August 31, 2013
Today our day started bright, early and freezing, at 3:30 AM. We were woken up and had a quick breakfast of bread and jam before being ushered out the door, into the freezing air and onto a bus. Most of us slept through the ups, downs, turns and bumps of the hour and a half ride to the train station. Once we arrived we groggily got off the bus and, once our tickets and passports were checked, hopped on board a PeruRail train. There we found our seats, which were comfy and surrounding a table, and admired the mountains, glaciers and villages that we passed. We were served a snack of either a muffin or dried plantains as well as a drink, coffee being the favorite.
After an hour and a half, the train pulled into the station in Heua Caliente and our excitement was at an all time high, we were almost at our destination, Machu Picchu! However, before we could celebrate, we had to board yet another bus, this time with our guide Mario. Twenty minutes and a hundred pictures later, we were finally there, well almost. First, because there are no bathrooms in Machu Picchu, we had to pay a whole sol to use the ones outside the gate. Then, finally, we flashed our passports, had our tickets stamped and entered the ancient city. Star struck, we gawked at the amazing town. After a few quick pictures, Mario led us to a set of stairs. Now these stairs looked innocent enough, they weren’t too steep and there weren’t too many, little did we know this was just the beginning. Not even half way up we were sweaty, out of breath, and wondering if it was possible to get hypothermia and heat stroke in the same day. Then, we reached halfway up, a beautiful spot where you could see all of Machu Picchu. While most of us posed for our own pictures, Ashlee, being a blond haired, blue eyed, fair skinned girl had people asking to take pictures with her. After the fans had cleared, we were back on the stairs headed to the top with the promise of an even better view and the guardhouse. We weren’t disappointed. We got there, looking down you could see all the way down to the river, and looking up you could see all of the surrounding mountains.
Now that we were at the top, there was only one thing left to do, go back down. This time though, we got to go through the city. Entering through the main gate, which is higher than the rest, we headed toward the temple zone. On our way we stopped at one of the Inca houses, which is slightly sloped toward the center and has closed windows, protection from earthquakes. Carrying on we saw the most important building in all of Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Sun, which is round and has the best stonework, all perfectly rectangular. Right beside that is a long building with a straw roof, the Water Temple, which is the start of sixteen fountains that go through the city. Not far from that was the Temple of the Three Windows. Three is a very important number for the Incas, as they represent the Snake, the Puma and the Condor. We then headed to the Temple of the Condor, which are two rocks representing the wings and a rock carved in the ground that represents the head. Finally we headed to the last stop of our tour, the Ceremonial Rock. This rock is the exact shape of the mountain behind it, as well as two of Peru’s delicacies, fish and guinea pig. After answering our questions and saying our goodbyes, Mario left us saying that Incas don’t say goodbye, they say, “See you later”.
Once we were on our own, there was something we had to do, with Stacey home by herself on her first wedding anniversary we had to let her know we hadn’t forgotten. So, with Wren guiding us, we spelled HAPPY ANNIVERSARY with our bodies, showing off our flexibility, gymnastic skills and patience. Not to mentions all the strangers laughing, pointing and taking pictures. After we had finally figured the “A” and taken the picture, we had an hour of free time to explore. Some of us took the opportunity to sit and have our empanada lunch and take pictures, while others walked to a building on one of the highest points. Unfortunately our hour was over much too soon, and we were quickly back on the bus to Haue Caliente. With the time we had to wait for our train we browsed the small market picking up a few souvenirs and adding to a seemingly ending collection of sweaters and blankets. After we had enough souvenirs to prove that we had actually been to Machu Picchu, we walked to the train station and boarded. This time our seats were in groups of two and our snack was a spinach pastry and cinnamon bun. This time though, our ride came with entertainment, a masked man dancing up and down the aisles. He asked Alyssa for a dance, and got Emma to model some of the clothes for sale on the train. After our new friend was finished we quickly pulled into the station and got on our last bus of the day, back to Cuzco.