Peru--Machu Picchu

Entry #4

Many of you have written with questions about my logs so here are some answers:

#1. My mother gave me a rock form the beaches of Maine to remind me of my family, and to bring it (and myself) home safely. Here’s a tip for any mothers out there who are reading this log: give your kid a feather from a seagull or something light like a ribbon, because (A) it won’t set off the metal detector at the airport and have your child detained and strip searched by trigger happy National Security Agents, and (B) if your child it trying to pack light like I am, a rock doesn't exactly lighten the load!

#2. Since my logs are about hassles of traveling many of you seem to wonder if I’m having a good time . I thought the hassles were funny and interesting, but I guess you can’t tell from the pictures that I’m seeing incredible sights that I’ve always dreamed of visiting. So, yes I am having a great time. I’m also meeting people from all over the world, England, Brazil, Germany, Scotland, and Australia, just to name a few. Sometimes the conversations are pretty basic, due to the language barriers, which doesn't really make for compelling or interesting stories. So I’m sparing you the minor (AKA, boring) details of my interactions with other travellers.

Here is a travel tip from me to you. If you ever go on a tour and the guide shows you what the "natives" eat, or points out some sort of food to eat in a life or death situation, such as a sea cucumber in the Florida Keys, seaweed in Alaska, the sap from a tree in the Amazon, or the reeds in Lake Titicaca—decline any taste tests. It’s never good, and the item always tastes like lima beans or beets. This rule should always be followed unless, of course, it’s fried or covered in chocolate, in which case it will taste great.

Another tip for those going to Cusco- I stayed at Calle Loretto Hotel on Calle Loretto- It was a nice hotel and I was able to negotiate with them from $25 US down to $25 Peruvian dollars. It is in the heart of Cusco and is a great place.

Now about Machu Picchu. The history of it is this: The Incas were a bunch of hippies that lived on an agricultural commune in the Peruvian jungle chewing coca leaves (the source of cocaine). In the 1400's the Spanish came and conquered these hippies who were high as kites all meesed up on coke. Let that be a lesson to all you kids out out for the Spanish conquistador when your doing drugs.

That was in 1400. It lay deserted for 500 years until 1914 when it was "rediscovered".

Honestly, if you took these rocks and put them anywhere else it would be just like the ruins of another castle in England. What makes Machu Picchu spectacular is the scenery--clouds move in, altering the light and colors, bringing a new vista every five minutes. The mountains are steep and dramatic, and covered with lush Peruvian forest.

Machu Pichu light show

The toughest hike ever

And now another example of why I'm not the brightest of my mother's offspring... I thought it would be neat to watch the sunset over Machu Pichu from across the valley from on top of a mountain which is just outside the town of Agua Calientes. I had read that there was a great short hike to this peak:

I read the following in a guide book: "Adventurous sorts not yet exhausted from climbing might want to climb the sacred mountain Putukusi, which commands extraordinary distant views across the river to the ruins of Machu Picchu . The trail begins on the right side of the railroad just out of town. Veer to the right up stone steps and get ready for an athletic feat, struggling up vertical ladders until you reach a clearing and series of stone-carved switchbacks. At the top, Machu Picchu is nestled like an architectural model between its two famous peaks. The trek up takes about 75 minutes; the descent takes 45 minutes. Gazing across the valley at the ancient Inca city? Priceless. Although they've repaired the trail and fixed missing steps, it is still mostly for fit climbers. " They were not kidding when they classified this as an "athletic feat", the ladders were straight up for hundreds of feet. It was a scary hike.

I headed out an hour before sunset thinking I could make it up just as the sunset and make it down by the light of dusk. I brought my head lamp just in case. And thank God I did, otherwise I would be dead in the Jungle now. The elevation change is about 1,000 feet of which about 500 feet is a series of ladders made from tree branches, which are slick to step on because it is a rain forest. Below is a picture to give you an idea of what it is like to look down a 200 foot ladder at night in the jungle, which is your only way home. And what made matters worse was that my head lamp only threw enough light to light an area about 2 feet in front of me so it was difficult and slow going down. I fell a few times, getting cuts on my hands and knees. That definitely got my heart pumping. The noises in the jungle reminded me that this wasn't a simple hike in a Maine forest. I started to worry that I might surprise a panther or walk into the web of some venoumous spider. But I made it back to town with just a few cuts and scrapes. Don't worry Mom, I'll observe the "buddy system" rules the next time I'm thinking of going on a hike in the Jungle.

Hike at Machu pichu

That’s it for now. I have a dinner date with some Dutch, Germans and Argentineans, so I’ll write more later...but probably won’t get an opportunity to post anything (photos or journal entries) until the 20th.

I hope all is well with everyone. Go Red Sox!



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