Monday, June 16, 2008

Machu Picchu

These two shots are very dark as it was before dawn but show better when you double click!

The last day started early. We were woken up at 4AM by the porters, no tea or hot water this morning. They were anxious to pack up everything and head down the mountain and home. Someone was taking the fly off our tent while we were getting dressed! In twenty minutes we were out of there and only minutes later the tents
were folded up. Breakfast was at 4:30 and a cold hurried affair - the cooks wanted to get home too. Our group had drawn the unlucky straw and were the last ones in line at the check point. No one is allowed on the trail until 5:30. It was really dark for a half hour and then light slowly filtered onto the stoney path. We used head torches but it was still difficult and you had to

keep your head down to see. Not long after we started I hit a tree limb. Bam! I was hugging the cliff side of the trail as there was a drop off on the other side. It took a minute to recover - Jose said he had told the park rangers about that problem before. It was only a small lump so I soon felt better and continued on, albeit a little slower!
We were gradually going up hill, crossing through a pass in the mountains and once through we could see Macchu Picchu in the distance with the road for the buses curling up the slope (see top right).

There was still a fair ways to go and some very steep narrow stone stairs before we reached the Sun Gate (see top left). The sun was already up when I stepped through but the view was still amazing. A crowd of hikers were taking turns having their picture taken in front of that famous scene. Once our group was all there, we joined them.
It was still a bit of a walk down to the ruins themselves and then a quick stop at the "sanitary facilities" as there often known here, and a cup of coffee with a chicken salad sandwich (from SAS) to tide us over. It had been hours since breakfast, now 8AM.

Jose (that is he at left with Scott and I) gave some of us a two hour tour while another group climbed Huayna Picchu, the very steep mountain that looms over Macchu Picchu. Honoree & Walt, Brenda & John opted for that while Scott and I took the tour. We were both happy with our decision, although Scott & I thought we would hike it the next morning. Unfortunately it rained and it was not safe.
The ruins and views at the top of Huayna Picchu were fabulous we hear, so we are sorry we missed it. After the tour we spent time just walking around and taking pictures.

It is such a beautiful place that not even the many tourists can spoil it. The stone work is unbelievable, not just the difficulty of construction but the artistic sense that pervades everything. That´s a vizcacha admiring the stonework! They look like rabbits but have a long tail and freeze when detected!

We had opted to spend two nights in Agua Caliente before returning to Cusco. Unfortunately SAS screwed up our reservations at Gringo Bills and had to find us a last minute alternative. Casita des Pequenos was our least favorite hotel on our entire trip and the most expensive! They did not clean our room or give us new towels. There was often no hot water. We had to take towels from empty rooms and several people had to take showers there as well. At breakfast we had to pay through the nose to get a couple of eggs. We changed our train tickets to leave early for Ollantaytambo and spend the day there. Next entry!

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