Maybe it was the way he tangoed in Buenos Aires – you know – with style and ease, never to be forgotten – I dont know but on the train on our way back from Macchu Piccu a young English girl leaned across the aisle and said she had seen us at tango. I told you he had excelled! Amazing how fame can suddenly befall you when you take to a dance with such vigor and determination! Yes, I am joking a little and more about Cassie and Stacey and Candy and Troy later!
The morning of our visit to Macchu Piccu began with a very early wakeup – 4.30am to be precise! We packed our packs and headed down for an unnecessarily bad breakfast in our unnecessarily bad hotel! It made the hotel in cusco even more glamorous than we had first thought.
It was dark and cold outside and we left our packs in storage and headed through the empty markets towards the bus station. You need to catch a train to aguas calientes as I understand there are no roads – then you have to take a bus up the side of the mountain to the actual site. You may have heard of my trip to Vietnam where the road from Sapa to Bahai thrilled me to pieces meandering up the sides of mountains the likes of which I had never seen. I remember thinking if he misses a corner here I am dead meat. Well, I have to say going up the mountain to Macchu Piccu was not dissimilar – just a little quicker. The drops each side of the bus must have been on verticle mountain walls – with cloud cover you could not see how far down the valley was.
To start with I had the pleasure of sitting in the very back corner, behind a young man from the States whose girlfriend informed me “we all have no room” when I asked very nicely if he would pull his seat back forward when we first got in. After about 15 minutes I had secured my hiking poles between his seat and the back of mine to ensure it stopped bouncing onto my injured knee with every bump in the dirt road. Eventually my husband asked him if he could try again to find the lever on his left as his wife (me – his beloved) was in agony. Finally some reprieve! “Oh yeh there is a lever there! ” Der… The fact that he and his girlfriend had about 10 inches more space for their legs than I did, did not phase them for the first half of the journey. Another nice couple on the other side looked on in disbelief from the other side until the seat was moved. They were informing me of this as they kindly allowed me to exit in front of them at the end of the journey and as I chatted on I missed the step in the aisle and banged the billyo out of the other knee as I went down. This was clearly an optimum start to exploring Macchu Piccu which consists of steps steps and more steps! I was in peak condition …. ha ha ha.
Fortunately most of my knee pain occurs on the descent with stairs so my beloved and I powered to the top to the Guards hut where the best photos were expected to be had. There is a taller mountain opposite the hut you can climb if you buy tickets months in advance – the guards hut was fine for us. As anyone who has been here knows, cloud cover is a common problem so there we stood chatting with a nice young english couple who had the same idea of getting photos from the guards hut. And we chatted, and we chatted, and we chatted – we had one or two brief cloud breaks for a photo or two and eventually they had to leave for their tour after which they said they conceded they may as well hear about the place if they cant see it! Well we continued to wait and about 8:30 two minutes of sun – just when the security guard told me the sun would shine! We turned and thanked him profusely muchos gracias muchos gracias and he laughed and laughed.
And guess what – battery needs changing and I desparately fumble in my bag for second camera – sun is gone again by the time I locate it. Ok my beloved decides to investigate the surrounds a little more and I stand for another half hour, wet cold determined! With a sore knee (or two) there is no climbing back up for a second chance. Anyway finally as I decide to make the journey down one level – out comes the sun! No matter, one level down and the photo opportunities are still magnificent – we investigate level after level taking photo after photo and finally decide to head back out the gate and tell our tour guide we are done! She was a little distraught – how could we possibly be done without her insider knowledge? We were tourists who required word by word guidance on every step. Little did she know we eavesdropped on other tours when we felt like it but mostly we just looked on in wonder. It was just perfect investigating the ruins alone snapping photos where we wanted and not having to wait for a group to move on to the next one. Not having to go one way when we wanted to go another. And not having to listen to various hypothesise on what happened here. I had already read quite a bit about the findings and was able to identify some things as we went.
Back down at Aguas we tried the Inkaterra cafe – closed due to renovations, the Inkaterra Restaurant – not open for an hour and finally a little cafe up a side alley. Perfect to rest recover and eat. Desafortunatemente my fish was a little, well, fishy – so I just had chips and water! An hour or two later we had collected our packs and were back at the train station ready to depart. I quickly grabbed a queso empanada (meat just seemed to be a little to dodgy for my stomach) and we found our seats on the train opposite Troy and Candy from the States. They were great company for this ride sharing stories of diving and travel – in fact I think I might have to visit the gold souk in dubai when we pass through just too see the wealth in that place!
At one point we were all convinced the train had been derailed when a loud bang and shake resulted in a sudden stop. Either superman lifted us back on track or the noise was just a change of direction to allow us to sit aside while a train coming the opposite way passed us. Yes it was the later of the two scenarios.
Anyway it was about this time Cassie leant over and mentioned the tango – yes you heard right – he's famous! But his story is nothing compared to Cassie and Stacey's. They were sitting opposite their guide and had just completed the four day inka trail. At 4200 metres on the second night, Stacey had had to deal with nose bleeds and vomiting blood if you can believe it – altiitude sickness is indiscriminate – Cassie had no problem. Their guide had provided local first aid and helped clear her airways and she clearly had no choice but to finish the hike and get out of there! They hiked about 40 km in 4 days up and down some of the most unbelievable landscape you could imagine – my beloved was glad i had not signed him up for this one – I have to say after hearing the stories from these girls I was quite okay with that decision also.
Initially it sounded all bells and whistles, they had a guide, three porters and a chef – whom I believe did not assist with any weight loss hopes the girls had held prior to undertaking this physical challenge. I have to say seeing some of those mountains and knowing how awkward some of the hills could be in the wet it would still not be easy. Troy and Candy were equally in awe of this feat of significance. The trail must have only been open a week after the wet season – and frankly it was still darn wet! Full congratulations to these two for an impressive effort!
My basic kneecap problems pale into insignificance I know – but my fear of heights was faced every second of my visit to Macchu Piccu and I too am proud of making the journey!