Trip Start Sep 30, 2009
42Trip End Dec 04, 2009
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Where I stayed
With a lot less luggage than anticipated, I decided to walk down to the train station – about a 20 minute walk. I was there early, but thought I might as well have a light dinner and one of the small cafés down there. I did send a curious glance at the El Albergue hotel and restaurant, only accessible from the platform behind the bars, and it was only after I had sat down and ordered, that I realised that you easily could get through
The train – and the tracks – were definitely of a bygone era. Although the seats were clean and the floor as well, two medium-built persons would inevitably sit knee-to-knee across from each other. It was dark when the train set off at 7 PM, so I could not really take in the beauty of the Sacred Valley on the 1˝ hour trip to Aguas Calientes. To let myself get into the right mode of train travel, I tried to read some in my "The Old Patagonian Express" book, but honestly, the train was bumping too much for me to be able to keep my eyes focus on a single line of text at a time
When we arrived in Aguas Caliente it was pouring down, and I was quick to get my rain poncho out as we made our way through the various artisan stables to the exit, where I found this man holding a sign with my name on it. There are no cars in Aguas Calientes except for the buses riding up to Machu Picchu and some trucks, so we walked for about 10 minutes to the hotel, Inti Winay Wanya. An OK basic hotel with no frills but a nice new bathroom. I was tired, and after having talked to another girl, who was part of group which would be heading up to Machu Picchu with one of the first buses, I decided to ask for a wake-up knock at 5. She also told me that out their group of 7, all Australians, 5 had had severe altitude sickness resulting in several doctor’s visits. I kept feeling lucky that I have not had any serious problems, although I start to suspect that my stomach problems most likely are related more to the altitude than the food here.
I slept OK, although the rain outside was very audible, and so was any noises from the other rooms
I woke up already at a little over 4 AM to the noise from the other rooms. And already at 20 past four, there was a knock on my door. So much for asking for a wake-up at 5. I was extremely tired, and I do not think I have ever before had a breakfast at 5 AM before in my life. I did not have much of an appetite, but grabbed a few rolls to take with me on my trip.
When I woke up it hadn’t rained, but it had started raining by the time I joined the others and walked to the buses. It wasn’t raining much, more a kind of drizzle, but the clouds covered the entire sky. At least I hoped to get to see some clouds lifting over or drifting across Machu Picchu. And I sure did.
The bus ride took about 25 minutes up and up, round one hairpin turn after the other with some scary drops on the side. From the entrance to the park, it was just a very short walk before the magnificent view of Machu Picchu revealed itself for my eyes. It was even more amazing than I ever could have dreamed of. The clouds were there, drifting over the site and over and between the surrounding towering mountains. It was one of those rare occasions, where the view of something extraordinary and something you have dreamed of seeing for such a long time, just has to bring moisture to your eyes
I had a lot of time before my guided tour would start at 10.30. And how I enjoyed just walking and strolling, taking pictures and just trying to take it all in. As it became later in the morning, more and more people turned up. Many tourists, but also many that looked local. Many of them would later by carrying their sleeping children around in their arms – using strollers was not an option
There were many steps to climb, and I did end up getting very tired. I chatted a bit with these two Australian guys – there were sooo many Australians there – who had hiked up all the way from Hydro-Electrico – a water-power plant down at the height of Aguas Calientes – and even up to one of the peaks surrounding Machu Picchu. However, no matter how admirable that effort seemed, they also admitted to have suffered from severe altitude symptoms once they had reach the top, because they had walked up too quickly. It is also possible to walk up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, but it is strenuous 2 hour hike that I was glad not to do. I was also possible to hike up Wayna Picchu. My only reason for going up there would have been to get the postcard birds eye view you see on all the postcards, but those pictures were taken from the panoramic view point I had already climbed. So there was no need to exercise more than I had already done. I could also feel the exhaustion getting to me already. I was feeling tired and a bit nauseous. I went out and had a cup of coffee while waiting for my guide, but that did not help on the nausea
The guided tour with Wagner also included the two American sisters from Ollantaytambo, and Wagner was a good guide. He took us around to all the important sites and explained a lot about the impressive architecture that has ensured that Machu Picchu could withstand the tear of time – and the earthquakes; something that the more contemporary architecture not has been able to do. He also told about the myths surrounding the sacred rock, which according to a.o. Shirley MacLaine should radiate some kind of magical energy, something which modern machines that ought to be able to measure this type of energy, not have been able to support. Wagner also admitted that since the Incas did not have a written language and nothing verbally has been transmitted through time, really nothing is known about the purpose of the different stones and buildings at Machu Picchu – nor at all the other Inca sites – and basically it is all more or less qualified guess work.
After the guided tour, and 7 hours at Machu Picchu, I had no energy for more. But I was sad to leave, only hoping that one day – hopefully a sunny day – I would be able to return.
I took the bus down and went straight to a nearby restaurant, where I ordered the pizza I didn’t have the previous night. It took a long time for the pizza to arrive, and since I was still hungry I ordered a piece of banana cake. Waited. And waited. When I asked her over after 20 minutes she just told me they were out of banana cake. What kind of service is that!!!! I must admit that I have not been impressed with the service level or hospitality at most of the restaurants I have been to here – especially in and around Cusco
To be honest, I was a little concerned about the fact that I had left my backpack at the hotel, who would ensure that it would be brought to the train station in due time. That meant that I barely had any belongings: My souvenir bag in Lima, my big bag somewhere in Ollantaytambo, and my backpack at the hotel. I went to the train station and enjoyed a piece of banana cake from a woman selling them on the street there. A man came with a lot of bags, and only after a while did I discover that my backpack was there, too. That felt better.
The train left on time, this time filled with even more backpackers sitting knee to knee. I was tired, but felt extremely good. And so fortunate and happy that I had had the opportunity to have a dream come true: Seeing Machu Picchu. I just felt very good as we were driving back through the narrow canyon in the Sacred Valley.
In Ollantaytambo more seats became vacant, and I changed seat to be able to stretch my legs and fell into conversation with this British woman, who also was travelling on her own. We had a nice talk, while we were bumping our way back to Cusco.