Magical Machu Picchu

We were up ridiculously early and in a taxi to take us to Poroy train station about 25 minutes from Cuzco, to be at the station by 6.15am.  The scenic journey to Agua Calientes on the Vistadome train took about 3.5 hours. It was sweet the way they served us breakfast in our own wooden trays complete with a small flower arrangement.  It was a lovely journey – we followed the river along and passed through gorgeous mountain ranges and even a high altitude jungle.  There was a table of four senior Australians on the train that did not stop gassing the whole trip – and I had to giggle.  Their Melbourne accents and they way they went on about things just cracked me up. I bet Mum and Dad’s tour is going to be just full of people like them!  Hubs blocked out the world with her iPod, luckily, because all that gassing would have given her the irrits.

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When we got to Agua Calientes, Hubs lead us straight to a cheap hotel just near the bus station for the bus that takes you up to Machu Picchu at 5.30am.  Good thinking – we didn’t have to walk far to get the bus the next day!

We grabbed some lunch at Plaza de Armas (there’s a Pl. de Armas in every Peruvian city), and Hubs went to siesta, and I went exploring.  Hubs has seen and done all this before, so she was not really interested in doing anything, and was still feeling off from the altitude.  Agua Calientes is a bigger tourist trap than Cuzco and I could not bare the thought of getting hassled in the markets to buy things – the same old things I’ve seen everywhere.

I did a pleasant 30-minute walk to the Machu Picchu museum which was really worthwhile. It gave me a better understanding of the place, of the Incas, and the building techniques they used for Machu Picchu.  It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.   A short siesta, then I had to get my technology fix and check my emails.  When I got back to the room,  I had missed Hubs, so I watched the last set of the US open men’s semi final – to see Docovitch beat Federer, and then got a table for one at a mexican place near our hotel.  When I got home at 8pm, Hubs was already tucked in bed asleep.

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For the second morning in a row, we were up at a ridiculous hour to try to get the 5.30am bus to Machu Picchu.  We were not expecting people to start queuing from 4.30am though!!  We were in the fifth or sixth bus and still arrived at the magical site by 6.30am.  We were early enough to get tickets to do the Waynu Picchu hike – a higher mountain than Machu Picchu. They only let 400 people per day to do that hike – and it’s one that Hubs missed out on doing last time she was here.  Gates to Waynu Picchu open at 7am, so we walked straight there – only to be kept waiting an hour to get in – the registration process for hikers takes AGES. I had time to walk across the whole of Machu Picchu to the entrance and use the bathroom and back again – and was still waiting for another 20 minutes!!

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It was worth the wait.  The hike to Waynu Picchu takes an hour if you are fit and altitude fit.  It took me 1.5 hours and Hubs longer again.   Hubs has seen the site so she had all day to do this hike and took her sweet time in doing so, whereas I powered on, trying to get a work out at the same time.   And did I work out!!  Oooohhh yes!  It was a pretty hard hike with hundreds of rocky steps to climb. I was sweating buckets, and trying to ration my water so 1. I would not run out, and 2. wouldn’t need the toilet.  There is no where to go to the toilet up there – only at the entrance of the site.   I really enjoyed that hike – I even enjoyed the knackered feeling and finding the determination to just keep going.  My lungs were screaming for more air, but besides that, the rest of me felt good – tired by good.  Along the way there were magnificent views of mountains, the Machu Picchu sacred site, forest, the river.   It was spectacular.

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The joy of reaching the top was unexpected. I was so happy!! Happy I’d made it, happy to be there, and well, just happy. I felt elated!  I was sorry that Hubs wasn’t with me – but we agreed to do this at our own speeds – I had other areas of Machu Pichhu to see that Hubs has seen before.    I took about 100 photos from the top of Waynu Picchu, overlooking Machu Picchu.  Then I found a terrace ledge just near the top where there was no one else and sat in the sun and just looked on in awe.  Breathe.  Aaaaahhh.  It was magical.  Nestled high up between mountain peaks, Machu Picchu is a sight to behold. 

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The museum explained one of the Inca myths – the Incas had so much power that they could whip a huge rock and it would roll itself up the hill!  Ha!  That’s a good one!   Machu Picchu was designed to get maximum sunlight. Some buildings have smooth rectangular uniform rock bricks – they were the important buildings.   Buildings with non-uniform sized rock bricks were less important, and those built with rocks not cut to shape at all are said to be the least important.

