Peru, Week 5: Finally!
This morning we woke up at 6.25 and left at 7 for the Machu Picchu bus. The sky was clear, and it was evident that we didn’t need our jackets. We got to the top at 7.30 and wandered around for a bit before our tour started. 8.30 was the tour, with an enthusiastic guide who only strayed from straight facts twice.Towards the end (actually, about five minutes from the end) we lost the group and kept exploring. It’s really amazing – completely intact except the roofs; everything is so well-built (there are the walls you can’t fit a credit card in and then some others that would have been plastered over – don’t worry, I took pictures); and the entire thing is huge. There’s a terraced agricultural part and an urban part, with houses, temples, schools, and plazas. The Incas really loved trapezoids – all the windows are trapezoidal, as are the doors, and even the walls slope at 87· to make trapezoidal houses. I think the grassy plazas are kept in check by the roaming llamas, which we got to pet. (One even rested his foot on mine!)
After a short snack and bathroom break outside the walls, we decided to try to climb Waynapicchu, the ceremonial (and super steep) mountain with the Temp0le of the Moon on top. Unfortunately, they only allow 400 people to climb it per day (for environmental protection) and we didn’t get there in time. So we went to pet the llamas, then began to climb Machu Picchu. (The city is called MP, but the real MP is the peak behind it.) It was stone steps all the way up, sometimes through the jungle and sometimes in the open air. Alice hiked considerably slower than I did, so I got to the top in 1 hour 40 and she took two hours. It was only then that I informed her we had just climbed nearly 3000 feet in altitude, up to 10000. (That was why I took the map away from her to begin with – oh, there was planned trickery.) The view from the top was amazing – you could see how Machu Picchu was condor-shaped (the Incas like to do intense urban planning – Cusco used to be puma-shaped). There was a rainbow flag, which I’ve been seeing all over and wondering why there’s so much gay pride in this region; eventually I figured out it’s also the UNESCO flag. It took us an hour to hike down, and we were back in the hotel by 4:30. We went to an internet cafe and rewarded ourselves with cake, then went straight to dinner at a cheap and sketchy place across the plaza, where we met Leila and Veena fresh in from their trek. Apparently the trek was fun, except that all Sunday they had to hike in the rain and then overnight it froze. They didn’t eat there because we’d already finished, so we took them to the pizza place from Sunday night, where Alice and I split a pizza for dessert. We then went to bed and slept for 11 hours without waking even once. A nice reward after a hard day.
This morning we wandered through the Traditional Peruvian Market to get to our 9:30 train. Nene’s call must have made some impact at the travel agency, because we were greeted by a man holding a sign (albeit with Alice’s last name horribly mangled) who took us back to Cusco in a private car. Although it was one of the more nauseating rides I’ve ever taken (the road is very curvy and brakes were used infrequently), it was better than having to sit with our luggage on our laps on the bus. We went straight to 2Nations, the lunch place from Sunday, for lunch, then went to see Qorikancha, the Inca’s golden palace turned into a monastery and cathedral. (The gold was stripped off to barter for the return of the Inca Atahualpa after he was captured by the conquistadors; the palace was engulfed by Spanish colonial buildings, but they still used the old rooms.) Then Alice went to take a nap while I went to the Museo del Arte Precolombiano, which featured artifacts in an art museum context. (“Look at the delicate work on this pot – imagine what it represented to the primitive peoples, etc etc.”) I also did some shopping and may have bought some antiquities – the woman assured me they were Colonial, but they look pretty Formative to me. I almost bought a llama car seat cover, but it was too expensive. Tomorrow morning (at 5.15) we leave for Lima and the last two days!