Monday, June 2, 2014

Bulletins From BA #27

Bulletins From BA #27
03 junio 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:
  “Cusco/Machu Picchu”

Excursión a Machu Picchu (continuación)

Día Tres - Up at an (obscenely) ridiculous hour to take a bus 65 km to Ollantaytambo, where we boarded the PeruRail Vistadome train for a three and a half hour journey to Aguas Calientes, the departure point for buses to Machu Picchu citadel. Anne and I love trains and enjoyed the ride immensely. And anytime you’ve got kids on a train, hey, fiesta.

Machu Picchu is an economic engine for the entire region, so the locals have got the whole tourist thing down pat. We exited the train station, walked through a maze of vendors’ stalls and made our way to the bus stop. Buses depart Aguas Calientes every few minutes, navigating the switchbacks up the mountain and depositing loads of people at the gate, where you present your entrance ticket and passport to gain admittance.

[Tourist Sidebar - The great thing about a package tour is that all of your vouchers and tickets are paid for and arranged in advance, thus mitigating somewhat the stress of traveling. At this stage in my life, I can do without unnecessary drama.]

Writers more adept than I have commented extensively about the history and significance of Machu Picchu, so permit me to simply offer a few personal observations:

1. It is an amazing place and, due to its much-deserved reputation, something of a human anthill, with several thousand visitors daily. Some come as part of a larger exploration of the Inca Trail, some because it is a trip of a lifetime, and some (apparently) to snap a boatload of “selfies.” No importa. The amazement, it abides.

2. We lack certainty about what Machu Picchu was designed to be, but the whole enterprise was conceived, built, and abandoned in less than a century. I find this fact staggering. Fortunately, it also means that the Spanish didn’t find the place at all.

3. At one point, I took a slight detour and found myself solo in one of the citadel’s many roofless stone structures. For a brief time, I experienced an uncommon quietude, with only the wind for company. It was a perfectly sublime moment, with a slight breeze of understanding.

Upon our return to Aguas Calientes, we checked in at our hotel, ate dinner, then retired and slept very well to the sound of the refreshingly turbulent Río Urubamba.

Día Cuatro - Breakfast, then back on the bus; but no guides, just a choice of hikes: Huayna Picchu, a climb involving intense verticality and potential for real distress, or Intipunku (“sun gate”), a terminus on the Inca Trail at the same altitude as Huayna Picchu (2720 m/8924 ft), but accessible via a steady incline. Either way, panoramic views of El Valle Sagrado de los Incas (Sacred Valley of the Incas) were the order of the day, so A.J. and I opted for Intipunku, which, given the altitude and our not excessive athleticism, was just fine. It proved to be the perfect spot for a picnic lunch that we had improvised from the hotel breakfast buffet.

[Shoutout Sidebar - To “Ricky Ricky,” one of our three year-olds, who walked pretty much the whole way up and back. Sweet little guy and a real trooper.]

Fed, rested, and panoramically enhanced, not to mention sweaty, sundrenched, and footsore, we made our way back to the citadel, onto the bus, and into Aguas Calientes in time to grab a quick bite before the return trip. (The alpaca burritos were outstanding.) The train - this time featuring a Peruvian textile fashion show en route - then took us back to Ollantaytambo where a bus was waiting that soon deposited us at our hotel in Cusco. We showered (¡Sí!), repacked, and made ready to return to Buenos Aires the next day.

[Tour Suggestion Sidebar - It would have been very nice to have one more day in Cusco on our own. So many restaurants, so little time.]

Día Cinco - Airport karma kicked in big-time, and everything fell into place. All flights were on schedule, all baggage got handled, and we nearly made it through the diplomatic line at immigration without undue delay. Our journey to Machu Picchu was complete, and completely memorable. Y el asombro todavía permanece.



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