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Where are we now - The photo's tell the story An update on the where-abouts of Nat & Chris' epic RTW journey.

Machu Picchu

PERU | Saturday, 7 July 2007 | Views [911]

We arranged our tour of Machu Picchu through a tour operator named Yuntair (Jun-ter).  He seemed trustworthy as he was the only one to openly admit that some tour operators will have you arrive at MP with fake entry passes tickets and no return bus or train tickets.  We were driven from Cusco to Ollentaytambo (O-yen-tay-tum-bow) in a squishy sedan and dropped off without any warning into the chaos that is 100’s of tourists arriving and waiting for the train to Aguas Caliente (mean hot springs), the town closest to MP where we would stay the night and the following morning make our way up the mountain. 

When we arrived Yuntair had told us we would be greeted by our tour guide holding a sign with our names on it.  We hopped off the train and followed the crowd to the centre of Aguas Caliente where a massive party was being held to celebrate the inclusion of MP into the 7 wonders of the world, being announced on 07.07.07 (Catchy!!).  We heard the announcement on the radio about 5 minutes after we left Cusco which was already in party mode waiting for the announcement.  How amazing that we would be some of the first to step foot on MP after being announced into the 7 wonders.  We found numerous tour guides holding signs with other people’s names on them ... just not ours!  So after 15-20 minutes of standing and politely declining offers from many, many people offering hostels and hotels to us, we were able to find a kind local senorita who showed us the way to our hotel for the night.  After waiting a half hour or so for our guide to come and tell us where to meet him the following day I finally went down stairs and found him and was told that we would meet at the Sun Gate to MP, which would apparently be easy to find.  Not impressed with this dude at this stage but needed to get to bed as it was 10.30 already and we had a 4.30 wake up call.

We arose before sparrows fart, were quickly dressed and headed out the door with our torch (flashlight) and some dodgy directions from our sketchy guide.  We were able to join a bigger group whose guide actually walked with them to show them the way.  We had a 20 minute reasonably flat or down hill walk to the next little village where we found a set of steps cutting through the mountain which we were to take until the gate into MP.  Apparently the ancient Inka’s stood about 7 foot tall and the steps they made don’t argue any differently as they are either 1 and a half or 2 times the size of your run of the mill stairs (check out the size of their chocolate pieces as well, my kind of people when 1 piece is too big to go all in the mouth at once – believe me I tried!).  Not only that they are made from rocks just set in the earth, so they are not always flat or easy to get your footing.  After about 10 mins of climbing we both had to stop as we no longer needed our warm clothes, the morning air was cold but we were both sweating profusely due to the effort required to climb.  We climbed for over an hour before arriving at the gates to MP, by this stage my back was drenched in sweat and our legs were beginning to really feel it.

We joined the line just after 6am and made our way into MP, by this stage there was enough light not to need the torch, but the sun had yet to break through the clouds or rise over the mountains surrounding MP.  Our guide was no where to be seen, but the Sun Gate was at the top of another climb, so after a quick look at MP we headed off.  45 minutes later we arrived at the Sun Gate, tired, grumpy and wet through with sweat.  We were alone at the Sun Gate and it was at this stage we knew that our guide was shonky.  We ate our packed breakfast and sat for a while waiting for our guide (good luck), resting our already weary legs and hoping to see the sun rise over MP (makes sense, watch the sunrise from the Sun Gate?).  The video link is taken from our vantage point at the Sun Gate, I’ve tried to explain our walk but it’s hard to comprehend the task without being here and doing it yourself (which I would and will continue to encourage everyone to do at least once, I reckon I’m going to try and come back at some stage in the near future before my knees and ankle blow-out!!).  We had so far in the day climbed about 10 or 11km including rising in altitude from 2040m to 2780m.

Well at about 7.45 with still no sun in sight we decided it was time to do some exploring, we didn’t have a guide to give us any information about the city but we would look around nonetheless (after swearing copiously about being ripped off and the return of our poor luck).  We made the climb back down to MP in about 25 minutes, we also found out that although not as time consuming climbing down was much harder than going up due to the size of most of the steps (Knees and ankles definitely put to the test!).

In the following hour and half or so the sun arrived in all its might and glory, pretty hot and we were able to take off our rain coats and “warm” clothes (they were all wet from sweat and some early drizzle) and hope that our clothes would dry off.  As we wandered around MP we were able to listen in to a few guides giving tours to other groups (some who had been together for the past 4 days doing the Inka Trail).  We continued receiving nasty looks, not from the guides, but the other tourists, so kept moving from group to group.  At about 9am the tours finished and everyone had time to themselves to wander around.  We made our way to the bottom of the climb to Waynapicchu (gluttons for punishment, we were told this climb usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour and is pretty much straight up the side of a cliff).  Only 400 people are allowed on Waynapicchu per day and we clocked in at 241 and 242 (we have some good luck) and were on our way up the mountain at 9.30.  The view of MP from the top was the best available so we pushed our way up the mountain and the part mountain goat in us got us there by 10am.  Surprisingly not all our fitness was lost on fast food and lack of exercise in America!

