Climb Machu Picchu
Built by the Incas in the 15th century, Machu Picchu was used as both a religious shrine and a palace for the Inca emperor. Located midway between the tops of two mountains 450 meters above the valley and 2,438 meters above sea level, the main area of the site contains 172 buildings. However, the extent of the ruins covers an area of 32,592 hectares throughout the Vilcanota-Urubamba river basin in what is called the Sacred Valley.
Excerpt from the book Soul Searching in South America from the Teresa the Traveler series: Some people choose to reach Machu Picchu by way of the Inca Trail – a three day hike starting at kilometre 82 of the train route to Cuzco,but Monique and I aren’t those people. We chose to stay dry and ride the train. They don’t call it the rainy season for nothing and the idea of camping in the rain for three entire days did not appeal to either of us. We are backpackers not sponges.
A taxi picked us up at our hotel at 6:30 am and, because the train tracks between there and Cuzco were being repaired, brought us to a charter bus for a two hour drive to Ollantaytambo – try saying that five times in a row while spinning in a circle. From there we boarded a two-hour slow, and I mean SLOW, train to Aguas Calientes where we caught a 20-minute bus ride to Machu Picchu. It was after 11:00 am by the time we got there but we didn’t have to catch the bus back down until 5:30 pm giving us plenty of time to explore.
We started our journey on the upper trails eager to capture that perfect “I was at Machu Picchu”picture. After about 50 takes, we got hungry and went to chow down at the buffet. Our timing could not have been better because moments after we sat down, it started to rain…then pour…then downpour. They say it rains a lot in the Andes but I had no idea it rained this much. We sat out the storm for about 3 hours before returning to check out the village.
I must admit I did very little research about the site before visiting. I think I was afraid that if I anticipated it too much I would be disappointed – after all, expectations do have a tendency to decrease joy. It must have worked because I had no idea what to expect and Machu Picchu far exceeded any expectations I did have. I could see why in 2007, following a vote of 100 million voters worldwide, Machu Picchu was declared one of the new wonders of the world along with Chichen Itza, the Roman Coliseum, Christ Redeemer, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and
We wondered through the narrow cobblestone paths that wound their way through the stone houses then circled the site to view it from every possible angle. As we approached the exit I stopped. Not quite ready to leave I went back to have my own Machu Picchu moment while Monique waited near the gate. I found a private spot near an ancient Inca house and admired the magnificence that is Machu Picchu.
My heart burst with joy when I thought back to three months prior when I bought a cork board
and pinned places I would like to see on it. On it was a picture of the scene I was witnessing. I had no idea my wish would come true so fast. My eyes welled up with tears and I thanked the Universe for this amazing opportunity.
For many visiting a site like Machu Picchu would seem like the impossible dream. For me, finding my forever man seemed like the impossible dream. It occurred to me that I needed to relax and trust the Universe. I put it out there that I want to meet him and I needed to trust that the Universe was guiding him to me. The Universe has made all my dreams come true thus far so why wouldn’t it give me the one thing my heart desired most?
I took a deep breath and watched the mist descend from the mountains and make the village disappear. Then when I least expected it the mist would rise and the ruins would reappear like a freshly unwrapped Christmas present. My heart filled with joy and gratitude for the gifts the Universe had given me and would continue to give me.
The Machu Picchu Party Train
When we got to the train station we ran into two guys from the Czech Republic that we had met on the upper viewing area. One of them had been kind enough to take a picture of Monique and me. His friend was really hot so I insisted he pose with us. I just can’t resist tall handsome men and Jan was one of those men. The divorced furniture importer was on a one-month Peruvian adventure with his friend Marek, a Czech military airplane mechanic.
With 40 minutes to wait until we boarded, I had plenty of time to sit with the guys and get to know them better. Or should I say sit with Jan and get to know him better. The chemistry between us was so intense that the rest of the world seemed to momentarily disappear. I was disappointed to discover we were in separate cars thinking I would probably never see him again. I figured his was only another walk on role in my adventure designed to remind me that I had options: Antonio was not the only stallion in the stable.
Monique and I sat across from a Chilean man and his young daughter and while Monique and the girl played games with a Canadian penny, I listened to dance music on my MP3 player. Feeling an incredible high from my amazing day, I was too full of energy to sleep so instead I imagined a dance party breaking out on the train and me busting a few moves.
