Back from Machu Picchu in time for a Cusquean Christmas

It was 2 Aussies, a Chilean, a French couple, a loco Spaniard who only showed up at dinner time and would mysteriously disappear for the entire day only to show up for cervezas the next day, and me the American girl- all lead by our Quechua-speaking (the local indigenous language) Peruvian guide. We trekked for four days through heavy rains, brilliant sunshine, ramshackle towns with tin shacks, jungle villages with cabana huts and mango-strewn dirt paths. Here is our adventure to Machu Picchu: the glorious (and mythical) kingdom of the Incan Empire.

We mountain biked the first day through torrential downpours through Andean villages where locals greeted and laughed at us fools from their sheltered tin awnings.

I'm a nerd

I'm a nerd

We spent the night in Santa Maria – a “town” consisting of a gas station and an internet cafe. We stayed at a pension and had a home-cooked dinner before hitting the fly-infested sack.

the water is heated by exposed wires that also connect to the lightbulb. Meddle with it and die!

The Suicide Shower: the water is heated by exposed wires that also connect to the lightbulb. Meddle with it and die!

We set off the next morning at 6 for an 8-hour hike through the Andes, partially on the original Inca Trail, to the next one-horse town.

Our guide showed us the plant that Incans used to paint their faces. He also showed us the coca plants. I collected some leaves for my side-operation in Colombia.

Our guide showed us the plant that Incans used to paint their faces. He also showed us the coca plants. I collected some leaves for my side-operation in Colombia.

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Resting our weary bones on the way. We also played with the house pet monkey. Tips optional.

Resting our weary bones on the way. We drank Powerade out of glass bottles and played with the house pet monkey. Tips optional.

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After a mostly-uphill 7 hour hike, we relaxed at some hot springs on the way.

After a mostly-uphill 7 hour hike, we relaxed at hot springs on the way before the last hour of trekking. A rainbow appeared (see below)

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We arrived in Santa Teresa at dusk before the rains but not before the town-wide blackout. We looted this one horse town and peaced-out as bandits.

The power's back on! Let's check out the discotheque!

The power's back on! Let's check out the discotheque!

The third day was spent hypnotically trekking on flat land following the railroad tracks to Aguas Calientes, the final town before Machu Picchu.

During our trek I found myself feeling present for the first time in a very long time. I was excited to get to Machu Picchu, but not anxious about getting there. I was able to take in every moment; soaking in every sight and smell and sound around me. The difficult uphill hikes in the rain even proved to be meditative and enjoyable- I made every breath count. I thought about Brian the Brit back in my hostel in Lima who said that his travels made him ¨more engaged in life¨ (see Lima post) and I sort of started to get what he meant.

Gotta keep on...keep on movin'

Gotta keep on...keep on movin'

Thibaut, the token Frenchie, takes a breather

Thibaut, the token Frenchie, takes a breather

30 am vertical hike

Cheersing to our last night with Pisco Sours and Mojito's: Always a great idea before a 4:30 am vertical hike

Christmas Eve day: We awoke at 4 am to begin a grueling climb to Machu Picchu. Tomas and I, the two insane-in-the-membranes of the group, sprinted to the top in a record 45 minutes and got there before the place was even open. Guess we could have slept in.

30 am. Two crazy assholes at the top of Machu Picchu before anyone else got there. That's all fog in the background, we couldn't see three feet in front, behind, or below.

5:30 am. Two crazy assholes at the top of Machu Picchu before anyone else got there. That's all fog in the background, we couldn't see three feet in front, behind, or below.

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Alright. Well I was going to put a million more pictures up of the mystical, meditative, and mesmerizing Machu Picchu, but not only am I a sub-par photographer, photos simply would not do the place justice. The expanse is open and vast, the stonework intricate and meticulously placed, and even professional blown-up portraits of this ancient wonder cannot transcend its beauty and power.

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9 a.m. the fog was just lifting and Tom and I decided it was time embark on another grueling hike in the rain up to Wayna Picchu, a peak from which one can view Machu Picchu from overhead. Wayna Picchu is 2800 m high and Machu Picchu is 2200 m. We couldn’t see anything looking down into the fog. If you jumped, you would jump into complete nothingness. Either that or there would be a foam crash-landing pad three feet down. I wouldn’t know.

not a good idea for those with vertigo

Climbing Wayna Picchu: not a good idea for those with vertigo

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And so, my friends, this marks the end of the magnificent journey to Machu Picchu. I got back last night to the streets of Cusco, full of Christmas festivities and 2-year-olds setting off fireworks in the city plazas. Feliz Navidad!

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~ by ceciliabien on December 25, 2008.

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