Machu Picchu (March 29, 2008)

Another early morning as we woke up at 5:00 am (I know, getting up early again but how many times in your life are you going to be at Machu Picchu??). We had a quick breakfast and went to the bus station to grab the first bus at 5:30 am. Of course we were not the only ones, there was a pretty big line up already. Thankfully, they lined up buses and we got on the third or fourth one. As you may be able to see on the pictures, the road to Machu Picchu is very windy. And it was pretty early in the morning… I think a few of us were feeling a bit queasy. We arrived at Machu Picchu at around 6. We took a small path and went above some of the terraces to a promontory called the Watchman’s Hut. From here, you have a great view of the Inca city with the mountain Wayna Picchu in the background. It was really cool and we spent about three hours just taking it in and taking pictures. We also had a little friend with us visiting from Paris, Minivenz, with whom we took pictures of along the way. You can check out his website at www.minivenz.fr which have pictures of his visit in Canada and and his trip to Peru. While we were taking pictures of him with Machu Picchu in the background, two Japanese ladies were killing each other laughing and then shyly asked if they could also take a picture of him. It was really funny. We spent quite a bit of time just sitting on the terraces and taking it in. Every once in a while Roger would go off and listen to tour guides to get some extra information. Of course that wasn’t the best idea – who sends the guy with the not such a great memory… The joke was that Roger would come back saying: “I don’t know, something about Incas and stones”. Anyway, between reading the book and listening in on the guides, here is some information on Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is an Inca site built around 1450 situated on a mountain ridge. It was abandoned during the Spanish conquest. For centuries, Machu Picchu was buried in the jungle, until Hiram Bingham, an American Historian from Yale, rediscovered it in July 1911. He had heard rumors about a lost city and found some locals who brought him there. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Kevin was saying he really wanted to climb up Wayna Picchu, the mountain on the other side. They only allow 400 people a day to climb up. It look high, steep and scary. Melissa and Marjorie were like “Have fun you guys”. I think the guys thought the girls were sissys but they did not care. So Kevin and Roger started their ascension while Melissa and Marjorie went to explore the ruins, armed with the book and their ears (as in listening to other tours). They managed to understand a good part of the back ruins but ended up completely lost in the front part of the ruins. So after about an hours of exploring on their own, which was a lot of fun, they decided to go back to the entrance and get their own guide! Enough with the free loading :-). As soon as they started the tour it started downpouring. But the show must go one so out came the rain jackets and umbrellas. The girls were pretty worried about the guys on the steep path under the rain but thankfully were able to do quick therapy on each other (that’s the advantage of being two psychologists traveling together :-)) and enjoyed the tour. The tour was a bit short because they had to meet the guys at 11:00. It still was pretty informative. The tough part was trying to remember everything to tell the guys after.

Meanwhile, on Wayna Picchu, Roger and Kevin started the accent to the top. The sign at the entrance at start of the climb said that it would take between 45 to 60 minutes to climb. Ha, there was no way that it was going to take them that long so off they went. While the climb was pretty tough, after climbing at 4000 m at Lake Titicaca, this was certainly much easier. It was a hot and tough climb but they made it to the top in 32 minutes. Not bad for a couple of old guys… And wow, was it ever worth it. The view from up there was stunning. From up there, you were surrounded by some amazing mountains and you could look down on Machu Picchu. Many pictures were taken and they also relaxed for a bit after working so hard to get up there. Once the rain started, they decided that they had better head down. What was most challenging both on the way up and on the way down was the steps. These steps were built 500 years ago and as one American put it “The sure aren’t up to code…” Despite the rain and some slippery rocks, they made it down safe and sound. They were even early for our rendezvous.
Once we met the guys, we brought them on our tour of the ruins, except we kept on getting lost trying to find places such as the Condor Temple and the Royal Palace. The front ruins can really be confusing… We also didn’t remember everything she told us so we had to make things up along the way. I don’t think they noticed because we can be pretty creative (or maybe they did notice because they did not give us a very good tip…). We then brought them to the back ruins where we had a lot more info and at least knew where we were going (between our tour and all the other ones we listened to). I am pretty sure they were impressed then. After we were done exploring the ruins, we went back up on the terracing to hang out with the lamas and take it in. The scenery is so beautiful it was really hard to actually leave. We left at around 3:00. It was crazy to think that we almost spend 9 hours there, it sure did not feel that long.

We took the bus back to town and we were pretty starved and exhausted. We went to find a restaurant but actually sat down at two restaurants and then left because they did not have the deals they had told us they had for beer. You have to understand that after a long day like that, beer is certainly important! We finally picked one and it was quite good – a few beers later and some Peruvian specialties, everybody was feeling more energized. We then headed back to the train station to take the Vistadome back to Ollantaytambo. The comfort was not quite the same as on the way back. We had less space and Kevin was pretty squished. But at least we got some entertainment. First, we got some folkloric dancing with a funny looking guy wearing a mask, and then we got a full blown fashion show – yes a fashion show in the train! The woman and man serving us the food modeled a whole bunch of alpaca wool sweaters for us. It was absolutely hilarious, cat walk, blue steel look, the whole deal. We were killing ourselves laughing.

We arrived in Ollantaytambo some time after 6:00 but we still had an hour and half cab ride to get back to Cusco. It occurred to us as we were in the cab that driving at night trough the mountains on not the best roads was not the smartest move. It was pretty scary and stressful. We had no seat belts in the back so we hooked arms and held on tight! Kevin was in the front which was probably more scary as we only had one headlight… Once we got to Cusco, we went back to our hotel and relaxed and went to bed as we had a pretty exhausting day.

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