Historians still don’t know what Machu Picchu was used for. They have found tombs there, evidence of farming,  evidence of administration, and evidence of religion.  It is said that Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the 1500s – so it isn’t all that old really – not like the impressive temples of Egypt or even the huge monuments of Rome.  The Incas didn’t have the technology that the Egyptians and Romans had.  The site was abandoned by the Incas probably in the 1600s and not discovered again until 1911. 

It is the energy I felt when at Machu Picchu that I will remember the most. There was a calming peacefulness there that was also joyous.  Hard to describe.  It was a great energy and I loved just sitting on a rock outcrop taking it all in.

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After about 45 minutes at the top of Waynu Picchu, I decided to head down.  Just as I began the decent, I ran into Hubs, who was looking quite weary, yet proud she’d almost made it to the top.   With a loud bunch of obnoxious American girls just in front of me,  I was keen to get ahead of them and away from their annoying voices – it was ruining my experience!  I bid Hubs farewell and clambered down the mountain in record time – less than 20 minutes to get down!!  I was going fast – but how crazy is that?  1.5 hours up and 20 minutes down!  I was back down the mountain by 10.40am.

I found several sunny spots to sit at Machu Picchu and just breathed, taking it all in.  I ate a whole packed of Ritz crackers and several coca toffees, trying to top up my energy.   By midday i knew I had to make a move if I was going to make it to the sun gate, another walk taking 45 minutes if you are fit and altitude fit.   It took me just over an hour and again, it was a lovely walk. It was harder only because I was already tired and the sun was out in full blaze.  Luckily there were some shady spots on the pathway, offering some relief.  I was wishing I’d taken less clothes with me – since 8am in the morning I’d been in a t-shirt and left to carry a long sleeve top, a jumper, and a jacket – as well as a scarf and beanie.  I expected it to be much colder than it was. 

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The walk to the sun gate was lovely – and the view from the top stunning.  The Waynu Picchu view was probably better, but it was good to see views of Machu Picchu from both sides. I was again so happy to have made it to the top – elated.  And exhausted.  My leg muscles did well and only started aching about half way up to the sun gate.  My lungs however were struggling with the thin air up there.  I saw some llamas on the way which was cool.    I met some fun people at the top – a nice German lad on a massive trip to South America (until the money runs out), and two English girls who are teaching in Cuzco for 3 weeks as part of their degrees.  We all walked down together chatting the whole way – it was fun.  The llamas walked down the last part of the path with us which was really fun!

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I found a weary Hubs at the gate, a little earlier than we agreed – but I had to go out and buy a sugary drink and some water.  Man, I was so thirsty and my energy was used up.  I drank a huge sized coke, something I rarely ever drink – and loved every bit of it.  We were on board our 3.30pm Vistadome train to Cuzco – both agreeing to order room service and watch a movie in a our room.  We were knackered, well and truly spent.

We had changed hotels in Cuzco to one that was 4-star, yet cheaper, and 100 times nicer.  Just what the doctor had ordered.

Back in Cuzco

Cuzco is an ok city – clean enough with a pretty main square, but for some reason, it just wasn’t doing it for me.  We had to wait two more days in Cuzco to catch the luxury train to Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca in the south of Peru, and I was over Cuzco.  I spent a lot of time having siestas, and hanging in the hotel.

Hubs and I did take advantage of being in a nice hotel with a day spa and both had hour long massages on our last day there.  They cost a bomb in Peruvian terms, but not that much really – $60 each for an hour of sheer bliss.  It felt so nice and I was so relaxed afterwards.

Rather than trudging up the hill to Plaza de Armas and getting trapped eating in a below par place, we looked up the trusty Lonely Planet and took a taxi to their foodie pick, Los Perros – a bar and restaurant serving awesome food and run by an Australian.   I had one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had, with homemade mango chutney and mustard mayonnaise.  Nothing short of sensational.  Hubs had a seasoned grilled chicken and sweet potato dish that she raved and raved about too.   How SATISFYING.  Massaged and well fed.  That was the best day and experience I’d had in Cuzco in five days.  Still, I was happy to be leaving the next day.

Next stop, Puno and Lake Titicaca.

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