Peru, South America, Travel diaries, Travels 2010-2011

Travel Diary: Machu Picchu

26/05/2011
Hi everyone Sorry this one is so late but it’s a good one – The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu!!! 26 May – Leaving Arequipa This morning we had a well deserved lie in in our very nice quiet room. For lunch we went out for a set menu for 20 soles, absolute bargain, and we wondered around Arequipa discovering more gorgeous buildings and churches. In the evening we hitched a taxi to the bus station where we boarded the 9pm bus to Cuzco. 27 May – Arriving in Cuzco Following on from yesterday on the bus I feel really ill today with achy bones and very tired. So Shaun stayed in with me all day whilst I slept! In the evening Shaun went out on his own for dinner. He ended up at a local chicken restaurant, and begged me to go with him tomorrow it was that good! 28 May – The Sacred Valley Still not feeling 100% today so I have stayed in all day, writing blog and creating a photo book online whilst Shaun has gone out for a day’s mountain biking in The Sacred Valley, he can tell you all about it ... This morning I headed out at 8.30 to wait for pickup from the tour company in a PRIVATE mini bus. When they arrived they were over an hour late and I was told that this bus would take us to another bus which would take us to the start. Ten minutes later we arrived at the local bus station which didn’t really surprise me. I was told that taking the public bus is extremely dangerous and very uncomfortable. The company had guaranteed that it would be a private minibus for the tour, but no, like all trips and tours we do now I go into them with an open mind and never expect everything to go as planned, just go with the flow. As we arrived at the station I met my tour guide Alex who seemed a little stressed about the fact that we had to take the public bus. I was also told that the bikes were like brand new and had full suspension, - another lie. The bikes were old with terrible brakes and gears that didn’t work. We threw the mountain bikes on the roof of the bus and tied them down using a dodgy piece of rope the bus driver found on the floor. The bus was full of locals carrying vegetables and small live stock they had traded at the markets. The whole bus stank of shit and the floors and seats where disgusting. I sat next to Alex on the 1.5 hour trip to the start point and he turned out to be the funniest person I met on the whole trip. The second we arrived at the start point I could tell there was going to be a lot of uphill riding. The tour company had said it was 80% down and 20% flat. Nope, it 50% up 40% flat and 10% downhill. I’m really glad I ride a mountain bike at home and have some bike endurance. The tracks were pretty tricky and very long. It doesn’t help that Cuzco is situated around 3000 metres above sea level, so the air is pretty thin making cycling or any exercise that bit harder. I was with a London couple who had never really ridden mountain bikes before and they struggled the whole way around. The scenery was breathtaking, making riding up hills well worth the effort. Our first stop was at the Moray in Chinchero. The ruins are left from the Incas, where they used to farm different plants from all over the world. Every level contains different soil from all over the world and the soil is placed in the right spot in the sun to harvest the right vegetation they wanted, pretty clever really. This is where I (that’s me, not Jodie!!) took a picture with a Taupo skydive sticker and won this month’s photo competition and a hoodie. We stayed and had lunch here while Alex did some well needed maintenance on the bikes. The next stop was a number of amazing photo spots that lead to the salt lake city. They harvest salt from the salty water that runs through the valley and catch it in little pools which then dry out leaving behind the salt which they then trade for money or food. Then we got to the really tricky bit. Alex had told me that last week somebody had fallen off the edge and broke their leg. Once I saw where they fell I was surprised they were still alive at all. The London couple pushed their bikes down the track as me and Alex had the time of our lives mountain biking down the side of a mountain. As we waited at the bottom he told me it was good to actually ride with somebody who could keep up and that he was confused why so many people who did the tour could barely ride a bike. I told him it was because of the tour company telling people that it’s a nice easy relaxed downhill breeze seeing a few sights. He was shocked I’d been given this information was not happy. Our next stop was The Sacred Valley famous for weird plants and amazing harvest all year round, hence 'The Sacred Valley'. We arrived at our finish point where we were to wait for a minibus to drop us to the main station. The London couple waited for the mini bus while me and Alex decided to ride and enjoy a few more km’s. The journey back was pretty horrific, it was pitch black with no road lights in a bus that was about fifty years old with a bus driver who was eating a chicken while navigating around tight mountain bends. To make things worse me and Alex sat in the front two seats next to the driver, the only two left because none of the locals wanted to sit there, I could see why. I arrived back to a worried Jodie who had expected me back at 5.30 when it was now nearly 9pm. What an amazing day. 29 May - Cuzco Today we have chilled out most of the day. And most importantly booked a tour to go and see Machu Picchu. As we have just endured a 3 day trek and struggled without proper hiking gear we decided not to hike the trail. Instead, we will get the train to Aguas Caliente and walk up from there. We ended up booking through the Pirwa Hostel travel desk at the more expensive price but a more reliable company then the guy sat in a sweet shop. We also tried to book flights to Argentina without much luck so we will have to do this on our return. 30 May – Cuzco Chilled out again today in Cuzco town all day. Went for an amazing 3 course meal with a gorgeous view of the main plaza. Here we saw our first guinea pigs ready to be cooked – all naked and stuffed. In the afternoon Shaun got conned into buying some guys painting. Looks really good but no doubt there are over a thousand replicas. 