Saturday, April 20, 2019

Clouds, Crowds and Cramps

Machu Picchu – April 18 2019 – Evening

Just got back from another Avocado and chicken something for dinner. Since avocados are poisonous to parrots I never get them at home. I’ve kind of been making up for that this trip.

I didn’t sleep all that well last night. The room has curtains, but not blackout ones and there is a lot of light from the square I kept thinking it was near dawn and didn’t want to oversleep and miss the guide, bus and ark entrance time. When I did figure out it was the plaza, it was almost time to get up anyway.

I ate a small breakfast and met my guide at close to the appointed time. He walked with me to the line for the $24 bus to Machu Picchu, for the 30 minute ride from the town to the main entrance. The line was over two blocks long. I thought I might be in a Soviet bread line. It moved pretty well, but was longer than the actual bus ride. Check you ticket, makes sure it matches your passport and get on the bus.

The road is very narrow, seldom two buses wide. There is no guardrail. When you look down there is road directly below you, no dirt or greenery, just straight down to road. If you fell off, and landed on your wheels you just continue on your trip. I tried to lean towards the center of the bus at all times, to help balance us away from the ledge. We had on brake slamming so as to not mush the front of our bus with someone else's bus. One back up to let a bus pass and on forced their bus to back up. I just hoped for the best.

At the top there was another line for Passport and entrance ticket. I’ve shown my passport on this trip more times than to Immigration officers in years. We hung a left and started on a “five minute climb” up to the watchman’s hut. That is where the iconic shot of Machu Picchu is taken from. The way is crowded, the steps are uneven. Generally higher than a normal step. I am fat and out of shape, let’s just say the five minutes was a gross underestimation. Lots of self talk. Okay ten more steps and you can rest. Just make it to the next switchback. If that old biddy can do it so can you. - and this was just the beginning. Not as an excuse, but we are at 8800 feet as well.

Just one more switchback and we are at the Watchman’s Hut. Camera with fresh batteries, new SD card, clean lens and you cant see anything except clouds. Well you can kinda make out some squares, but they are so obscure the auto focus on the camera cant figure it out. I switched to manual focus and got a picture of very foggy squares and some dirt. I sure am glad we came up here first.

There is very little free roaming here. There is a path and it is one way and that is the way you are going. If you pass something it’s generally gone or good. A little bit down the path, and by path on mean extremely irregular steps there was a flat area and, though not National Geographic quality, I did get a photo overview of the complex. It was smaller than I expected. As much as I hated going up, I feared going down even more. My calf was still not fully healed and I just didn’t trust it, so crab walked down a lot of the steps. If you ant to know about the place there are places on the internet or the library where you can learn, sorry this isn’t that sort of missive.

Lots and lots of steps, a lot of gasping for breath, and chug-a-lugging water. Some explanation of what we were seeing, we wended our way through the complex. Then my two hours was up and like the fog, my guide disappeared. I was still a way away from the exit and by this time my legs had become things to wobble on, more than once strangers asked if I needed assistance. I would have taken them up on it, but didn’t see a good location for the helicopter to land.

I didn’t fall and finally found the land of the pay toilets. I had survived Machu Picchu.

I deserved a treat. There is a hotel right at the entrance. I think it runs about $500 a night, if you can get reservations. I decided to stop in there to eat lunch. A buffet, very nice buffet, but forty USD. I didn’t eat my forty dollar’s worth of food, but I sure did get my money’s worth, drinking soft drink reading my Nook.

Holding tightly to the handrail, I made it to the bus line, then as told, no it starts waayyyy down there. This time three blocks long. I walked, waited and eavesdropped until I was on the bus. This time I didn’t look down. Then back at the city there was the climb back up to the hotel.

I wrote yesterday’ bitching and took a short snooze. I had a ticket to go back up, but knew I would make a mistake and slip and hurt myself or worse someone else. It just wasn’t worth the risk.

If I did this again, I would eschew the guide. He was on a time schedule and so kept pushing me on. He talked a lot, but mostly just pointed to things and then opened a guide book to make things clearer. I could have done half of that with a trip to the library. I would have just sat down at the Watchman’s tower and waited for the mist to lift, and then gone on my way, and taken way more photos. Heck there is only only one way to go, you can’t get lost. Live and learn. I’m glad Machu Picchu wasn’t on my bucket list.
You are not alone

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