My fantasy was interrupted when the train made a sudden stop and we were informed that there was a rock on the track, which later turned into a few rocks and ultimately translated into a landslide caused by the torrential rains. The tracks were covered and it was uncertain how long it would take workers to clear them. Our day was already long after leaving our hotel at 6:30 am with an estimated return time of 11:00 pm. Who knew how long it would take us to get back to Cuzco? Deciding there was nothing I could do I resigned myself to my seat and settled back into my dance party fantasy until I noticed some of the people from our car looking into the car in front of us. I got up to join them and saw a group of people congregated in the aisles of the next car. Thinking perhaps they were able to see the landslide, I grabbed my camera and went in hoping to get some pictures.
I bumped into Jan and Marek sitting near the door so I sat down and chatted with them. I quickly discovered that the crowd was a group of Frenchmen drinking at the bar and listening to music. They seemed to be having a good time and I was about to join them when the attendant from my car came over and made me return to my seat.
I sulked back into my car where I watched through the window and witnessed the party picking up momentum. People were starting to dance. What the…? That was my dance party. How dare this woman prevent me from joining it! Suddenly Jan peeked through the window and motioned for me to come back. I wanted to, I really did but I was afraid of getting kicked out again. Damn fear of rejection…why did it have to rear its ugly face now? I knew we were going to be there for quite some time – landslides don’t clear themselves and I would rather be joining the party than watching it from my seat. So I served my fear of rejection a tall glass of shut the hell up. With Monique covering my back, so the attendant could not see my escape, I marched over to the next car grabbed John by the hand and brought him to the bar and asked him to buy me a beer.
The next five hours were the most fun I’ve had in years. John and I drank Pisco shooters with a group of egg farmers from Montpelier, France and the party was on. We discovered an I-pod dock in the train’s stereo system and when one of the passengers offered up an I-pod full of dance music, the dance party in my head suddenly became a reality. I started to bust a move and so did everyone else. No pun intended, the group formed a train and chugged through the middle of the aisle picking up any strays. Then we did the Macarena and the YMCA and any other moves we could conjure up.
When the music slowed down, Jan invited me to slow dance. Snuggled tightly into his chest I could not resist my urge to kiss him. Not usually one to make such a bold move, the combination of high altitude, Pisco and the desire for any man’s lips but Antonio’s to be the last to touch mine made me lose all control. Much to my surprise, Jan resisted my advance telling me it was too soon.
What the…? In my estimation our relationship started five hours prior and would expire in approximately four more. I felt it was the perfect time for a kiss but at the same time I admired his modesty. It made me want him even more.
The final song of the evening was one of my favorites, I’veGot a Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. As I sang along “I’ve got a feeling that tonight’s going to be a good night”, I thought back to my weekend at the connections retreat. At the end of the second day the DJ had played that same song and the entire group got up and danced. I wanted to join them but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had forgotten how to have fun and was not able to force myself to get up and dance.
It never occurred to me until that night how guilty I had felt for going to Afghanistan, and getting paid to have fun while people all around me were getting killed. I needed to let myself off the hook and acknowledge that the war wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done to stop it…but how? That was why I went to South America in the first place: to remember how to have fun. And there I was – letting loose on a makeshift dance floor on a train in the middle of the Andes with a bunch of people I had just met. I didn’t have a care in the world and it felt great.
After five hours, the track was finally cleared and the attendant successfully ushered me back to my seat for the remainder of the ride.
When we disembarked in Ollantaytambo, Jan was waiting to say goodbye. I handed him my card and told me to find me on Facebook. He said he did not have an account but would start one just so we could keep in touch. Sure I thought…just like Antonio promised. Not going to hold my breath for that one. I wanted to believe him, I really did but my heart was guarded. I guess only time would tell if he was a man of his word.
As we wondered around the chaotic scene looking for our bus amongst the mess of buses and taxis Jan drove past in his rental car and stopped for a final goodbye. He rolled down the window and I ducked my head in. He kissed me goodbye then drove off into the night. The next morning he contacted me on Facebook and the day after that I flew to Buenos Aires while he and Marek drove to Puno to visit Lake Titicaca making me wonder if our paths would ever cross again.
Where I Stayed...
San Blas II Hostal Turistico
Calle Choquechaca No. 194
Tel: 051 (084) 22436
This is one of the best hostals in Cusco. It is located on a quiet street within walking distance of the main square and has great beds and a large newer common area.
How to Get There - Take an international flight to Lima, then take the bus or a domestic flight to Cusco and then take the train to Aguas Calientes and a 20-minute bus ride to Machu Picchu.