31 May – Our 7 Year Anniversary - Cuzco to Aguas Caliente We packed up this morning and walked across the square to drop our bags at the hostel we will be staying at when we come back from Machu Picchu. A guy from the hostel took us in a taxi to the bus station where we were put into a car to take us to meet the train. Not the ‘bus’ we were promised. But as we have learnt never expect what they tell you. Two more passengers crammed into the car and off we went. Two hairy scary hours winding around the mountains at ridiculous speeds we got dropped off at the train station where we took the luxury class (for no extra cost as the backpacker class were full) Inca Rail train for another 2 hours to the town of Aguas Caliente past The Inca Trail where we even saw some trekkers. The town was a really picturesque town with narrow cobbled roads in the middle of the gorgeous mountains. The main street is lined with lots of nice little restaurants and cafes all trying to entice you in with their special drinks deals and all give you discount. Our hotel however, Pirwa, was less to be desired. The first room we were given had two single beds and had no windows ... we asked for a double instead and they gave us a nicer room that even had a window. Aguas Caliente translates into ‘Water Hot’ or in other words hot springs. So just before the sun went down we walked up the cobbled streets to the hot springs. They didn’t look very inviting when we got there as the water in the man-made pools was brown and it was dirty everywhere. We got into the most packed pool and it was even more uninviting once we were in. The water was luke warm and stinky. They were the worst hot pools ever! As I was feeling unwell again with stomach ache our anniversary meal wasn’t so special as Shaun had a nice 2 course meal as I sat and drank a papaya juice in the freezing restaurant with our ski coats on ... nice and romantic! Without even much as a sip of alcohol to celebrate we went back to the hostel where I was ill all night. Yup ALL night and there was no door on the bathroom and the window didn't open. Mortified doesn't come close. 1 June – Finding Machu Picchu We got up early this morning after a sleepless night as I was on the toilet most of the time. South America makes us ill all the time! Im now glad we opted for the train and bus. We walked to the bus stop for 7am and to our surprise there was no queue we even had to wait for more people to come along to get on the bus. A 30 minute journey up the winding mountain side, scary stuff, we made it to the entrance of Machu Picchu! Whilst we were waiting for our guide to arrive we spotted Hooker and Chrissie who were on our Colca Canyon trek. They had left Arequipa and gone to Puno to see Lake Titicaca. For at least the past week protesters have closed the border between Peru and Bolivia at Lake Titicaca. As far as we all knew it was a peaceful protest but this poor couple had to pay a huge amount of money to be sneaked out of Puno in the middle of the night as protesters were burning buildings just 2 doors away from them. What a horrible holiday. Knowing this there is no way we can cross the border into Bolivia so we have to find another way or another route. Anyway, our guide arrived at 7.40, we all passed through the entrance and walked up to the watchman’s tower. This was our first sighting of Machu Picchu and I cried it was so amazing! We were stood at the top of the mountains with nothing but mountains around us and there is this little Incan village carved into a mountain top. The Incans really do have a knack for building their cities in beautiful settings. Our guide took us, Hooker and Chrissie and a group of about 20 on a 2 hour tour around Machu Picchu City explaining what they know about this ancient site. As usual the hundreds of pictures can show you what we saw better than I can tell you. After the tour we took an hours’ walk up part of The Inca Trail to the Sun Gate. The sun gate is not there as such any more just the remains of the block buildings. The view from up here is just breathtaking. Honestly look at the pictures, imagine yourself there and try not to cry! You can see nothing but mountains up here and this tiny village – it’s spectacular! An hours' walk back down and we took one last look from the watchman’s tower before catching a bus back at 1pm down to Agnes Caliente. Once back down we had some lunch and chilled out at the hostel until our train was due back to Cuzco at 7pm. We arrived back in Cuzco at 11pm and went straight to bed in our lovely, quiet new hostel, Pirwa. 2 June - Cuzco We packed up our bags once again this morning before heading out into the city. Cuzco is so gorgeous with lots of really pretty plazas with fountains in each one. The atmosphere here is amazing as well, everyone is so happy and chilled out! In the evening we met up with Hooker and Chrissie for dinner. We decided on a nice restaurant in the main plaza that was serving guinea pig! Don't judge, it's a local delicacy. We couldn’t come all the way to Peru and not try theirinfamous dish. They literally brought out a whole guinea pig - head, teeth, paws and all on a plate – done. After trying to break through the tough skin with great difficulty they took it back and cut it up for us, this time head off but still with paws and a little black fried heart in the middle! Now for the taste test, and no it doesn’t taste like chicken! It has the texture of chicken but very strangely tastes very fishy! Whilst we were sat eating dinner it suddenly sounded like a riot outside, we were hoping to God they hadn’t followed Hooker and Chrissie here from the Bolivian border. Turns out it was Olanta, a candidate to become the next president and he was driving around the square waving at everyone in town and his supporters were cheering like mad. Guinea pig aside we had a very nice meal with this very nice couple. After dinner Hooker and Chrissie took us to the famous stone. This stone is pictured everywhere because it is the best example of how good the Incas were at stone carving. This stone has 12 edges and fits perfectly into it’s space – wow!  Well at least I think we are supposed to be impressed. We have come to the end of our time in Peru now. Apart from a rocky start in horrible Mancora it has gotten better and better ever since and we LOVE this place. A la perchoine Jodie & Shaun xxx

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