Machu Picchu Day 4

Cusco Travel Blog

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The next morning we rose at 3:30, by far the earliest yet, so we could be at the sun gate for the famed sunrise over the Sacred City.  The whole place was a buzz of activity with everyone excited for the pinnacle of all our hard trekking.  We had a queue for roughly an hour however, for the guides to get papers checked before we could set off.  This allowed time for the darkness to warm into early morning light, slowly creating objects out of all the shadows around me. 
    In general, I like to think I'm a pretty easy going person, but I definitely do have a noise sensitivity level, particularly in the mornings.  As luck would have it, a guide directly behind me in this line thought himself extremely charming, and in the hour we stood there not one 10 second interval passed without some annoying noise from him.  Sometimes he'd sing along, in the worst singing voice ever, and with half the words incorrect, to the guns and roses another guide was playing on a tiny radio. If he wasn't singing he was whistling, also completely out of tune, and for extra impact he could blow into a piece of plastic as to make a high pitched bird whistle.  It was excruciating on the nerves, to say the least.  Finally, we set off.
    Usually, during the trek there is no rush as there is ample time to reach your destination, but for the final hour everyone was in a hurry as we all had the idea that there was limited space available at the Sun Gate for that famed view.  Most stayed in the single file line down the narrow path, but a few fools rushed past everyone is an attempt to grab the best spot.  All this tomfoolery was in vain, however, as when we scaled the final steep stairs and reached the stone mounds, there turned out to be more than enough room for everyone, and as the heavy fog hadn't lifted yet even the slowest were there by the time there was any view to be seen.
    There had been the tiniest spattering of rain the night before after we were all in our tents, this was enough to create a thick fog blanketing the valley and obstruct Machu Picchu completely from view.  Just as some groups gave up and headed down, the clouds parted, sunlight streamed though and the fog lifted to reveal the most magnificent view of the terraced city across the valley.  It was exactly the magic moment we had worked so hard for, and yes, it made it all worthwhile!  After many pictures and lingering around hoping for an even sunnier view, we finally followed suit and began the climb down to the city.
    When we arrived about 15 minutes later the fog was gone and the sun shone brightly.  I first got "the picture" of me with the city in the background, shocked at my for once great luck with the weather.  I took quite a few of these shots, finally appeasing Fermin's love of taking my picture against every backdrop.  After this was tour time, which I am sorry to report I did not handle well at all.  It was the same as with the other ruins only worse, as my interest was only slight yet his enthusiasm great.  Sometimes it felt like an excruciating history lesson.  I just wanted to wander around and snap pictures, but instead I got the rundown of every brick and stone in the place.  Fermin was extra bossy, "look closer" if I was two steps too far away, "touch it" "ask me questions" and repeatedly asking me to remember things he had taught me at the other sites.  If it was a lecture, I definitely failed the test. My feet ached, I was exhausted and the sun was hot, meaning I slowly dragged my ass around the multi hour tour at Machu Picchu.  Finally, finally, it was over and I had some free time to wander on my own.
    With the batteries of both myself and my camera exhausted, I opted to sit on the grassy knoll and relax, which is where I am now. The llamas that wander the site have just invaded this area and are munching contently on the grass, not flinching at all regarding the people sitting around.  Soon I have to say goodbye to this adventure and catch my train back to Cuzco, with a lunch with Fermin in Aguas Calientes first.  Its been some adventure, with very low lows as I was the only one in my group, to very high highs of seeing the spectacular famed scenery. Now that its done, the bad parts are fading already from memory and I'm left with the satisfactory residue of having walked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, and now no one can ever take that away from me.
   **Later** - Well, I did manage to get back to Cuzco, but had some fright when Fermin was half an hour late to our agreed lunchtime, as he was holding on the my train ticket.  He says he was sitting inside the whole time, but I had walked around the restaurant prior to sitting right in the most visible spot possible and never saw him.  I don't know why, if he was there, he picked some hard to see spot itt he back, but at any rate finally we met up and I was able to get my ticket.
    The train back was lonely and cold, and I had the unfortunate bad luck to sit across from a lovey-dovey couple.  At that moment I wanted nothing more than my own boyfriends shoulder to lie my head on and sleep, but alas the seat next to me was empty, which I at least preferred to being crammed into the tiny space with a stranger, most likely as smelly as I was after a 4 day trek.  As we arrive in Cuzco the city's bright lights spread spectacularly through the valley and the just past full moon shone overhead, making for a fantastic shot for the guy across the way with his very fancy camera, but not so much for me with my Fugi and its limited night shot abilities.  However, the image will stay burned in my memory forever as it was so powerful. It made me strangely homesick, I suppose as a city at night looks the same all over the world, causing my mind to hope it was my beloved Cork below instead of the more estranged Cuzco.
    Once back in the hostel I went for that famously well deserved after-Inca trail shower, and in the process of preparing for it discovered I was rooming with my 3 often rediscovered friends Hasan, Ali and Micheala.  The said the were going to town for a few drinks, and for some reason, despite the extreme lack of sleep and fatigue, I decided to meet them in town after.  I think maybe after the isolation of the trail I was so happy to see some friendly faces I was starved for the companionship.  I made my way down to the bar they were in, Mama Africa's, soon after.
    On the way down I took a cab, and when I tried to pay with a 10 sole note the driver said no to it as it had a tiny tear, since repaired with Scotch tape.  En espanol, we bantered back and forth for quite a few minutes as I explained it was the only note I had with me, so if he didn't take it he wouldn't get paid.  Finally, either he agreed to this or my wishful thinking misinterpreted his too rapid Spanish (spoken I think to frustrate me), and I got out of the cab and walked away, torn bill still in hand.  I know they are picky about notes here but I still do not see the sense in refusing payment, as surely it can still be passed on to some other person not as picky.  In the bar after actually, they took it no problem.
    We stayed in the bar until around 6 am, and I saw many faces I recognized from other groups  along the trail.  I hadn't been on the piss for ages in South America so it was good to let loose and mingle through the 70 percent tourist, 30 percent local crowd.
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photo by: Vlindeke