9 October, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
In the morning I got up at 6.30am after 2 hours sleep. Very noisy hostel people walking up and down stairs and talking loudly at various points through the night.
At 7am I am about to come down for breakfast when the tour operator arrives. I told him that he is half an hour early and that I had been told he would come at 7.30am. I told him I am not ready. I have to lug my case downstairs for storage and have breakfast. He leaves and the staff member tells me he is leaving. I booked a $150 tour for two days and he is leaving. I was stunned and I was running for the door to stop him. He is not getting away with it. So out the front of the hostel I am telling him you can’t do that, I was told 7.30am and I paid for this tour. He then agrees to come back in 20 minutes. I made him promise. I told the staff member that he mustn’t let that happen. I told him that he should have stopped him, to care about guests. He said it was not his problem. I reminded him of the homeless woman in the ATM that I helped and said Peru is not my country and she is not my problem but I helped her. It is caring about other people. He got the point and was not happy with me but I really felt to express my feelings. Feeling stressed I quickly got organized. I discussed it with another guest and he agreed it was unfair. Then this guy turns up and we catch a taxi to the bus.
I meet all the other tour members. Three little children came up and I gently shook each of their hands and said ‘hola’. I played with them and then gave them 5 solas. They were so happy you could see them skipping off. It must have seemed like $100 to them. I talked to a French couple who were traveling through South America. They spoke good English. He had a goatee that was platted with beads. Looked really interesting. He said he worked as a waiter and has to chop it off when he goes back to work. We then got on the bus and I sat with a couple who were Peruvian and the mini bus left Cusco.
Leaving the city I looked at the houses dotted around the landscape, saw farming land with swales or terraces for water catchment I believe. Then you can only look with awe as the majestic mountains rise above you and remind you of your insignificance to nature. These are the Andes. I noticed along the way women walking in traditional dress and thought how similar they are to the Bolivian people I’d seen in Australia. It is interesting to watch the women with their babies tied to their backs. I remember seeing one woman at the train who had her baby lying on her back as she tried to tie the child on. The method was a really interesting way of carrying a child. We stopped for a bano (toilet) stop and refreshments. I noticed this guy looking at me from our tour. I was to find out later he was Chilean. The bus trip commenced and to my amazement I looked up at the mountain and in English it said in large writing C God. I took that is an interesting sign and thought perhaps I see god when in Machu Picchu. I marveled as we drove higher and higher into the mountains and felt excitement of this trip. The trip was incredibly windy, every few minutes a hairpin bend then some straight road. The mountains were tree covered and I noticed people walking by themselves in the mountains. I wondered about life for people in the mountains. The only animals I saw were sheep, a small mouse running across the road, a few birds and horses.
The road was two way and if two large vehicles approached one would have to pull over, so they weren’t very wide. I noticed there were no edgings or railings. So when driving you look out the window and you are looking over the cliff that was sheer. I didn’t feel vertigo or any fear at all. I felt complete trust as driver was going round corners, tooting to warn others swinging the mini bus back and forward. I think after my experience in India I am pretty much in faith now. I drifted off recalling how in Australia we would go to Bega and go down the Clyde mountain there was a few hair pin bends and we thought it was dangerous with a caravan. The Andes was endless hair pins. No point worry, not much you can do about it. Part of the road was sealed and quite a lot of the trip was dirt roads and rocky. The occasional stream poured down from the mountain running across the road making its way to the wild river raging down below.
I was told we had reached the top of the mountains at 4,000 metres. In Cusco I had been warned about altitude sickness. I was given coca tea to help. I actually didn’t feel any altitude sickness, probably given I’d been in so many planes. I was pretty acclimatized. I could see by the rocky mountains how the rocks accumulated and the small rocks in between that held the bigger rocks in place. Some of the rocks were in fact boulders, they were bigger than cars, huge. You could see the inspiration of the mountains in the little villages where homes had been made out of stone and the stonewalls. They had the advantage of longevity. Some of the mountains were rocky, or dry looking or you could see the different colour of stone that made them look very spectacular. I’ve never seen so many huge mountains, they went on for ever. Traveling by mini bus and feeling every bend gave you a feel for the mountains.
After a while the mist started to settle as the cloud descended. We were in mist for quite a long time it was quite mystical and gave me a chance to rest and not take more photo’s. my camera is charged up by electricity and it automatically turns off then you turn it back on as a great scene comes up. So I blissfully closed my eyes and enjoyed the motion of the mini bus.
