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Machu Picchu and Week Two

USA | Friday, 14 September 2012 | Views [691] | Comments [2]

Week two in Cusco
I had a hot shower this morning!  It felt great after being stomach-sick for 48 hours.  Maybe it was the coated nuts and the salted and fried slices of bean that were given out as a snack on PeruRail on the way back from Machu Picchu.  Or maybe I caught it from the 20-something guy from Oregon sitting next to me on the train.  He had been sick all day--his most difficult travel day so far. We managed to talk a bit before he disappeared--I'm guessing to the bathroom; he aspired to attend U of M Medical school and his interests were similar to Tani's.  
After my morning hot shower, I hand-washed the clothes I had been sleeping in for the past two nights.  Had no energy to change into PJs, especially in the cold.  Thank goodness for wifi and Skype; I stayed connected with Steve who made sure I wasn't dying and who took away the loneliness of being sick away from home.  I did miss the children at school during those two days. I kept thinking of the time last week when I ran into them on the street at the bus stop after school, and I was walking to Spanish class. I recognized the faces, and smiled and said hello.  They responded enthusiastically,  "Hi teechair!"  Another group of kids was at the next bus stop, and again I heard, "Hi teechair!"  Hollie, my housemate with whom I was walking, commented on how good it feels when kids seem genuinely happy that they know us volunteers.
The long trek to Machu Picchu was worth it.  Five volunteers together took a 1.5 hour van ride on zig zag roads through little villages.  This took us to Ollantaytambo from where we took a 1.5 hour train ride to Calientes. From Calientes, one takes another half hour ride to Machu Picchu.  We could have taken four days to hike to Machu Pichu. Glad we didn't.  We stayed over in Calientes at an inn with hot shower water. Callientes in Spanish means "hot." But really it's referring to the hot springs which we immediately took advantage of upon arrival.  The water in the spring was not as clear and fresh as I had envisioned (more like cloudy water in pools), but the warm water  was refreshing nevertheless.  The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the local market - geared toward tourists who want to buy gifts and souvenirs.  
My fellow travelers decide to wake up at 4 am to see the sunrise on the mountain.  I opted instead for the 8 am guided tour which was early enough for me, and I was glad. They were exhausted by the time the guided 3-hour tour began, and despite the repeated warnings about how hot it was going to be, it was cloudy, cool, with rain in the air.  No visible sunrise.  In the early 1900s,  Hiram Bingham, a north American professor from Yale was told by a local farmer that there were some "ruins" at the top of the old mountain.  When Bingham reached the mountain, he found two farmers on the land.  A son of the one of the farmers led Bingham to the archeological finds of the sacred city of the Incas (built in early 1400s - now considered one of the seven wonders of the world).  The Spaniards chased the Incas away just over 100 years later, and as our guide said, "The Incas escaped to the highlands."  Bingham calls his book about the site, "The Lost City of the Inkas."  How unfortunate that it lasted for such a short period of time!  I asked the guide if he could trace his ancestry back to the Incas.  He said he was half Spanish and half Incan, which I gathered was the best Cusconians could do in trying to trace their heritage back to the Incas.  The Incas connected spiritually to the magnificent mountains around them.  Astutely aware of the changes in the seasons, they built structures with windows that allowed them to recognize when the equinoxes were occurring, and track the seasonal changes from the shadows on the stones.  
During the tour, I befriended a couple from Idaho who told me that he (the husband) was going to study the Incan culture when he got home, in place of the Roman and Greek cultures that he had been reading about.  I asked him if he was retired.  No, he laughed.  He does software development for the city of Philadelphia.  I guess Philadelphia doesn't have any good software developers so they have to contract with someone living in Idaho!!  I had a nice chat with the couple over lunch.  We had first planned to take the hour trek to the Incan Bridge, but they decided they had enough climbing for the day. It then started to pour - llamas and alpacas, as they say (rather than cats and dogs).  I took refuge in the fancy hotel on the grounds of Machu Picchu and ignored the glaring looks from the guard at the entrance who knew I didn't belong.  In the lobby there was a framed letter on the wall from Hiram's son, Ben Bingham, in which he made reference to "politics" that got in the way of his father's work.  Something to look up at a later time. I  then decided to seek out some of my fellow volunteers.  Luckily I found them pretty easily, and we decided to return to Calientes.  I  didn't feel I had to be macho and hike in the rain.  I loved what I saw and left Machu Picchu "at the peak" of the experience.  The afternoon gave me an opportunity to visit an internet cafe and catch up on email and blogging.  After a train and two buses, we arrived home at around 11 pm.  The stomach bug hit the next day.  I'm now feeling much better.  The rest of the week I'll finish up teaching, take a day tour to The Sacred Valley, and prepare for next week's adventure in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.  Although I'm told that one of the jungle volunteers brought a small generator, I don't expect to have electricity.  I'll have to connect again on my return.  

Tags: ivhq, machu picchu



I still feel like I am with you and its wonderful. Virus and all. Hope the stomach is all better and you continue your adventure in good health.

My exciting life here sounds dull after I read your blog so let me bore you with my day yesterday. After doing the usual am things like checking the garden and serving my husband breakfast (that's a new thing) I went to a National Council o Jewish Women opening meeting attended by 500 well heeled, well dressed Jewish ladies at The Temple.
The speaker was - and I am not sure I can remember her name, Ali something who is George Stephanopolis' wife, also a TV and movie star who also worked with Oprah. She was a funny speaker. After, there was a very fattening but elegant dessert table. Got home, changed clothes, went to Physical Therapy. Got home, made and served supper, changed clothes again and went to a Namat meeting to hear the retired Cleveland Orchestra's percussionist who spoke about his experiences with the orchestra and the various conductors. Lots of good friends at this meeting. Met Frank Rosenberg there (it was at the Cedar Synagogue and I think he is president- and he was doing some chores there. He told me Beth is in Germany on a consult. Wow. You ladies are great. Now - dont I lead an exciting life! The day before I spent baking and packaging goodies for my grandchildren. What a good bubbie!

Anyhow all is well - I look forward to your next blog and wish you again Lshana Tova with lots of kisses and hugs.

  pauline leber Sep 15, 2012 3:12 AM


Hi Dina, Steve sent me the link to your blog and I've been catching up on your adventures! What an amazing experience-the contrast between life in Peru and in America must be surreal. I'll be eager to read about the jungle odyssey! May its beauty and wonder symbolize all good things to come in the new year. L'shana tova! Harriet

  Harriet Helfand Sep 20, 2012 10:37 AM

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