Cusco - Machu Picchu
30.04.2011 - 12.05.2011 23 °C
This is my last post before going to the US.
Swarly and I left La Paz a day after we came back from Cochabamba. We took a bus, with a few other friends to Cusco, Peru, stopping on the way in Copacabana (it might be the same, famous town from the song, but I didn't really take the time to find out), there, we took a guided tour in the highest, and one of the biggest lakes in south America, called lake Titikaka. I know, great name.
Anyway, there, apparently still lives a tribe of Native Peruvian-Indians, on floating islands. They build the islands themselves, and receive many tourists there, and try to sell almost anything they have and make on their own. It's a very special place, unique only to that lake, because of the material they use to build and maintain the islands exists only there.
After the guided tour, later that day, we took a night bus and arrived at 6 AM in Cusco.
When we arrived, we looked for hours for a proper place to stay, with enough space for everybody, us being ten people. When we finally found a hostel, we quickly went out to scour the city. Cusco is a beautiful city, with large churches and cathedrals in the main plazas. Very modern, clean and tidy. Although, they still have no road rules while driving. Because we have such a short time left here in south America, Swarly and I didn't wait, and immediately went out to look for an agency that can take us to Machu Picchu mountain. We spoke to several agencies, until we found a cheap enough deal, and then told everybody about it. They all wanted to go also to Inca city, so they all went to the same agency and booked a deal for everybody to go together.
Early the next morning we were picked up by a van, that would take us to a town close to Agua Calientes (means "Hot Water" in Spanish), but is also nicknamed "Machu Picchu town". The ride was a horrible one, because we were eleven people; five males, five females and a french guy that joined our group. The van was very cramped and everybody became very cranky at one point or another. It took us over six hours to get to the drop-zone. From the DZ we had to walk for two and half hours, along a train-rail until we got to Machu Picchu town. There, we had a hostel waiting for us and dinner. The next morning we climb to Inca City, atop the Machu Picchu mountain.
The next..... Can't really call morning, because there were nights I haven't even thought of going to sleep at that time. Let's call it four hours later. We woke up at 3 AM, and started our way to the gates at the bottom of the stairs. Machu Picchu mountain has over 1600 steps. People wake up very early to get to the gates before they open. The reason for that is the Wyna Picchu. Wyna Picchu is another mountain-top, and only the first 400 people to get to the entrance of Machu Picchu, receive a stamp on their ticket, allowing them to be among those who get to climb this opposing top, overlooking the entire valley on one side, and Inca City on the other. Only 400 a day, so this makes the climb in the morning quite a race. Despite being in the back at the beginning, at the gates, I came among the first 50 people to the hut where they stamp the ticket. GO ME!
Anyway, that day was also Holocaust Day. We entered Inca City, and there we met our guide that would give us the tour in the city. After the first section, we told him we have something very important to do. He carried on, we stayed behind and stood for a minute of silence, on top of the Machu Picchu, remembering all of those we have lost. It was a very moving moment for everybody. Like always the Holocaust day is very hard, for everyone, but this time, with no official ceremony, no horn all over the country and no one else but us, it was a different experience all together.
