Sunday, August 31, 2008
Machu Picchu - other side
Marko did the actual planned Inka trail hike, so he will describe how it was to survive that ;)
Since I got up the easy way *grrr*, this'll be a smaller take of mine on Machu Picchu for those not so fortunate to do the hike.
Anyway, it was arranged at the agency that I will join the bus/train combo to Agua Calientes the day before the hiking group reaches Machu Picchu, and then join them on the morning they do reach it.
Luckily, the pills I got from my Dutch friend (thanks B!!! :)) fixed my stomach, and I got there without any further toiletesque interventions.
Agua Calientes (lit. hot water) is a place where Machu Picchu visitors stay before going up. It's located some 6km away from Machu Picchu, and is a last stop of sorts, for those sleeping the night to go up in the morning.
It is a small place whose only orientation seems to be the presence of tourists here. It has one main street, which consists almost solely of stores, restaurants and net cafes. There is a river going through it (Urubamba) with several cool bridges which will bend under your feet, but the other side of that river is rather undeveloped. In fact, the whole town looks like a slum - except for the main street that connects the hot springs at the top and the town square and train/bus stations at the bottom.
On the other hand, the town is located between some quite huge steep green mountains and with the constant mists around it has some sort of a magical aura around it.
A few photos will demonstrate this better...
This is the main street of Agua Calientes:
The Urubamba river flowing through it:
And the backside of my hostel:
I wonder if it was meant to be this way or if there was a time-space anomaly in this place that made half of it disappear :/
Since I had half a day to spend here, I went to check out where the bus station is (a bunch of small buses take people up to Machu Picchu every morning), to buy some last minute supplies and find a net cafe to rest a bit (two vegetable soups and two rices in two days is no way to keep your strength lol).
- buses start at 5:30 each morning - you should be there at 4:45 if you want to be among the first in line - by 5:30 the line will be so long that you won't see the end of it, and arriving at this time will probably mean you miss that batch and have to wait till 7:00 to go with the next one
- prices are generally twice as high as those of Cusco, and Cusco prices are already twice as high as the rest of Peru (that's my feeling at least, from the week here)
- even though the towns name literally translates into "hot waters", and my hostel specifically mentions it has "hot water", don't count on it! (unless you can shower in the first minute before it turns to cold)
Anyway, after a 4AM alarm clock (these can be annoying, eh? ;)) and some standing in line, I am finally on a bus up. The dawn is just coming and the mist is all around. Some 20-30 minutes of bus drive later we are dropped off at the entrance to the famous Machu Picchu.
What awaits inside?
I am supposed to meet with my group (the now tormented hikers :)) somewhere "around the entrance", so I decide to hang around here for a while and await for them to enter. I still have some minutes until their scheduled arrival, but should not move far. And voila - in a minute the mist clears, the sky opens and a majestic image appears:
You can see Agua Calientes way below, and the winding road connecting it to this top.
As fast as it has appeared, it was gone, and everything was covered in mist again. Machu Picchu surely is a nice challenge for photographers. Many mornings could be spent here in search of perfect combination of light and mist.
Anyway, other groups keep entering and going both left (uphill) and right (downhill), but when my group fails to appear some minutes after the supposed 7:00, I decide to roam around on my own hoping to spot them within the walls of Machu Picchu once they do arrive...
My first look at the town:
And a look downhill before the clouds cleared:
Roaming around I found the group (they just entered through the top entrance from the Inka Trail ;)), and the tour began...
Some drama in the sky above the main square of Machu Picchu:
Our tour guide William looking at one of the shrines:
At the top levels there are helpful 'devices', like the stone pointing south:
a representation of surrounding mountains carved in stone:
and a stone for telling the time and the seasons:
One look at the "back" side of Machu Picchu:
And for the end - the famous "postcard" view:
One hint for all going up - beware the killer mosquitos! :P
Marko's report on the climb is coming up slowly but surely - like the climb itself :)
Today we go back to Arica by bus, where we will try to find flights all the way south to Punto Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. See you in two or three days...