Sunday, November 11

Now I have to see the rest of the Wonders

The city of Cusco offers one of the best places for a game of 'ultimate punch buggy'. What is that? Well it hinges on the ability to locate Volkswagen Beetles and then having at least one other person nearby that is sufficiently punchable. The extreme version requires many more Beetles, a keen eye for kitsch and fast fists. My neighbourhood here is perfect as the house to beetle ratio is about 4 to 1.

This week has been a bust for blogging but with good reason: Mark came to visit so I took some time off pretty much everything. No school, I was allowed to speak english and for sures, no blogging. The week went by so quickly although for him there is still another 24.5 hours of travel before he can call the vacation quits.

Lacking time to see everything the way I have been doing it (one place at a time by sketchy bus into the valley) we did the tourist thing for a few days. The Sacred Valley (pisac, ollantaytambo and chinchero) one day, city tour (sacsayhuaman and some other ruins) another day. I must admit that while riding a bus filled with only tourists does not exactly appeal the having of a guide made the ruins much more fascinating.

One of the highlights had to be the rice pudding. Oh, and Machu Picchu. Booked in advance for peace of mind all was set for wednesday morning to leave on the train at 7am. The only hitch: our 6:20am pick-up finally showed at 7:15. Train leaves at 7, we are picked up at 7:15 to catch train...problem anyone? After my host family kindly explained to the man the error of his ways and outed his various lies about us not being there waiting, etc. etc. he drove us to the next town to meet the train and we were off! Not without me inputting my two cents about my lack of confidence in the agency after I was denied a phone number to contact our guide for the next day even though I was told earlier I could have it (this coming after the late pick-up and both tickets having the incorrect names and passport numbers). For three days according to PeruRail we were Katie Vikking and Martha Jones. I

f you are ever to do Machu Picchu by train I am going to tell you how to do it. Take the train but stay overnight to visit the ruins the next day. Wake up before 5am to catch the 530 am bus in order to enter the ruins at the 6am opening. (We happened to be on the first bus to ascend the Cloud forest mountains of emerald green). Go into the ruins and stare incredulously because not only are they fantastic but you have beat the crowds and can see it without people milling around ruining your photos. Have a look around but be at the gate for Winay Picchu by 7am. Winay Picchu is a mountain right behind M.P. with a few ruins topping it and offering a view of the entire site from above. Our motivation for climbing so early was to hit the steep steps straight up when we still had breakfast in our tummies and it ended up being the most rewarding experience of the day. Only 400 people are allowed to climb Winay Picchu daily (all before 1pm) and we entered as #23 and #24 for November 8th 2007. 45 minutes of straight-up brutalness being unable to see anything off the side of the cliffs due to the dense fog covering everything. At the top we waited over an hour to finally see the fog shift and reveal part by part the ancient Inca city far below. Later take a tour with a guide. Pet the Llamas. Take train back that evening or early the next morning. It may be cliché, maybe we held tickets for this year numbering over 766,000 but there is a reason that this place attracts so many people. Even with the guide we were lucky and were led around the ruins by a man who wrote a widely published book about M.P. Another tip: everyone has to stay in Aguas Calientes beforehand. Bring playing cards and music. There is nothing there but expensive restaurants and expensive souvenirs. Although you could pass some time in the middle of the Urubamba River on giant granite stones. You could. If you wanted to.

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