Macchu Picchu

I have been busy lately…I will try to keep this to a reasonable length though! Last you heard from me, I was killing time in Puno. Now, a week later, I´ve reached the end of the beginning…..the third part of this trip is about to begin!

Puno to Cusco was a nasty ride in a very nice bus….just annoying because it arrived at 4am in Cusco, cold, dark, with nothing to do. I sat in the terminal for a while, then headed to town and lodged myself in the first cheap hotel that presented itself. I spent a day and a half wandering about town, visiting the ruins of Sacsayhuaman and getting my bearings. Cusco was the heart of the Incan Empire…home to many palaces and fortresses…and the influence is still present in many ways. The foundations of many local buildings exhibit the flawless stonework of the Incas, and the city is a tourist mecca that draws thousands of dollar-toting travellers to see the sights.

Tired of s/3 cups of mate de coca (which in any normal place would barely cost a single sol), I fled to Urubamba, an hour and a half out of Cusco. Urubamba is in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, but itself lacks anything interesting to see or do. Which is exactly why I spent three days there, enjoying s/3 meals (soup, salad, and main dish!) taking day trips to other local cities, ruins, and so on, sleeping a lot, visiting with my dentist who happened to be touring about for the week, and generally enjoying myself.

Urubamba1

On Friday I left Urubamba for Machu Picchu. So here it it, the dirtbagger´s guide to Machu Picchu. I first took the public colectivo (small minibus that leaves when full) for a few soles to Ollantaytambo…one of the last Incan fortresses to be sacked by the Spaniards. The town of Ollantay is charming, with ancient stonework and city planning, as well as very interesting ruins. From Ollantay, it is possible to buy a ticket on the ¨backpacker train¨ for $12 each way, to the town of Aguas Calientes. I left that evening, around 7:45pm, with a Swedish couple I had met at dinner.

That is a strange experience, riding the tourist train. Never have I been in a place SO full of tourists…so concentrated. All going to the same place, for the same reason. Arriving in Aguas Calientes was like landing on a different planet….one that knows only hostels and pizzarias. We arrived after dark; in fact, I never saw daylight in Aguas Calientes, and found a s/10 room at the suprisingly nice Inti Wasi, way up away from the train tracks by the Rio Aguas Calientes.

In the morning, the Swedes and I arose at 4am and hiked from town to the ruins, arriving in the predawn mist before the hordes of tourists…and enjoyed a few hours of magical calm while the mists swirled, in return for the steep hour and a half hike. Saved $4.50 by not taking the bus, each way, as well!

Machu Picchu is incredible. Worth every cent that I grudgingly forked over to the tourist machine. I will leave it to the reader to visit and see why for themselves.
After a l-o-n-g day of trekking about the beautifully reconstructed city, up the peak of Huayna Picchu, down to the Temple of the Moon, around to the Inca drawbridge, we descended in the dusk to Aguas Calientes and found a s/6 meal at a local comedor, then retired…..waking early again to catch our 5am bus back to Ollantaytambo. That was, incredible though it seems to me, this morning.

I spent the day hopping back through the Sacred Valley with a pair of lovely British girls….stopping back in Urubamba to witness a bit of the crazy festival that is raging in town, then on to the famous Sunday market in Pisaq. And now I find myself back in Cusco, wrapping it all up.

Tomorrow I leave for Lima, a 24hr bus ride that takes me from the altiplano to sea level. There I will meet Sean and depart for Huaraz. My solo travels are over….one trip ending in a way….but the mountaineering to come has me dreaming of steep snow and cold toes. Next update might be a while in coming, but will find me in a land of brilliantly gleaming 6000m snow peaks, if all goes according to plan!

Until then,
Phil

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