Machu Picchu

Posted at 16:17:18, 8/10/2004

Thursday 7th October 2004, 1pm, Gate of the Sun, Machu Picchu

Wow, I'm sat at the "Gate of the Sun", overlooking the huge Inca Ruins of Machu Picchu.

Lorna, Marcus and I got a rattly bus and a very rattly train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes yesterday afternoon, after a morning spent looking around a couple of museums in Cusco. Aguas Calientes ("Hot Waters") is a strange town that exists only for tourists and that has the train-line as the main street.

This morning we got up at 4am so that we could walk to 1 1/2 hours to Machu Picchu before the buses, crowds and, most of all, the sunrise. Sat high amounst the Inca ruins eating bananas and chocolate at 6am, watching the sun com up over the mountains, was amazing.

Machu Picchu itself is and island of stone and grass amoungst the cloud forest that covers all of the surrounding hills. We hired a guide to take us round, after having a bit of a wander on our own. The masonry is fantastic, with the was that they seemlessly fit huge, irregular blocks together, apparently because the irregular shapes are better at resisting earthquakes.

The ruins are marked by archaeological tragedy as well. The central sundial, carved out of the top of a 20m natural rock, was chipped when a local beer company was filming a TV commercial. An important central monolith was destroyed so that the King of Spain could land in his helicopter. And the whole site is subsiding due to the 2000+ tourists that visit every day.

The Gate of the Sun is about 1/2 hour walk from the main site, far enought to escape the crowds. The only noises are trhe tweeting of many birds in the jungle around me and the perpetual buses driving up the 12 hairpin bends to the entrance!

Friday 8th October 2004, 8:40pm, Koyllur Hostel, Cusco

The journey back from Aguas Calientes last ight was quite an experience! After walking down the steep, knee-jerking steps of the path from Machu Picchu (to avoid the US$4.50 bus!) we booked ourselves onto the 5pm train to Ollantaytambo, as there were no places left on the direct Cusco train. Arriving at Ollantaytambo we soon realised that there we no buses at 7pm. Eventually we found a "collectivo" (cheap minibus transport) to Urubamba. We then squeezed eleven people into one car, everyone else locals, for the 1 1/2 hours back to Cusco!

We were both knackered and hungry when we got back to the hostel. Lorna went straight to bed but my stomach won, so I wandered down to Choquecacha for some food. I went to the first place that I saw - a little restaurant filled exclusively with Peruvians when I was sat next to another guy eating on his own. He's a student and barman in Cusco aged 21 and we had a long and very broken conversation in a mixture of poor English and worse Spanish while we polished off two large bottles of beer!

I'm now covered in black-fly and midge bites from Aguas Calientes that are driving me nuts! We're hopefully off on the Salkantay trek tomorrow, so today is for faffing and food shopping.

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