17 Enero (Jan 17)
So we woke up at 5am this morning and tried to put ourselves and our gear together in the dark of our dorm room. We checked out and stored our big bags at the hostel. AT check out, there was a note left from Graham, our London friend who never made it back from Paddy´s the night earlier for proper goodbyes, saying his drunken goodbye and leaving his email, encouraging us all to visit him in England!
By 530am, we had walked to the train station. We stood in line and picked up our tickets. Everything was going smoothly, thank goodness. We noticed all the Peruvian vendors out front selling warm Alpaca gear for Machu Picchu trekers and got thinking about all hte potential cold mountain air that awaited us and how we only had our sweaters to battle it. We picked up matching Alpaca “beanies” to ensure our warmth.
About to board the train, we see a farmiliar face waving in the crowd. It was Chris, the English guy from our rafting trip. (We expected to see him up there later on, but never did… they must have done the trek.) Small world Cusco is though…. At least when you´ve been a tourist there for a solid 5 days.
Now, here we sit – aboard the rickety train, enjoying the AMAZING views of Cusco from so high up. The train kept stopping and then backing up…. A train worker came through our cabin and announced “FIAS”. I questioned, frustrated, what did “FIAS” mean in English?? What was going on?? The French gentleman sitting across from me correct me… he was saying “FIRES” in English. There were fires on the tracks because of the strike. Whoops….
The view from up here is absolutely BREATHTAKING. This time we did take lots of photos of the drive (cameras fully charged) which we are eager to share. Aguas Calientes is absolutely tiny and all uphill and on 2 sides of a stream so Miss Savannah had to face her fear of bridges on many occasions throughout the weekend, and did wonderful! It´s funny, the hostel says they will be happy to pick you up from the train station, so when we deboarded the train, there was our names on a sign. Because the town is so tiny though, pick you up means meet you and we walk you back. Haha. Cute.
After arriving, we both crashed – exhausted from the early morning start. When we woke up in early afternoon, we showered up and head out to check out the town. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE YET. Oh my goodness! A rolling stream right through the middle. Greenery everywhere and mountains on every side of you. It is described as comparable to “Banff”, a little overpriced and beautiful mountain town. After exploring, we made friends with our roommate, Paul from Ireland. We all head out for some dinner and drinks. Sitting on the patio at the restaurant, having just ordered a round, our friends Blain & Graeme pass by! (They had taken a shuttle bus up and it turned out to be a hellish 9 hour drive on mountain cliffs and unpaved roads that was so bad, they ended up forfittng the money they had paid for the ride home and taking a luxury train, haha.) They met us for dinner and drinks.
After dinner, we all hiked up to the hot springs (after the boys rented matching yellow trunks at a local vendor, haha). The hot springs were warm, but smelt of chicken and the dressing rooms of egg, haha! The toilets had no seats and no toilet paper, ah!!!! The only nice thing was that after you “wave your hands” (those were specific instructions on the sign), someone from the bar up above will eventually notice you and come down and bring you drinks. So we did get to enjoy beer and Sangria in our warm chicken broth bath. Haha!
18 Enero (Jan 18)
It´s 5am. We are showered and fed–sitting in the Plaza Principal waiting for our Canadian companions to meet us. Savannah didn´t get any sleep last night, so her day may be rough. I forgot to bring my inhaler so am absolutely NERVOUS about this hike up the mountain that lay ahead. 700 steps they say… and steep as all hell. We are trying to stay optimistic. At least it´s nice and humid here (my fave!!) so my hair will have some body to it! It´s dark out in Aguas Calientes. Only a few hikers roam the streets on their way to Machu Picchu. Savannah and I pass the time practising energy yoga poses in front of cathedral doors and fountains to make for pretty pictures.
