Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Machu-ismo

In about six hours I'll be taking my last ride out to the airport. Goodbye, gorgeous Latin men! Goodbye amazing Peruvian cuisine! And most of all, goodbye to the Evil One, my former partner-in-crime, moving forward into a life of wedded bliss (or will be as soon as the Boy can get his butt down here...consequentially, I am currently accepting applications for a new partner-in-crime. Minimum requirements: travel experience, sarcastic sense of humor, common sense, intelligence, and a love of reading. Candidates with temple recommends, y-chromosomes, and Latino heritage will be given preference. Please send a cover letter with CV and photo attached to thegrandwagoneer@hotmail.com).
Machu Picchu is just about all I have left to write about from this trip (just about. I might still have one post left in me. We'll see). It is the most difficult destination to get to I've ever visited - first, you have to get to Cuzco. Then you have to get to Aguas Calientes (unless you are doing the Inka Trail or the backdoor route by biking into Santa Teresa - both are expensive and you have to book the Inka Trail about 6 months in advance, as only a certain number of people are allowed on it each day), and to get to Aguas Calientes you will need to take a train. I went via Ollantaytambo (as mentioned yesterday), and my train ticket still cost 53 dollars each way. Once there, you either have to hike up to the ruins (hahahahah - in my shape and at this altitude, which admittedly is not as high as it was at Titicaca - NOT BLOODY LIKELY - see the below photograph for a demonstration of how steep the place is).
The bus up to the top costs about twenty dollars roundtrip. If you're going to try to be on the first bus, you'll need to buy your tickets the night before, as no one will be there to sell them before the crack of dawn. The ticket for Machu Picchu itself you'll have to buy in advance, as well (they also limit how many people can go here each day), and it will set you back another 56 dollars. And if you want to make sure that you get at least a few photos without any of those other people ticketed for the same day as you, you'll need to get up early. I got up at 4 to be at the bus stop an hour before the first one headed up the mountain at 5:30. I am NOT a morning person, and surrounded by tourists this early in the morning was not good for my morale.
As I was writing my postcards the night before (at a typically expensive, lackluster restaurant - pretty much the only kind there is in Aguas Calientes), I found myself asking if all this was worth it, or if, when I was finally face to face with Machu Picchu, I would just be disappointed. And the verdict? Honestly, it took my breath away in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. Not just the sun rising over the mountains, lighting up the farthest-away mountains before finally working it's way closer, over the ruins, and finally up Wayna Picchu...but the place itself. Three hours I spent happily snapping away over 200 photos. Every time I turned a corner there was a new angle to catch, a new scene of Wayna Picchu, a new flower to capture, a dizzying view of the valley below.
If you can go - GO! It is worth the time and money. It is worth the early wake up call. And once you get up on that mountain and see those ruins you will be filled with joy and peace and be at one with all the other tourists, glad to snap their photos and share this amazing place with them.

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