Saturday, August 19, 2006

Day 11: Machu Picchu

That morning, we woke up and were already in a hurry. Willie called our hotel room asking where we were. We had to be downstairs, done with breakfast, no later than 5:00AM. By the time Alin and I got downstairs, it was already 5:10AM and now breakfast was out of the question.

Alin and I enjoyed a couple of Powerbars as we began our short hike up to the top. We walked out of town and on to the dirt trail towards the train tracks. We passed all the tourist buses, filling to the brim as they began hauling all the lazies up the mountain.

We got to the foot of the rock trail that would lead us to the top.The trail consisted of rock steps that varied in size up the mountain. There was an occasional break as it intersected with the road. Already weak, we made our way up. After the first few hundred, I was sweating and tired. After a thoustand, I was in pain and began to complain. After 1500, I was cursing and became short tempered. As we neared the top, Alin remained positive, encouraging me, and pushing me onward. I was in pain and exhausted, and most inappropriately snapped at Alin, asking her to just stop. I felt bad immediately and regretted it. Alin told me that she´d forgive me if we got to the top before sunrise, otherwise she´d break up with me. I wasn´t entirely sure she was kidding.

After 1787 steps, we arrived at the top. Alin and I were wiped out. We quickly checked our walking sticks and made our way to the entrance. Alin and I each received Machu Picchu stamps in our passports as we entered the ruins. Willie introduced us to our guide for the day, his name was Oraciou. He told us to enter the ruins, make a right and he´ll meet us at the only house with a roof. When we got in, found ourselves confused. There were a total of 5 hours within sight that had roofs on it and we had no idea where to go.

The ruins were glorious. We sat on one of the terraces as the sun began to rise. It was a cloudy morning and we never really got to see the sun until the afternoon. We had a quick snack as we waited till 7. 7 became 7:20 and our guide was no where in sight. At this point we agreed that he either ditched us or we were in the wrong place. We felt we´d give ourselves a tour so we started exploring. Picking up pieces from other tours and recalling from our own memories, we shared what we knew as we walked through the Incan city.

We checked out a few key buildings, took lots of photos, and made our way down to the llamas for a quick photo opp. I tried to get one to eat from my hand, but it wouldn´t have it.

After another 30 minutes, we were all getting a little hungry so we picked out a little spot out of sight and Alin, Dom, Lisa, and I sat down for some snacks, oranges, and water. We talked about the state of the world, 9/11, 7/7, the death of Princess Diana, and the Royal Family. Quite educational, I must say.

After lunch, we hiked some more around the ruins were finally ready to head back to Aguas Calientes.

We took a bus down back to town. The bus was comfortable and offered free water. We got off at the main street in Aguas Calientes and decided to head to the restaurant where we were to meet Willie and Kiki for lunch. Willie was already there eating so we joined him at his table. Soon after Kiki arrived and we all shared our final lunch together as a team.

We laughed and commiserated about how difficult the trek was. We all agreed that the experience was well worth it and were greatful to make each others company. After lunch, the train had arrived. We picked up a few refreshments and all hopped on to the train for our ride home.

The train was filled with many familiar faces. The Israelis sat immediately to the left of Alin and I while the Swingers sat to our front. It was like a reunion.

After 3 hours, we got off at a small town called Oyamtambu. There, a small tourist bus sat awaiting us. Our bus driver decided to pick up a few more tourists to earn a little extra cash. The other tourists were also from London, so Kiki, Dom, and Lisa had plenty to talk about on the drive to Cusco.

When we got to Cusco, we all parted ways. Alin and I checked into our hotel and spent the next hour trying to figure out how we were going to do laundry. Our receptionist called a few places and called some lady over who picked up our clothes and said she´d have it done by morning. Alin and I only had some shorts, t-shirts, and our thin Anoracks, and flip flops to keep us warm. Our clothes didn´t do much to help us with the cold Cuscan air.

Alin and I had an hour to go get dinner, so we walked over to Chez Maggy for some pizza and Nachos Especiales. After dinner, we met the gang in the Plaza de Armas so we can go out of cocktails. We met Kiki, Dom, and Lisa, but Willie was no where in sight. Freezing, we made our way over a near by "Irish" pub for some cocktails. Dom spotted Willie and his gang and fetched them from the Plaza.

We sat enjoying Pisqueñas, another signature Peruvian cocktail. After thoroughly getting smashed, we began playing the drinking game Big Booty, first in English, than in Spanish. It was no good. After an hour, we were trashed. The rest of the gang wanted to go out dancing, but Alin and I wanted nothing to do with it. We were cold and tired and just wanted to go to bed.

We exchanged emails, hugged, and parted ways. It was the last we´d see of our group. We all felt like we bonded on this trip and had a great time. It was sad, but c´est la vie. Alin and I speed-walked back to our room and went to bed.

And that was that. It felt as though our vacation was over. But a whole other week remained.

-s

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