Sunday, October 7, 2012

Peru-Day 4

The next day, I shared my head/neck/and shoulders struggle with our Argentinian friend, Juan, and he told a guide, who brought me a 400 milligram pill of what was full of the good stuff. It alleviated about 90% of my pain and I am convinced made it possible for me to take on the third day of hiking. I did not see elephants but definitely felt more like myself, and slightly on air.

 This day we bid goodbye to our porters and horses, as tonight we would arrive in Aguas Calientes, the city beneath Machu Pichu and ZOMG have a hotel with showers. I think everyone had a bit of pep in their step. Juan presented the wranglers and staff with our collected gratuity, and we took pictures, thanking them for the really outstanding meals and service they provided.

Farewell to the wranglers and our backup horses.

One in our party opted out of the final day, taking a taxi and meeting us at the train station that would take us to Aguas Calientes, due to her own ailments.

Day three was to be a combination of uphill and downhill, and I found it to be my favorite in terms of its difficulty. Blessedly, there was a tremendous amount of flat points in the beginning, which allowed us to reserve our energy for the midpoint of the day. Steep grades were tough and throughout the trip I dutifully pulled rank as the caboose, but it was easier that way, taking the breaks I needed to restore my oxygen supply and carry on.

Humid weather, walking among the cloud forest.

Reaching the pass on the third day was symbolic in that we had reached our final highest point. We shared pictures, toured an Inca sight, and feasted on probably our favorite meal at a rest stop along the way.  From this vista point, we could see Machu Picchu Mountain in the distance, though low clouds prevented us from seeing the actual site.

Ruins near Llaqtapata, where we had lunch and views of Machu Picchu and Salkantay Moutain.

Machu Picchu Mountain

Delicious lunch of avocado salad, fish, and limeade.

Following lunch was another two hour descent to the river below, where we welcomed a refreshing dip in, some feet, and our guide, native of course, an entire swim. It was here Scott realized the seriousness of his bites. His ankle and swelled to beyond cankle status, from what we think was an allergic reaction to the mosquito bites. Balancing on fatigued bones and a swollen, pained ankle made for the final haul of the journey comparable to Kerri Strug's Olympic gold vault dismount. Maybe I am being dramatic but it felt that way!

We reached the river!

Mosquito bite aftermath on poor Scott.
Never the complainer.
Our guide, the local, the only one to fully submerge.
We reached the train station, and having missed ours due to the crowd, enjoyed a happy hour of sorts with local brews before boarding the one hour ride into Aguas Calientes.
Crazy train station

Aguas Calientes, though a tourist meeting point for Machu Picchu, was colorful and full of life. The streets were narrow, reminding me of what I believe Europe would be like, and lots of activity-traveling bands, street vendors, eager restauranteurs. Ultimately, we just needed to rinse the camping off of us and get to our hotel.

This was our first evening without the entire group, and following our lengthy showers, we changed into total tourist hiking clothes and descended to of course, the hotel bar. There we tried Peru´s signature cocktail, a Pisco Sour, which is tasty, and enjoyed a few Manhattan´s and glasses of wine. Dinner was excellent-beef, rice, vegetables, and fries with a "caprese" salad and chocolate cake. We went to bed full and cozy, ready for our early wake up call.

Hotel bar

Complimentary pisco sours 
CLEAN! And wearing the same shoes as the hike, such a tourista.
Much needed.
A note about our hotels. I am so, so, so, glad we use a travel agent. There are virtually no surprises and we are always in premium hotels with  English speaking staff, greeters upon our journey with printed (non handwritten) signs and paperwork required. It has made arriving at each hotel a relief to see it is not the Peruvian version of a Motel 6. Granted, some people like the hostel route, and more power to them. I like hotels with private bathroom, vanity sets, meals, a hot shower, Wi-Fi access, and concierge.

No comments: