I had envisioned a year of never setting the alarm, and just snoozing until we could be bothered to get up. However, since being in Peru it seems we’ve done nothing but early morning starts, usually around 5am. But, hey, not to worry! On Friday we were on a bus at 0630hrs heading towards Machu Picchu. The two hour journey took us up over the hills of Cusco, through the slum areas which looked completely lawless. The roads were just mud tracks and the streets were piled high with rubbish of every kind you can imagine. But again, very interesting, and reminded me in many ways of Dewsbury…..
We were on a 26 seater bus, which of course included the obligatory knobber. Can you guess which country he was from? I’ll give you a clue. It begins with U and ends with SA. And there are no other letters. He was about 20yrs old, trying to look like a typical hippy traveller. While we were on route he got up to take photos of the driver with his selfie stick. But the worst thing was was that he had his GoPro strapped to his head. Charlotte wondered if he took it off when he went to the toilet. I doubt it.
While I’m on about cameras, I’m constantly bemused by people who insist on videoing everything. Yes, it’s good to take videos and photos, we all do it, but I see people who never have the video away from their eye. They must go home and watch the video to see what it was like to be there. It’s becoming a new gripe of mine!
Following the bus we were transferred to a train for another couple of hours to Machu Picchu area. What a stunningly beautiful train journey following a raging river through a narrow valley encased in enormous sheer cliffs. I’d have seen more of it, but as is normal on every trip we have Charlotte had automatically taken the window seat….
Our destination was a small village at the foot of Machu Picchu called Aguas Calientes. We’d heard mixed reports about this place but we found it to be fantastic, just like a European ski resort in summer, with great bars, restaurants and hotels. Getting off the train we were met by a child holding a card with our names. With no words spoken, he marched us off to our hostel 5 minutes away. You know I mentioned great hotels? Well, ours wasn’t one of them, but must surely win awards for comedy genius from the owner, who we referred to as Del Boy. But this wasn’t intentional comedy. It’s hard to describe, but was like a hostel run by Del Boy and his 3 delinquent sons. Somehow the business worked, but we have no idea how. Anyway, the room was clean and nice-ish, and the food was, well, food. Ish. Charlotte brilliantly described it as the sort of meal you had when you were a kid, when your mum went away, and dad was in charge of cooking.
We weren’t due to go up Machu Picchu until the following morning so had the afternoon to kill. We were going to go to the hot springs to relax, but for some unexplained reason they were closed. This turned out to be great luck, as we found a fantastic bar where we sat outside idling the afternoon away. In the very hot sun it was one of the finest “people watching” spots we’ve ever found, and what with the railway running between us and the bars opposite provided great entertainment. I may have mentioned in a very early blog that sadly I’m a bit of a fan of trains. Hmmmm. I don’t go train spotting (honest!) but I do like trains, the older the better. And having these trains running just by us was great. As soon as the train went by, the tracks became the walk way again. Love it! This could never happen in England ever since the Denny Train Health and Safety bye-laws came into existence. So, the afternoon slipped by very nicely and then it was dinner at the hostel with more food-ish and Del Boy shenanigans.
Breakfast at 6 the following morning gave us an opportunity to meet our guide and two tour companions for the day. The guide was Danny Ramirez. A Cusco lad of about 25, who instantly impressed me to be that stoned at 6 in the morning! Bloody hell! He could hardly hold his eyes open! However, as the day went on and he became more and more stoned, he showed that he had incredible knowledge of the area and was an absolute specialist. He’d studied the Inca history at university, so what a great job he had. He was very cool and laid back, but unlike most other guides we came across who dress and act to look cool in order to impress, he just had it naturally. A very nice guy.
The two other people with us were from Estonia. Raul and Elina, probably in mid 50s. Raul was a big man, not fat, just big, who looked incredibly fit (facially he was the spitting image of Mick Woodward for those at work who know). However, at breakfast, he was shovelling pills in his mouth like smarties, and in his horrendously bad English told us “I sick man!”. Apparently high blood pressure was the problem, but Nurse Charlotte instantly diagnosed him with severe heart problems. Oh well. Elina spoke slightly better English, but all she did with it was worry and dither. To me, her biggest worry should have been whether Raul was going to last the next 5 minutes or not.
We got the bus at half 6, half hour up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. I’d been wanting to get the first bus at half 5, but Danny had persuaded us not to as he said it would be much much better an hour later (and it’d give him another hour of spliffs). But he was of course spot on. (Once again, Charlotte took the window seat, then failed to look out of the window due to the terrifying sheer drops below her, just thought I’d mention it, another wasted window seat)
On entering the site, the first view of Machu Picchu is just incredible. Properly breath taking. It could actually deserve the oft used and hated word, awesome. We’ve all seen it on TV and in pictures, but I’d never realised the huge scale of it. I know some of our friends have been, and done the Inca Trail to get there, and I can only imagine how it must feel to walk through the Sun Gate way above it to enter. I genuinely can’t describe it well enough here, but I think it was probably one of the biggest privileges of my life to experience it, especially when we were told that without doubt, within ten years the site would be closed to the public in order to preserve it. Yes, once again, I’d been to the greatest place in the World!
Danny gave us a three hour tour of the site, providing fascinating information. Raul lagged behind, and swallowed pills. Not Pils. Pills. He also had to keep disappearing for a poo!!!!!!!
After 3hrs we went for our climb up the neighbouring mountain, Huina Picchu. Only 400 people a day are allowed to do this, and we’d bought our tickets months before (only 2500 people a day are allowed on the site itself). This entailed a 400m climb up unbelievably steep terrain on steps made thousands of years ago. Me and Charlotte did it in 45 minutes which is a bit quicker than the hour average. We’d left Raul and Elina after about 2 minutes. Surely there was no way he could make this??!! For a start, there wasn’t anywhere to poo, and secondly he only had about 4 minutes life left in him!
The view from the top was beyond belief. We stopped there for 40 minutes or so, watching the clouds come in, then the sun come through, changing the views all the time. A real life-changer. We are very lucky people.
There was the obligatory Yank there, having a photo taken of him proposing marriage to his girlfriend. He was obviously suffering from severe altitude sickness.
Eventually we descended, and finally made our way back down to the hostel. Danny met us there, now completely off his tits. Raul and Elina didn’t arrive at the allotted time, and although Danny waited for 40 minutes, he finally got fed up and got the train back to Cusco where his dealer was waiting anxiously for his best customer. Bruce, I’d be interested to hear what you’d think of one of your guides abandoning his clients???!!! (Speaking of which, Bruce, I would probably be the greatest guide in the world, and surely you must have a job for me with a very high wage???? I am available!!)
With two hours til our train back, we once again retired to our favourite bar. All very pleasant. Lots of dogs in Aguas Calientes, mostly roaming wild, but were obviously owned as they were dressed! The best one we saw was wearing a shirt and dungarees! At first I thought i was hallucinating, but no!
On the train, we were sat with a couple of silent Chinese boys. Halfway through the journey one of them put on a surgical face mask. How rude! Did I really smell that bad?? All it did was encourage me to cough in his direction a bit more.
And then back on the bus to Cusco. I named the driver James Hunt. This wasn’t just down to his ridiculous speed and overtaking, but also Cockney rhyming slang. It seems to be a constant common theme about manic bus drivers. It actually makes me very angry.
So. Machu Picchu. I could write about it for days. We both agreed one of the greatest things we’d ever done, and a life time ambition for both of us. I would urge all of you to go there above anywhere else we’ve been. But go soon before it closes……
*Raul and Elina made it to the top 45 minutes after us. Elina said he almost died!! I have no idea how many poos he had on the way!