Saturday, August 19, 2006

Day 10: Aquas Calientes

We woke up the next morning stiff as a board. The cooks had breakfast ready at 7:00AM and we struggled out of our tent. We chowed down and hit the road by 7:30. Within minutes, we were in the down of Santa Teresa. It was a small town that appeared to be under a lot of development. There were sidewalks being put into place, and fresh roads being surfaced. Merchants were selling their wares all around us.

This morning was by far the most painful for my weak knees. I needed both walking sticks to manage. After walking through town, we arrived at what Willie called the "cable car." A queue of 20 people were waiting as a little metal cart flew over the river by a single metal cable. The car was pulled from side to side by the next in line for the car. A worn rope was tugged and pulled, attempting to bring the car back to each side. It was scary that this was the primary way to get across the river.

After about 20 minutes, it was our turn. First Dom, Lisa, and Kiki hopped in with all of their stuff and made their way across. Alin took a photo of them as they zipped over the river. Then it was our turn. Alin, Willie and I hopped in and with a gentle push, we were flying over the river. Using Alin´s camera, I took a video of the whole thing. Scary, scary, scary. We got to the other side, took a quick break and made our way out on to the dirt road.

The rest of the group took off as Alin and I limped along as best we could. We arrived at a little river, where the gang was waiting as they drenched their heads and clothes in river water to cool off. Soon after they were off again and Alin and I played catch up. It was as though we were hiking through a desert. It was dry, hot, and very much sunny. A few locals sprinted passed us, then followed by some trucks flying down the road way too fast for anyone´s comfort.

After a couple of hours, we arrived at a metal bridge, where Willie sat waiting for us, meditating. We asked him where we were stopping for lunch and he told us a place called "Hydroelectrica". It was a nearby dam that a few local merchants set up shop next to the railroad. We walked on for thirty minutes before arriving to a huge waterfall, shaking the ground as it passed under the road. It was all down hill from here, we walked on until we got to the lunch spot.

It appeared to be a local restraurant, which our cooks had anexed a portion of of the space to cook us their meal. We sat, listening to 80s pop songs and relaxing in the shade. Lunch finally arrived and we enjoyed some Inca Cola with soup, rice, tuna fish sandwiches and pasta. We topped it off with some ice cream bars we bought from a little shop next to the restraurant.

Within the hour, we were back on the road. We hiked up a well manicured rock trail to the train tracks above. We followed these train tracks for hours on end, as it led us to the town of Aguas Calientes. We caught up with Kiki and spoke about the differences between the U.S. and Brittain, politics, the war, and other topics.

After a few hours, tired and strained, we finally got to our town. Aguas Calientes was a tourist haven. Nestled inside the mountains, there were relatively ritzy shops, restraurants, wine bars, internet cafes, and anything else the wealthy tourist could desire. We checked into our hostal, the Machu Picchu Inn and got settled in our rooms. Alin and I were SO excited. It was the first time we could take a shower in 4 days. We both showered to only return to our dirty clothes. Nevertheless, we felt and smelled clean and that made a world of difference.

Alin and I had about an hour before we had to meet everyone, so we walked around town, took some photos, checked our email. We met everyone at a nearby restraurant called Apu Salkantay. The cooks were now gone so we resorted to restaurant fare. Alin and I each had soup and a small pizza. We drank beers as Willie enjoyed his Pisco Sour, a local favorite.

After dinner, we all made our way back to our room for a good nights rest in a warm bed. We were to get up at 4:30 the next morning for our 2 hour hike up to Machu Picchu.

Alin and I slept better than we had in almost a week. We were so happy.

On to day 5....

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