We had to stop at road works and there was a little village. Cars and mini buses and trucks all came to a stop. People jumped out of their vehicles and the locals got a bounty in selling food to everyone. I walked down the road to investigate the road block. The were a couple of Chilean guys on the trip and I noticed they were interested in me. One of them sidled up to ask me about myself in broken English. I told him I was Australian, always I get a surprised look and approval. Australians are popular overseas. He was quite friendly I felt interested somewhat. People seemed to stop at what was a road block. I said don’t worry about that just go on. I noticed myself break from the group and charge ahead, I laughed at myself. I feel that is cultural in being Australian, we tend to not worry about obstacles that much. As I walked on I said ‘hola’ to the locals and saw a rooster stretching and cocadoodledoing, as they do. I cockadoodledood back. I then saw a black hen with chicks. I’d never seen a black hen before. I spoke to some Peruvian tourists and even though they didn’t speak English we were able to communicate and smile. I bought some rice with vegetables. The woman who was watching me smiled at my attempts at Spanish. She and I communicated in a non verbal way and smiled at each other. I made out I would gobble it all down. I waved at her as I left. I walked up the road to look at the forest. A scruffy dog followed me very timidly I gently gave it some food as it looked hungry. It’s timidity made me think perhaps it had been ill treated. So I tried to be kind to it. After my dog attack in India I have been a little timid of dogs but slowly the dogs are helping me to trust them again.
I walked back towards the bus and met a British couple, the wife was Scottish and her husband English. They were in Peru to do bird watching and had volunteered with an NGO. They really enjoyed documenting the birds and I congratulated them on making a difference. We talked about the environment and the Scottish lady, Carole, felt sad for the next generations given the destruction of the forests. She said materialism is rampant and they are taking down the forests. So we are all aware we may be witnessing nature and having the chance to see some pristine areas that may not be here long. They mentioned in Ecuador that the people were the descendents of black slaves (similar to Belize) and they were very protective of the forest and stopping the loggers getting a foothold. They live now in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and had left Scotland. Carole mentioned that she didn’t like the life style in Scotland too many drugs, unemployment and the place was changing. So they headed for Australia and were unable to get in, so settled in New Zealand. They are considering leaving New Zealand, they were getting bored there and thinking about Australia again. Carole had a couple of kids but only one had visited them in New Zealand, I sensed a bit of pain there.
Our next stop was Santa Theresa. This was a tourist town. We had a 3 hour stop and had lunch. I was given spaghetti and fortunately I was able to make it vegetarian. Not having the language has meant I must settle for meat at times. So I was happy. The Chilean guys sat around me and the french couple. So had a couple of conversations with both. I felt the connection with the Chileans. After lunch headed up the road with the French couple to the plaza. All squares in Peru are called plaza’s. There was a grandstand with Councillors speaking to the crowd, I caught a few words of tourista and economica. So I figured the people were being reminded of the importance of tourism to their town. They were having a competition that day with growing vegetables. I saw some huge vegetables, quite notable was the giant avocados, yummy. This town was surrounded by mountains and was very clean. I found the people friendly.
We saw the Chilean guys and they asked if we wanted to walk up the mountain towards the cross. We did and chatted in broken English along the way. We got to the top and some local kids were there. I made out I was going to fly off the cliff and the kids laughed. I asked if I could take their photo. We then headed back and I saw two women and a small child around 2 years. I started to play with the child like a clown. The kid ended up chasing me down the road it was so funny to see this toddler get excited. I don’t need a clown suit to connect with kids.
Jumped back on the bus and headed the last leg to the hydro electric scheme where the train leaves from. We got to the train and jumped on. It is only 40 minutes to Aguas Calientas where we were staying. The train went forwards then backwards then stopped for ages, so it ended up being around 1.5 hours. People were very tired as we had started at 8.30 in the morning. We finally got to Aguas Calientas, disembarked in some rain and walked up to the bus station. We were given a run down by the guides as to what to do the next morning. Some people were going to treck for 1.5 hours up to Machu Picchu whilst others could pay US$7 (20 solas) to catch the bus up and back if they want. We then went to dinner and that was another 1.5 hours. Finally we got to the hostel around 10.30pm. I shared a room with two Spanish girls who invited me. We set the alarm for 3.45am. One of the girls was opting for the walk.
I closed my eyes and wondered about the next day. I felt very happy.