Machu Picchu, One More Time

October 7, 2008 - 2:43 am No Comments

Got my wake-up call at 4:45am this morning. Heard it pouring down rain outside. I had read in my travel guide that the rocks on the climb up Wayna Picchu are dangerously slippery when they’re wet, so in my semi-groggy state of mind, I figured that they probably closed it for the day. In that state of half-sleep, I also dreamed that I went to the front desk to ask about it, and they confirmed that it was closed. Fell back asleep.

Woke up again at 6am. Realized that the front desk also told me that they allow tripods in Machu Picchu and that perhaps they really don’t know anything. Also realized that I did not actually go down there and ask them anything. Concludedf that maybe they did NOT close Wayna Picchu down for the day, and that if I missed it, I would really regret not doing it. Threw on some clothes, ran to the bus station, went up to Machu Picchu, ran to the Wayna Picchu checkpoint, waiting in line for 30 minutes, and got one of the last available tickets do the hike. Very relieved.

I had a few hours to kill before my time slot to climb Wayna Picchu, so I took another stroll around Machu Picchu. Thick fog blanketed the ruins, and mist fell from the sky. It’s amazing how mystical the place looked, especially when the fog broke and revealed the ruins underneath. And it’s amazing how different everything was from the day before. A completely different experience. Of course, when it start to rain, the most brightly colored, photograph-destroying panchos go on sale at all the local souvenir shops. They should do photographers a favor and sell only brown and gray ones.

Inside Machu Picchu

Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock

I stopped to eavesdrop on a couple of tour groups. I learned that there are 28 llamas at Machu Picchu, and that they belong to the guys who cut the grass.

Free Jelly Beans!

Llama Eating Lunch

Inside Machu Picchu

While taking some shots, I started chatting with an Australian guy named Greg. He is traveling around the world in eight months and is a photography beginner, so we had lots to talk about. He was only visiting for a few hours and was disappointed with all the fog. I told him to be patient. Just then, the fog lifted and revealed the ruins in all their magnificence. We walked around for a bit more before parting ways so I could do my hike up Wayna Picchu.

Me & Greg in Front of Wayna Picchu

It looks imposing in photos, but I think it’s an illusion. Wayna Picchu stands 1181 feet above Machu Picchu. The easy-to-follow trail gets you up there pretty quick, and the rock steps all the way to the top are indeed slippery when wet. With no railings and sheer drops off the side of Wayna Picchu, one slip and you’re dead. I wonder how many people fall off each year.

After about an hour of grueling stair-climbing, I made it to the top. There were a few other people up there, all fighting for a bit of space on angled granite boulders. It was tricky (and scary) finagling myself around them to find my own space to sit and relax. The top of Wayna Picchu has to be one of the best places in the world to catch your breath. The view, with blankets of fog rolling over Machu Picchu below, was incredible.

On Wayna Picchu

Machu Picchu and the Road from Aguas Calientes

The hike down was much quicker but jarring on the legs. By the time I got to the bottom, I was completely, absolutely, 100% exhausted. What a finish to this trip!

Inside Machu Picchu

I met up with Josh, took a few final pictures at Machu Picchu, and then headed to the station to catch the train back to Cusco. Last-minute souvenir shopping went longer than expected, and we almost missed the train.

Inside Machu Picchu

On the way back, we took the classier “Vistadome” train. With the upgrade, you get larger windows, a fashion show featuring overpriced alpaca shawls and sweaters modeled the train’s attendants, and a guy who looks like a child molester waving his arms around and running up and down the aisles, making scary noises and asking people to rub the floppy alpaca dangling from his waist.

Peruvian Dancer

We sat with a very sweet Israeli couple. The husband wore himself out speaking to us in English, but he made a good effort and managed to keep us engaged for the entire four-hour ride. They extended an open invitation for us to stay with them should we ever go to Israel.

After getting back to Cusco, Josh and I ran out to take a few last photos of the main square and then visited Bembo’s, a Peruvian fast food chain advertised as having the best burgers around by Aritza back in Lima. Decent, but we were both a little disappointed. Just don’t think you can find a good burger outside of America.

Bembo's Menu

Tomorrow, we return home. And in the nick of time. Word around here is that a transit strike is starting tomorrow at 7am. No taxis, buses, or trains for who knows how long. Strikes in general suck, but it was nice of them to schedule it. If we can just get to the airport before the strike, we are literally home-free.

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