Exhausted by the time we reached the top we still managed to walk around, explore a cave and get some great views (hopefully good photos) from the top of Waynapicchu.  After relaxing and watching a guy jump off the edge of the cliff onto the small ledge below (all for shock value in a video to friends, Nat climbed down onto the ledge for a photo, I wasn’t as brave) we got back on our feet and started back down.  As I mentioned earlier going down is much harder than climbing up, especially in the case of Waynapicchu. 

We continued with our own tour of MP and walked around looking at stuff we had no idea about.  It was truly amazing despite not knowing its history, the architecture alone was amazing.  To think that the city was built without any mortar, by just placing male and female shaped rocks together and combining with the earth.  It has now withstood over 500 years without being touched up.  You can see in some of the photos where parts of walls have fallen away, but for the most part it is still intact.  Then you have the walls that domino down the mountain and they have steps built into the walls (see pics), and the rooms that are built and have stones that are cut in a particular way to outline their importance – it’s just freaky... what the hell did they cut the rocks with 500 years ago??

We returned to Aguas Caliente by bus (yes we piked as our legs were gone – only $6US) and the whole way down the mountain we were treated to an orange blur (pics).  One of the young Inka’s performed a ritual (begun by our bus driver about 40 years ago) where they bid farewell to tourists by yelling at them as they pass.  The way they yell is very unique as it is a high pitched but very smooth scream.  We would see him for 10 seconds as we passed on the bus and he would then run down the steps (the ones we climbed earlier in the day to get to the MP gate) and he would be waiting for us on the next level.  This was truly amazing as these steps aren’t easy and he was doing it in sandals where we struggled in hiking or tennis shoes. The young lad did this the whole way down the mountain until we reached the bottom where he joined us on the bus, sweating and then gave us another scream with a few other sounds included (so hard to explain) before walking the bus isle asking for tips.  He received a few as some of the American tourists were claiming it to be more entertaining than Disney Land!!  If only we hadn’t run out of batteries on the bus we would have video of his screaming so you could hear... damn-it for forgetting the battery charger!!

We enjoyed a pizza back in Aguas Caliente (don’t ask for Pizza con ajo – way too much garlic) before retiring to bed for an afternoon nap as we were both tuckered out (I wouldn’t advise getting on the turps in high altitude within 2 days of MP tour).  We rose late to get dinner and joined the rest of the town watching Peru take on Argentina in the Copa Americas (America’s Cup Soccer Tournament).  Argentina won 4-0 (scoring 3 late goals) as they are far too good for Peru, but it was still a great atmosphere throughout the town as almost every restaurant had a tv tuned in and locals gathered around to watch.

The following day we arose early again to catch the train back to Ollentaytambo where we were, to our surprise, greeted by our bus driver holding a sign saying “Cristofer Y Nataly”, he then drove us back to Cusco.  Along the way we were held up slightly as one of the roads was covered in rocks from a land slide the night before.  Back in Cusco we had to find a new hostel as Loki Hostel, the one we were in previously, apparently changed the rules that week and no longer allowed check in prior to 1pm (despite the fact we did it the week earlier when we arrived in the morning).  We weren’t even guaranteed a room either as we tried booking before we left and were placed 2nd on a waiting list, despite Nat going in on each of the 2 days prior to our departure and being told that they “didn’t have the reservation book in the office and to come back later”.

Anyway we found another place in a better location then Loki called Hostal Royal Qusqo and it was cheaper for a private room!!  After check in we both headed out to enjoy a relaxing massage together, how romantic of us, it was great and an hour massage for less than $8Aus (20 Soles), you can’t go wrong!!  After the massage I went to argue with our travel consultant Yuntair and see if we could get some money back for our guide not showing up.  Despite “being a writer for an international travel magazine!!!!!!”  I was unable to get any refund, ah well its all part of the journey.  I still have awesome memories of Cusco and we have joined an elite group of people who get ripped off organising a trip to MP.

Our flight from Cusco was delayed 5 hours yesterday and again today as we sit in the Lima airport our flight to Santiago has yet again been delayed.  Was surprised to find that Cusco airport had free internet, not working here unfortunately.

Tags: Sightseeing


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