Friday, November 2, 2012

Machu Picchu

After Abancay we set off towards Machu Picchu.  Actually, you can drive to the town of Ollantaytambo (O’ yay tay tam bo), I know it’s a mouth full but you can’t drive to Machu Picchu.  But on the way we found ourselves dodging a little bit of the scenic roadside debris.  This is not uncommon in this part of the country.

Here is a video of Chuck riding through some of the canyon.  Canyon from Abancay to Ollantaytambo  The roads are like this for hundreds of miles, with very little traffic. 

We also decided to also stop at a little roadside store for a coke and a snack for lunch.  While here I was bitten by these little flies on both elbows.  As of this writing about six days later they still itch.  Worse than any mosquito bites I have ever had!

Again the weather has been so variable.  First starting it was cool, then we ran into rain, and by the time the picture above was taken it was over 90 degrees F.  It is really hard to plan on what to wear.  Chuck bought jacket and pants that are water proof.  I on the other hand, felt we would know what to wear each day.  At this point Chuck made the right choice.  I find I have to stop at least once a day to add or remove rain gear.

We arrived at Ollantaytambo and began the ritual of looking for the Hotel we had planned to stay at.  This has been a theme, the hotels are never where Mapsource or Google says they are.  So Chuck stayed with the bikes while I hiked around the city.  Finally, I found it across towns and down an alley.  That’s our bikes parked at the end of the alley at the Hotel Casa del Mama Valle. 

It was Ollantaytambo’s 125th anniversary.  They had plenty celebration planned, children’s bands, speaches and in the evening a band.  Chuck and I had perfect seats to hear the band and the music was honestly pretty good.  The view however was sometimes blocked by semi-tractor trailers waiting in the middle of the concert crowd to go through a narrow one vehicle wide entrance on the other side.  Imagine that, having a concert in the plaza while traffic is still passing.  Crazy stuff, you would never see in the US.

We bought round trip tickets for the train that night down this road.  Notice all the flowers.  November and December is the prime blossoming time, flowers were blossoming everywhere.

So we traveled by train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu City, which is also known as Aguas Caliente because of the hot spring.  The train ride was very picturesque, but only if you sat on the side away from the train station.  The other side was mostly looking at the side of the wall. 

In Aguas Caliente, we expected to find not much in the way of a city.  Were we wrong?  The city was bustling, lots of shops, a market square and plenty of restaurants and bars.  Everyone you past had a hawker trying to bring you in.  Chuck met a hawker who had a deal for a hostel.  We followed her to her place and it was perfect for the night and the price was right, about $30.

We woke up the next morning BEFORE the crack of dawn and were down at the bus station before 5:30a.  Chuck had read that only the first 400 of the day got to visit the temple of the high priest and we wanted to do that.  We rode the bus up to the entrance gate.  You can hike up but it is about 3.5 km, and we saw some who did walk up, and I am glad we rode the bus.

So here is where things got a little off.  We got in line with the collective and began to notice they all had tickets to get into Machu Picchu.

We began to ask ourselves if we needed tickets, could we buy tickets here?  Finally I  asked a gate agent at the top of the stairs.  She told me we needed tickets and could not buy tickets there, we had to go back down.  Or, maybe one of the guides could help us.  I actually asked the guide closest to the us sort in the left center of the picture.  She called, got our information and ordered some tickets to be delivered, but it took an extra hour and half.  Chuck was pretty bummed that he had missed the requirement for tickets to be pre-purchased. 

Ultimately it all worked out for the best.  I don’t think we were prepared to make the trek to the temple of the high priest.  It was a very long climb up a narrow path to the top of Wayna Picchu, the peak overlooking Machu Picchu.  The path and stairs we climbed to the overlook on the other end of Machu Piccu was work enough.  Here is the standard picture of Machu Piccu with me in it! J  Wayna Picchu is the prominent peak in the middle and the Temple is near the top, although it is difficult to make out.  The Wayna Picchu trail runs along the ridge where the shadow is.

Here is Ruth, our guide, at the same point.

There were lots of pictures taken but I won’t post them here.  It will have to wait until I have a better connection.  But here is one I found quite funny.  At first on the camera it looked perfect.  The Llama had been munching on the grass all the time I walked by.  When I turned she raised her head and I took the shot.  When I finally looked at it on the computer I noticed an added character on the lower right.  I really don’t know what Chuck was taking a picture of, but may be that’s why the Llama raised her head J

After traveling with the guide for about 2 ½ hours and hearing about Machu Picchu, it was time for us to leave. 

So, here is a piece of advice if you are planning on visiting Machu Picchu, you must take the train.  Ollantaytambo is the furthest you can drive.  You will be tempted to buy a round trip ticket at the Ollantaytambo station, BUT DON’T!  Buy only the one way.  When you decide to leave from the other end, at Aquas Caliente, you can buy the return ticket then.  The line to purchase there is non-existent. 

Chuck and I wanted to leave Aguas Calientes a little early since we were finished at Machu Picchu.  And even though the early return train was empty and the later train we were scheduled to take was practically full, they would not exchange tickets.  “Sorry sir, my system only allows me to sell tickets.  I must have twenty four hour advanced notice to exchange.”  Argggh!  We sat around, drank beer, ate pizza, slept on the park bench and basically became derelict.  I guess it could have been worse.

So here are some observations, from sitting around.  These folks are industrious.  I hear there is plenty of laziness but from watching I didn’t see much.  I guess if the salary is structured correctly you will get what you need.  I suspect they get paid for every load they deliver. 

Here a person pulls a full trolley of drinks up to perspective stores, bars or restaurants.  We calculated these things must weigh around 300 lbs and it is up a very steep incline. 

These indigenous woman carry the loads on their back. I don’t know how much they weigh but they are large.  We watched as she made at least 3 trips up and back this long incline carrying these bags.

Latter, Chuck was talking with an engineer from Korea managing a power project in the area.  The engineer said getting locals to work was difficult, everything seemed to be “manjana”!  Here is a definition I took from the Urban dictionary: “To take it slow; relax. Hey man, where were you? It's noon and we had an appointment at 9 o'clock sharp! Manjana, manjana!”  I guess, we should not expect to bring western (or eastern for that matter) cultural expectations to another culture and expect them to work.  Getting paid on an hourly basis in this society apparently leads to unexpected results.

We finally got back to Casa del Mama, spent the night and the next day we were up and on our way to Puno, Peru.  

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