when I'm back tomorrow.
So back to the Inca Trail. It was cloudy when we reached the sun gate at 6.25am, no view of Machu Picchu for us, but it was still amazing to arrive there.
Relaxing with our fellow hikers at Intipunku, before heading off on the final stretch.
Continuing along the path to Machu Picchu
Hector, the tour leader for half of our group, met us at the sun gate with the 5 remaining members of his group who had chosen to opt out of taking the Inca trail with 2 plastic bottles of Pisco Sour to celebrate us completing the trail. We hiked down a little from the sun gate to an area that was set back from the path where we could toast our efforts away from the crowds. Phew, they were quite strong, just one tiny Pisco Sour went straight to my head. Delicious though and well deserved.
Continuing on, half-sozzled on the side of a mountain. Hmmmmm!!!
A first glimpse through the morning mist of Machu Picchu mountain.
So can you believe that just as we were approaching Machu Picchu my camera decided to pack up. Grrrrrr!!!! This being the case all Machu Picchu photos are courtesy of Melissa. Original photos taken by Hiram Bingham in 1911 can be viewed here.
It was so lovely and peaceful at Machu Picchu just before 8am on the morning of Sunday 5th September - notable for also being my sister's 36th birthday.
This part of the Machu Picchu site is chocka with llamas with pom poms on their ears, but thankfully not chocka with tourists, at least not at that time of day. We relaxed for a few minutes taking in our surroundings and enjoyed our ham and cheese sandwiches and guava juice boxes.
The view of the main area of the Machu Picchu site.
Taking a photo of the whole group. Say chicha!!
Efraim led the group down to the main entrance of the site to pick up our pre-paid tickets and have a bathroom break. It was a whole different world down there from the solace we'd briefly enjoyed earlier. Machu Picchu tourists are early birds, there are hoards of them, and it's easy to spot those who hiked the trail vs. those who took the bus from Aguas Calientes, those who took the bus don't have that same tortured look on their faces when faced with steps, of which there are many!! Many many many many stairs. I was fantasizing about moving into a bungalow after all the steps. Lots of mosquitos too!!
When we first began our Peru trip our tour leader, Ybone, told us how a lot of hikers just liked to curl up in a ball and go to sleep when they arrived at Machu Picchu*, the notion of which I found completely ridiculous. I mean seriously, how could you sleep when you've just hiked 3 and a bit days to see one of the great wonders of the world? Well after hiking 3 and a bit days to get there I completely understood where those people were coming from. I was completely exhausted and antsy for a well deserved lie down. That sounds terrible doesn't it, but it's true. It will also show me in something of a poor light when I say I felt a slight resentment towards all the tourists who got there via bus, particularly the handful of misbehaving ones that pushed you out of the way in their excitement and I would find myself thinking "Watch it buddy, I hiked here 3 days for this, what did YOU do that you feel you have a right to push me out of the way. If you don't watch it you'll have a walking pole protruding from where the sun don't shine." Machu Picchu made me kind of testy!!
Of the many posters and photos I've seen of Machu Picchu one thing I never realised is that the entire site is surrounded by mountains. I always thought there was just the one, the famous one that's in all the travel brochures, but nope, they whole site is perched up there on top of the world. No wonder it lay undiscovered for so many years. Those Incans were crazy people eh!!
The purpose of the site is also unknown, although speculation has been rampant over the years. When female human remains were found a number of years ago some archeologists speculated that Machu Picchu was where the Incas kept their 'vestal virgins', however that theory was blown to bits when male remains were later discovered and archeologists continue to make new discoveries at the site.
If you are lucky you'll get to see a chinchilla, like this one, which sat grooming itself while Efraim gave us our tour.
"They taste good," said Efraim.
Goodness me, is there anything that man won't eat? A few days earlier he'd told us about a small tribe in the Andes where he claimed they ate cats and how he was interested in trying it. Ewww!!
Actually chinchillas are a protected species as they are nearly extinct in Peru, so I would hope Efraim was exaggerating about cooking them up.
By noon the place was overrun and extremely hot - it's hard to find shade at the ruin and the mozzies were biting - so we hopped on a bus down the extremely windy, narrow and steep road - seriously my heart was in my mouth and even though I am not suspicious, but I was not happy to note we were on bus #13 - to Aguas Calientes and headed to the meeting point, Apu Salkantay restaurant, where we indulged in a chicken sandwich with fries and 2 well deserved Cusquena beers.
After lunch we explored Aguas Calientes, a cute little town, and did our bit to shore up the Peruvian economy at the craft market buying gifts for family and friends, spotting lots of familiar strangers from the trail as we explored.
Indulging in this ice-cream came back to bite me in the arse later**, at least I think it was the ice-cream, but it was delicious.
*The fact that the bar at Winay Wayna campsite used to stay open until 2am may have also had something to do with their torpor.
**Ugh I was up all night throwing up and then later, well, let's just say I had to break out the Imodium!! It put the mockers on our plan to go out on a bender once we got back to Cusco, I was in bed by 9.30pm thankful that my touch of the trots had at least waited to start until I was back at the Cusco Plaza II hotel.