Machu Picchu was…what do you even say abou tit. AMAZING! We started hiking around 530am, walking the direction we figured it might be. Nice walk to the entrance of the mountain. Then the HIKE began. It was a TOUGH hike. Holy. Forgetting my inhaler back in Cusco… BIG MISTAKE. We had to break every 10min or so to ensure that I didn´t end up in an asthma attack situation. But it was all good. It was handy having all four of us together–especially for picture taking. We kept reaching a top of a stone stairway and turned only to find another long stone stairway. I remember not believing there was going to be a top. WE laughed that maybe this was some sick joke or we accidentally were climbing the wrong mountain. I remember spotting the top through the trees. We made it to the top around 7am I think. I was DEAD. But the moment we made it through the gates, and entered Machu Picchu–energy was flowing again.
The views were lacking the beginning. We started to wonder if that deadly hike and all the money spent to get here was worth it. The fog was thick and white and pictures lacked any depth. We waddled around the village-like area, pocking through windows and ducking through doorways. Finally, we found the route to the “panoramic” view aka the postcard point. (you know, the picture that shows up when you google Machu Picchu). It was a loooooooong set of stairs to get up there, we all groaned along the way. We had heard from another tourist up there that the fog was so thick it wasn´t worth checking out as you couldn´t see anything. We decided that since we were here, we might as well give it a shot. And THANK GOODNESS WE DID!! Just as we made it to the top, the fog lifted and revieled the most amazing scene to us!! AMAZING. I honeslty don´t know what to say about it. We took a zillion photos. Mom–There is one of me and Blain (who by the way is originally from NFLD) holding the NFLD bandana you gave me in front of the scene. Would be cool to send out East!
Shortly after, very shortly after, INSTENSE heavy rain began to fall followed up thick winds. It was super unpleasant…. Everything we wore and carried was soaked. Our Alpaca sweaters now smell of sour dampness, Graeme´s iPod got wet THROUGH his bag and may be ruined for good. We decided to head down, as we really felt like we had seen what we wanted to see. It was no weather for a picnic lunch as originally planned! On the way out of Machu Picchu, we got our passports stamped. Amazing!!!!! We were so soaked up, we weren´t sure if it was rain or sweat, or both. We made it out by 9am!! Amazing to have accomplished that much by 9am!
Back in Aguas Calientes (we slacked and took the bus down the mountain, screw it), we had already checked out of our hostel. The boys had not, thank goodness, so we all had access to hot showers and naps!
18.5 Enero (Jan 18.5)
It felt like 2 days, Jan 18… because of how much we did before 10am and then all that came after our naps. After our naps and showers, feeling like Machu Picchu was a dream, we head out for some of the best pizza ever!! I love Peruvian pizza. Simple, thin crust, made to order, so fresh. The man at the place we ate made the pizza right in front of us and cooked it up in an old fire oven. We ended up having 2, along with some cervesa to wash it down. Then, head back to the train station, said goodbye to beautiful Aguas Calientes, and head for home (Cusco).
It´s funny that out of our friends so far, I am the token “communicator”. I speak such LITTLE Spanish… but seem to remember more everyday.
Hahaha, funny. In Aguas Calientes, we had walked by this store with shirt in the window that read (in jewels): I HEART MY FACE. Hahah!!! Savannah, both of us half cut from our pizza and beer lunch, bought one just for kicks! Who even makes a shirt like that!?!?! So funny!!!!
On the train home, Savannah and I chatted about the way you meet people traveling. If we were at home in Calgary, people woldn´t just go up and talk to each other. Meet and all of a sudden be having dinner and drinks. People really connect when they´re traveling. And quickly too! You spend 3 days with someone and it feels like they are family. It´s only been 10 days on the road and I already feel addicted to traveling (you were right, Liz). I am SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I have virtually nothing to complain about. Life these days if just amazing. Filled with discovery and relaxation and loads and loads of laughter. Afternoons are filled with cervesa and naps and hammock time. Life is soooooooooo good.
THE PLAN FROM HERE…
Spend our last day in Cusco, head to the market, eat a repeat of that amazing breakfast. Overnight bus to Arequipa Monday night getting us in the AM. Going to see the sights… the “slutty nuns convent” (will explain later) and seek out the SHOELACES man. Spend the night and the next day, head on to Chile! Looking forward to a new city and then the beach!