Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Cusco and Machu Picchu – Days 26 to 34

Machu Picchu Youtube video (5min34sec): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk4hUmQ6SGM&feature=em-upload_owner
Machu Picchu
We've settled into a very easy, comfortable routine here, although change is happening. Tina left to go trekking while we were away over the weekend to be replaced by Justin, who we have yet to meet. Tina is a real live wire whose first questions on arriving were where can I go for a run? (Nowhere at this altitude without acclimatising for a day or two) and how will I stop myself being bored? Four hours of lessons a day isn't enough. 
Look at this cute little puppy being cared for by a street vendor
We may have corrupted her into a more chilled way of life, she never went for a run in the fortnight, and we had to almost bully her into going to Sacsaywaman (her lessons didn't start until 14.00 so she had no excuse not to) but we had lots of relaxed breakfasts chatting and playing with Maffi and lots of conversation over dinner, which she genuinely seems to have enjoyed. An eye opener for her and an interesting housemate for us.

Looking at the walls of rented tombs
Our afternoon trips out with Mary (third spelling, but finally the right one despite being pronounced Marie) this week have been to a cemetery and to the area of San Blas. The cemetery was really interesting, though freaked Brian out a bit, it was huge with some really expensive big family mausoleums, but that wasn't what upset him, it was the wall, about ten feet high, full of individual niches, each one a child, with things they liked in the front, a teddy, sweets an action figure, all sorts. Even that wasn't what upset him, it was the 'for let' signs on some of them as apparently it is very expensive to rent these spaces so after a while the family stops paying, for whatever reason, the body is removed, and another one takes its place!

Here's the upsetting bit, this tomb is for rent as, presumably the current relatives have stopped paying. As soon as someone else rents it they open it up, take out the remains, cremate them and deposit hem somewhere else. You rent a secondhand (or third or multitude) tomb for a short period of time. Is that bizzare or what? why would anyone do that? Not very dignified is it!
An Inca tomb. Look how pale Jackie looks
We got caught in an absolute downpour while we were there so huddled in a corner to stay dry, which may have caused my second funny turn, it happened on our previous trip out too, I suddenly went absolutely white and came as close to fainting as I ever have. Tina (a junior doctor) thinks it is probably the effect of altitude on my, generally a little low, blood pressure combined with eating then walking and then standing still. 
On the Inca Rail train to Aguas Calientes
To test this theory on our second trip out this week I ate less, walked slower and didn't actually stop and stand still, but gently paced back and forth and all was fine! Bit worrying for all concerned when I had to be supported to stop me falling over though! Ice cream or hot chocolate seem to have both worked very well as recovery items depending on the hugely variable weather! The second trip out was to a couple of art galleries, one of which we visited on our free tour, and the other was shut, oh well, shall we go to the chocolate museum then? Oh yes! We still had a very enjoyable time, it's not really about where we go, but getting some insider information about things and giving us a new topic of conversation. In one of the museums last week was what looked like a lump of rock we would just have walked straight past until she explained that a whole city had been carved in and on it, before building, makes being an architect sound easy. The whole museum trip was worth it just for that!

Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) from our hostal window. Note the rail track right outside our window!
Aguas Calientes
So all in all what with a cold sore, and a slightly dodgy tummy at the end of last week I've been a bit of a wreck really! Just waiting for Maribel to get home as she has a drug for every occasion, acyclovir for the cold sore, some magic pink medicine for the tummy, and I hope something for the four really itchy bites I got yesterday! We don't know what she does, but the apartment is full of boxes of drugs of all sorts which she is quite happy to dole out! 

Jackie finds a cat who made himself very comfortable. Don't think Jackie was though!
One of the many amazing rock sculptures, this one of Machu Picchu
Our trip this weekend was to Machu Picchu which was a good weekend away, not quite as smooth as it might have been, our booking agent took us to meet our bus to Ollantaytambo, but left us in the hands of a 'colleague' with a larger group of people, who did get us on a bus, but not the one that was booked, this was obvious from the tone of various phone calls. We were bundled into the front of someone else's bus and off we went, arriving in time for the train, but not with the planned spare time. What happened to the larger group? Who knows! 

Aguas Calientes railway stattion
The Inca rail train was on time, every seat was full and off we went. The view from the window was lovely, but not as stunning as we'd been hoping for. We arrived early in Aguascalientes so hung around waiting for a man with a sign to take us to our hostal. No one appeared but Brian managed to find someone to show us the way, it wasn't very far, waiting to check in the guy was on the phone obviously to our booking agent and seemed to think we were coming in on a later train! Oh well, he had a room for us, so all was fine. 

The queue for the bus at 05:00am
We went to look round Aguascalientes, and weren't really very impressed, prices had been hiked on everything, to almost UK rates and apart from some very murky looking hot pools, and a very pretty river, it is just the starting off point to Machu Picchu. Oh well, met a good cat, early dinner (I did find a reasonably priced tourist set menu) and meet with the guide before our early start in the morning. 

