Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Machu to the Picchu

So, we did a 4 day adventure trek to Machu Picchu last weekend. This adventure trek included a day of downhill biking, 2 days of trekking, and 1 day at Machu Picchu including a train trip back. Day 1: My trusty Walmart watch alarm failed to go off at 5:15 for our supposed 6am pickup. The tour agency did not have our address, but we promised our friends that we would be on the corner of the market waiting for them. So, when we woke up at 6:30am we started frantically throwing our bags together running out to the corner sans shoes with toothpaste and toothbrush in hand. At 7:30 after a morning of taxis to and from the tour office, waiting on the corner getting honked at by every taxi in Cusco, we pretty much had given up hope and thought we missed out Machu Picchu tour. Our depression led us to the office to try to book another tour. After much commotion and scolding for going missing, we were led in a taxi to the bus that had our group and our bikes! So we were able to join the group for the freezing cold downpour where our downhill bike ride took place. It was super fun- at first. Then, after an hour or so and being completely soaking wet and realizing that we had all our warm clothes including our hiking shoes for the next 3 days completely soaked, it wasn't as much fun. When we arrived in Santa Maria, we passed the time watching/ playing with the English boys in some barefoot concrete soccer against the locals followed by some dinner. Well, let's just say that night did not end well for me because somewhere in there I was poisoned which kept me in the bathroom puking all night- not great preparation for a day of 9 hours of hiking the next day.
Day 2: I woke up feeling like death and not able to look at food still. The hike- despite the stomach of death- was pretty cool actually with some good views and some challenging hills. Our "guides" were not the best at their job considering the fact that they marched way on ahead together leaving the slower people in the back to find their own way at the forks in the road, but this was just the beginning of the issues with our guide. Our trek was interspersed with lectures on how our group was not staying together, ironic, and how he wanted us to be like a family with really bad metaphors about the human body missing limbs. We survived the 9 hours of trekking and made it to our accommodation in Santa Teresa. The farmacia there made a lot of business off of our group with poison ivy creams and pavement burns from bike falls- probably because the random lady working had no credentials and offered unknown pills and creams and bandages to everyone who walked in irregardless of their ailment.
Day 3: The easiest day hiking because it was flat ground- often either on or alongside railroad tracks. This gave our guide plenty of time to share with us his personal views on religion with a splash of Peruvian beliefs in there. We decided he was going through a personal revolution after all our lectures. We arrived at Aguas Calientes with enough time to hit up the hot springs before dinner. It felt really good to get a cold drink and let our sore muscles relax in the warm water after the previous few days. Then it was to bed for our 4am wake up call.
Day 4: Again, a failed alarm meant a scrambled 4am wake up to start hiking up to Machu Picchu in time to be one of the first 400 in order to get Waynapicchu tickets (the mountain in the back of all Machu Picchu pictures). Well with Kelsey's marathon endurance and the help of a conversation with some strangers, we were #3 and #4 to arrive at the top- thus safely securing our tickets. After waiting for an hour for the real Machu Picchu to open, and seeing stragglers stroll up on the bus and get tickets at 6am, we had to remind ourselves that it was maybe unnecessary but a good workout at 4am. When we finally made it into Machu Picchu we had a guided tour to teach us about the history and the story (this time a different guide). It is really quite amazing how smart the Incas really were from their reading the sun to their angled architecture to their water system. Unfortunately, from this guide there was more disgruntled complaining about the Americans who discovered it and are studying it than appreciation for the fact that they are the reason he has a job. Once our tour was done and some of the cold and fog burned off, we were really able to hike up to Waynapicchu and sit and enjoy the ruins for what they really were and what they meant. No picture, past or current, of this place could really do it justice. Hearing that it is one of the wonders of the world is still an understatement that couldn't really describe what it is like once you actually see the grandiose scale and the intricate details of this place that has lasted hundreds of years. So my words will not do it justice, but here is your recommendation to go visit it yourself if you haven't already.
Once we were done admiring the splendor of the Incan ruins was when disaster struck. We made it back to our hostel to learn that we did not have the train tickets we were promised for that night. We were told they were at the train station- LIE. The train station people show us the lists and show us that none of our group is on it, and then they proceed to tell us that the trains are full until 2 days later- LIE. So, we call our oh so helpful guide and tell him what is going on. Apparently we interrupted his fun because he was not happy that he had to come get us and walk us the 20 meters to the restaurant where the tour agency is based out of, and he tells us that lady will help us- LIE. That was the last we saw of him, except when he walked by us without a word to pick up his train ticket. So, we start our 3 hour ordeal dealing with this lady. First she says we don't have tickets and there isn't anything she can do- LIE. Then she talks to someone who tells her to buy us tickets. So she goes to buy us tickets taking the copies of our passports, but Kelsey did not have hers, so she just walked off and said that it wasn't possible to buy a ticket without a copy of her passport- LIE. So, after telling Kelsey she was going to have to stay there until tomorrow morning- LIE- we started making calls. Several pay phone calls later because the lady wouldn't let us use her phone and 3 hours passed, they finally agree to buy Kelsey a ticket. So, we go to the station to find out that their system is down and they can not sell anymore tickets- LIE. Finally, 10 minutes before the train leaves they buy a ticket with a warning to Kelsey that she probably won't get on because she doesn't have her copy- LIE. So, after 5 hours of a train ride (with several empty seats) and a bus ride and a taxi ride, we (including Kelsey) arrived home with an amazing experience of Machu Picchu overshadowed by much bitterness toward Peruvians not willing to do their job/ not even having a little compassion for someone being stranded alone despite the fact that she had paid for a ticket home. Not the best impression for tourists, but that is not to take away from the splendor of Machu Picchu and the adventure and excitement of our entire trip.

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