After our small, private ceremony, we joined the group again and continued the tour in Inca city. When we were finally done, we went to climb the Wyna Picchu. Another climb of more steps, this time in daylight, and a shorter one as-well. The view from across the valley, at the city, was absolutely amazing. We could see the entire ridge, the river below us and the whole city spanning before us. It was incredible. When it was finally time to go down, I decided that instead of taking the bus down, like everybody else, I wanted to make it a full round trip, descending the same steps that I took earlier in the morning. So, Noam, my friend, the French guy and me, practically ran the whole way down, reaching the bottom before everybody else that took the bus down. We had enough time to catch our breaths before they came down, and once they did, we all began our march to meet the van that would take us back to Cusco. After about an hour's walk, one of the girls noticed that her camera isn't with her. This is where the problems started. We all talked it over, and someone had to go back with her to look for it. They all voted for someone who can make it back to town the quickest, by running, and by that he had to be the fittest among us. Guess who got picked; yours truly. I left my things with Swarly and began my journey back to town. We looked for the camera everywhere, beginning where she got off the bus, asked bus drivers to communicate among them to see if anybody found anything and we actually went up the mountain again (twice in one day!), only this time by bus. Eventually our efforts were futile, and if anybody found the camera, they probably took it. After more than two hours of searching, we started to walk back to the rail, where we began earlier. By the time I got to the meeting area, it was four and half hours late of the specified hour by our driver. He has a very tight schedule and couldn't wait for us, so he insisted on leaving without us. Our friends could only delay him that much, and so we missed them by no more than half an hour. We were stuck and didn't know what to do, because I gave everything I had to Swarly, including all my money and everything, so I could run better. The girl that I was with nearly ran our of money, because she spent it on looking for the camera, going up and down the mountain. We were perplexed, having not enough money to go by taxi all the way to Cusco, and having no idea where our friends were. All of a sudden a guy came up to us and asked us our names. He said our friends sent him and arranged a taxi for us to the nearest town, where our friends were waiting for us. When we arrived in the next town, we found our friends there and re-grouped. After we had our dinner, we set out again on our 6-7 hours drive back to Cusco, although it was already night time. The way back is very dangerous, it has many curves along the way, with sheer drops on one side and a cliff on the other. The first few hours out of that small town are dirt roads, before it becomes safer. Forty five minutes after we left, we hit trouble (and trouble doesn't like to get hit, so it hit back). We arrived at an odd scene, seeing many cars not moving, and people standing outside. Our driver went to check what was wrong and came back, saying there are rock slides up ahead. Now, at first we all said lets just drive through as quickly as possible and pass the slides' area of affect. Then came to us a group asking for help, saying one of their own was hit by a rock from the slides. It was an American guy, that was in our group in the morning, in the Machu Picchu tour. A rock actually fell on him, while he left his car, to look at the rock slide. He had a deep cut on his shoulder and kept bleeding. Swarly, being the army medic that he was, took care of his wound, and I had to sacrifice my shirt for the American's sake, so Swarly could stop the bleeding. RIP red shirt. Seeing the rock slides myself, how big and unexpected the rocks that were falling, I didn't want to take a chance. After a long time waiting for an answer on what we are going to do, our driver told us it was too late to continue that night, that we have to head back. We argued, we fought, but eventually we agreed to go back to the town we left earlier.
After a short but bumpy and grumpy ride, we found a cheap hostel for all of us. The next morning, we try our luck again with that road.
We woke up and took off. Six or seven hours later we reached Cusco. The ride was, again, terrible. No room in the back where I ended up, we were all (except for the french guy, because no-one understood him) cranky the whole way, the music was terrible and so was the smell. After we arrived back in our hostel, we went out for dinner, finding a great Irish pub, at the main square. We drank heartily and went to bed, for tomorrow, we do something stupid.
Swarly and I have been waiting for this the whole trip. We've been talking about it since we were still at home, months ago. Today we go Bungee Jumping. We found an agency and bought two tickets for one of the highest bungee jumps in the world. 122 meters above ground, jumping from an elevator, suspended in the air, connected by thick cables to the mountains on both sides of the valley. I jumped first, and decided to do it on my own terms; I took off my clothes, leaving only my boxers on and I wanted to jump facing backwards. I must say that this is the craziest thing I've ever done. The feeling you get just before the jump, the adrenalin pumping through me, hearing my heard race like few times before, and then the rush of wind, silence, seeing the elevator become smaller and smaller within seconds. And then the pull. The cable reaching it's full length and then going back up again. Three times the cable tightened and pulled me back up, until I remained hanging upside down, from my ankles, looking at the world the wrong way. After we both jumped, we went back to Cusco, and drank to Man United's victory in the pub again and were invited for a drink by two American doctors that happened to be there also. That night we bought tickets for our final stop of our trip, right before the flight. We go to Lima, Peru. A 20 something hour bus ride in a horrible bus, that kept swaying like a boat all through the night, kept us from falling asleep for most of it. At six in the morning the driver put on Peruvian music for everyone to hear, with no way of turning it off. A great way to wake up.
When we arrived in Lima we found a place To spend the week, and started to make do with what was left of our time.
Until my flight,
Hasta la Vista, Baby.