Alpaccas (or Llamas) munching the grass amongst Machu Picchu ruins
An early night made sense only to discover the train tracks, literally outside our window were not for the tourist trains, but the freight trains, which ran much later and sat outside, engines running, hooting, making the bed shake till goodness knows when. The early start is because we fell for all the hype, the first bus is at 05.30 but you need to be in line at 04.45, we were actually in line at 04.30 having opened the curtain and seen the line! However breakfast didn't start till 05.00 so I nipped back to get coffee and bread to carry out. Despite our position in the line, by the time our guide had got himself and all the rest of the tour group up the hill and through the barrier it was 06.30, and really may as well have been 09.30! He was a good guide though, dealing with a variety of first languages, and walking abilities, and the two and a half hours with him were well spent. 

We made it!
We then had to rush to our start point for la montana, the higher hill we'd bought tickets to climb. Our start time was between 09.00 and 10.00, an hour and a half to two hours, but have to be off the summit by 12.00. We set off slowly but steadily, well I'd eaten very little in the last three days so may have been lacking in a little energy. We were overtaking people, but probably being overtaken by more, and had made it passed the half way stage when B realised he hadn't got his hat, sweat stained and battered it may be, but he's had it longer than he's had me, so he wouldn't risk someone else picking it up (who in their right mind would want it?) with that he dumped the rucksack and ran off! It was further than he thought, and by the time he caught back up with me he had expended quite a lot of energy! Still we made it to the top in plenty of time enjoyed the views and had a snack. Back down the zillions of stone steps in 10 minutes over the book three hour round trip.

Our guide telling us this was the main entrance to the town with evidence of hinges and a pecision fit wooden door, a method the apparently copied from pre-Inca people
The closest building is believed to have been Inca Pachacutecs residence
We went and had a relax overlooking the main area before watching the rain come in and deciding enough was enough, about the same time everyone else thought the same thing! The bus queue to get down was as long as the one to get up, at least an hour we were told, just as it started to rain! Shall we walk down then? Surely we can make it in less than the hour and a half queue and bus ride we were looking at. We would have, if rather than walking down the road we'd appreciated that the walking track wiggles from the entrance no where near the road for the majority of it's route! Oh well, we picked up a dog on the road we shouldn't have been on, who realising we obviously didn't know what we were doing decided to accompany us all the way down, stopping at the entrance to every one of the cut throughs that we finally came across!

The sun temple, astronomically aligned. The window in the opposite face aligns with sunrise for the winter solstice, further round to the right is another window (just visible) that aligns with sunrise for the summer solstice
In the col the summer solstice sun gate is just visible
The final straw came when a bus came past a little too close, I heard Brian cursing as he'd got a few splats of mud below the knee on one leg, until I looked at him, I was covered, both legs, arm, face, hair, and even the waterproof I'd got tied round my waist is filthy!

Fortunately we were nearly there and a cold beer was definitely on the cards, and boy was it a good one? Followed by a pizza we also felt we'd earned, B's phone says 24km! We got on the train, exhausted. 
One of the temples with three windows said to represent the three symblos of the Incas, the Condor for the air and heaven, the Puma for the earth and the Serpent for under the earth
The high altar. Subsidence has caused the movement on the right
Found we were sitting opposite the same guy we had been on the way out despite this train being four times bigger than the one we went out on, small world. The bus to take us back from Ollantaytambo was a proper coach, and old, smelly and slow. I'd rather have been in a collectivo, like last week! Got back to the apartment at 23.25 and had to shower, couldn't go to bed as I was! So after a phenomenally long day, school today actually went better than I thought it would!

I've forgotten what astronomical feature this was for, but it was carved from a rock outcrop that happened to be there
All buildings apparently had wooden beamed thatched roofs, held in place by wrapping the twine round protruding rock in the walls. The walls are original. They can't do this to the other buildings as it is a Unesco site and must be left as it was originally, save for remedial work to stop it decaying further

A rock carved to match the mountain behind

Jackie sneaks in a stroke of an alpacca (llama?) while it is distraced attending to an itch

Part of the intricate system of water canals built to keep 400 people fed and watered

Walking up the path to the mountain with Machu Picchu and Huyana Pichu mountain behind

We made it!

Machu Picchu looks tiny from up here and lost in amongst the surrounding 5000m peaks and the meandering Rio Urubamba. It's not surprising it remained hidden for so long. It's only visible now as all undergrowth has been cleared from it. Hiram Bingham the American history teacher who found in 1911 was led there by a local child (inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark?)

We made it together!

The Inca bridge, set along a narrow, vertigo inducing cliff walkway with huge drops. Where the path led anyone knows, but it's in huge vertical terrain

This is a view back up towards Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. The mountain to the right is Huyana Picchu, in the centre is the top of the road up, Machu Picchu is up on the right. It's no wonder nobody found it for so long.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds blumin hard work enjoying yourselves! I hope you are resting up a bit today after class? Look after yourselves.
    Lots of love, xxx
    P.S. Phew Brian, thank goodness you found your hat!