Sunday, November 27, 2011

Onward to Macchu Piccu and back again

One can walk the Inca Trail for three or four days to Machu Picchu, as I heard from a number of younger people, one a young woman who was collapsing sick at Machu Picchu itself, she and her group having fallen ill from food poisoning, and from a couple of older fellows from Rochester, New York, a building developer and a medical doctor out having a good time in this life. For me, the only practicable way to get to Machu Picchu was to go by train from Ollanytaytambo to the base at Aguas Calientes. I used to be a dedicated cyclist and mountain climber, but those days, sick to say, are finished. I've been hit twice by cars, and my knees are so badly damaged I often have a hard time walking at all. I took the train.

I took a nice train, to be fair, and went first class. On the way up I met a young couple, the boy and his mother from Chile and his girlfriend Columbia. I have notes to come in the form at some time of a book I compile as I travel. Here I must keep it brief.

We had an excellent view of the valley as we rode for an hour and a half toward Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to take photos out the window, so I chatted with my new friends. That's one of the great pleasures of train travel, the slow and comfortable ride with strangers who quickly become friends.

Off we went, and when we landed at Aguas Calientes, this below is the view from my hotel window of the pee-wee hill that is so small compared to Maccu Picchu that when I saw the latter I was thrilled at the thought of climbing it.
It didn't all go as well as I had hoped. My climb up the hill from the actual settlement at Machu Picchu was for me an effort, which surprised me badly. I had no idea how badly I had been hurt, assuming that I would be just like I was ten years ago, ready and eager to bound up and gloat over my little triumph. 

I went up in a slight drizzle.The day was warm enough, and I felt good if slightly winded due to the lack of oxygen at this altitude, roughly 9,000 feet or 3,000 meters. I wanted to go the extra mile. That was a mistake on my part. I climbed the path easily enough, but I had some trouble when I needed dexterity and agility. I don't have much of that left. I encountered a rock on the pathway, suggesting a slide, coinciding with a monster boulder on the road up, which I took by bus, middle aged sissy that I have become. This little rock should have told me, perhaps did tell me and I wouldn't listen, that there was a problem ahead.

I finally did get to the top look-out at Machu Picchu, having successfully negotiated a wash-out with the help of a group of locals working on repairing the path. A stretch of six feet or so was gone, and one had to cling to roots and branches to make it across the gap. I did that with the locals lending me some hands. 

The vista was lovely, and added a bit to my catalogue of small triumphs accumulated over a long life time of bumming around.


I spent a bit of time chatting with a couple from California, and then, having seen the view, having taken some pictures, and mostly, having made it to the top, I ventured down again.Snapping a few last shots.
Which is good for me, given that the actual site of Machu Picchu is so crowded with tourists it is nearly impossible at this time in history to have a moment's peace otherwise.

I've been to many such places, though this is something extra, being so remote, in spite of the 25,000 tourists and the hustling going on all the time that made it a trying experience for me. And then it went pear-shaped indeed. I fell on  the way back down and hurt myself. I smashed my left knee and lost a tooth. But I recovered in time to meet my train friends shortly thereafter, my pain and slight bleeding mostly forgotten for a time.

Here they are, and a welcome sight, indeed.

I'll post a bit more of the aftermath next time.


truepeers said...

Dag, I'm really sorry to hear this. But, to go there and not go there? It's something you had to do. You will have the story.

Dag said...

It will get better with time. The rough sppots will wear away and the good will remain. It is truly some incredible place. Too bad, indeed, that it´s so crowded, but I have experiences with many other places similar to this, and if I can superimpose the scene here on other places with finer memories, then this too will have been extraordinary. Worth the pain, regardless.