Some of the French girls in my tour group asked me if I could speak Spanish. Apparently, I didn’t. They said it’d be easier for me to travel around South America if I knew some Spanish. In fact, my original plan was to fly to Peru and attend a one-week Spanish lesson with a language school in Arequipa. But I missed my flight so I went to Ecuador first and now Peru without knowing any Spanish. Also because of that, my schedule had been changed so I contacted the language school about my revised schedule. Everything was sorted before I went to Machu Picchu. The next thing was to call the bank. Very organised. 😊 I was so proud of myself. 😊
I didn’t sleep well because my roommate snored. One thing bad about sharing a room is this. It’s pretty annoying.
We needed to walk 1,700 steep steps uphill to reach Machu Picchu. Each step wasn’t wide and flat. They were small and narrow and some were not carved rocks. I wonder how those people went to Machu Picchu back in those days. Imagine, the air was thin and the altitude was high… They had my respect. My knees and my legs went numb after the long day that day.
We went to the gate of Machu Picchu before the day broke and waited until the gate opened at 5am. The security guard checked our passports and tickets in the dark.
That marked the start of our journey of the day. I was looking forward to it. Machu Picchu was the reason why I was in Peru. Of course, the Nazca lines were something very unique too but it wasn’t in my top priority. If I have the opportunity to go to Peru again, I may go to see the Nazca lines.
Juan, our tour guide asked us at the gate, ‘are you ready?’ He always did that when we were about to start the journey. Actually, I didn’t think I was ready for anything. 😅 I just did it. For this whole journey so far, I felt that I wasn’t really ready for anything but I continued with it anyway.
We walked up the steep steps. Others were fast except for me and the other two girls. They were much younger than I. It proved that it had nothing to do with age.
Suddenly a bus went past us. I said ‘oh!’ Yes, I forgot we could take a bus. 😅 But I continued to walk.
‘Why am I doing this?’ I kept asking myself. I was so tired that I crawled and climbed the steps. My hands were full of dirt but I didn’t care about it any more as long as I didn’t get hurt by thorny plants or insects. I really admired the rock climbers.
My legs were tired and my heart was beating very fast. I couldn’t continue with it but I had to. I had no choice. I couldn’t take the bus now. I had to walk. Argh! Once or twice, I just wanted to hold the tour guide’s hand and ask him to help me but I didn’t do it of course. Oh my knees! At one stage, I heard the cracking sound of my knees. Ok I was old. And my bones were even older. I just hoped that this trip would not worsen my osteopenia. Walking and climbing like this would do more harm than good to my bones. I had to cut down some hiking. But if I didn’t hike, what else could I do?
Anyway, I focused on my walking again.
Finally, I saw the entrance of Machu Picchu. Thank God! I did it! All the hardship I had gone through became worthwhile. It was really worth it. And I suddenly remembered what Jennifer, the couple I met in Mongolia, said about Machu Picchu, ‘Although it is touristy, it is worth it.’ And I remembered another backpacker that I met in Rio Verde. He said ‘you need to go there early otherwise there’ll be a lot of people.’
I looked at Machu Picchu with awe.
It was very foggy and misty. The fog sometimes covered the whole site, sometimes covered a bit. It added some mysterious elements to the site. Amazing. Breathtaking. How did the Incas build this? The surrounding areas were very beautiful too. Machu Picchu was surrounded by mountains that gave it a natural protection from the enemies. It was like Laputa in the fog. It was simply hard to attack for the enemies. It was believed that the royal family and noblemen lived there with around 400 other people. They used terracing farming to grow their food. Everything was very structured and the structure of the buildings including the laying of the rocks was very precise.
The Incas built botanical gardens, a plaza, a school etc. They used human waste for farming. Agriculture was their main activity. There was no evidence showing that they raised animals like cattle or sheep. They worshipped the sun and Earth. The sun had a higher status than Earth.
Before the Spanish came, the Incas abandoned the city. No one knows why. Maybe the prophets told them to leave? But this place was so hidden. If they stayed here, they’d be protected. The Spanish didn’t find this place. I wish they had stayed so that we didn’t need to guess what their culture was like.
Juan showed us the temple of condor, the place where Incas worshipped Earth. He said ‘if you see steps like this , that means they are for worshipping Mother Earth.’ (I can’t find the photo) He also showed us some paintings. I later found out that the paintings he showed us were the same as the ones I saw in Inca museum in Cuzco.
There are so many things about the Inca that are yet to be discovered. It is still a mystery for all of us.
Juan told us many other things and he recommended Inca museum in Cuzco to us. I didn’t remember all the things he said but I remember what he told us was what the museum said. I think he really made an effort to study the Inca history. I later met other travellers at the site and they told me a different version of the story. That showed how professional Juan was and how lucky I was to have him as the tour guide of our group.
We finished the 3-hour tour. Before that, Juan put the Machu Picchu stamp on our passport. That was fun. He left us and we had free time. I wanted to climb Waynapicchu first. If I got tired afterwards I could just sit down and rest. That was my plan. Just happened that some of us were going too. So we went together. Uphill, uphill and uphill again. I wasn’t physically fit so I was behind everyone else again. They didn’t wait for me of course and I didn’t expect that. I wasn’t in a competition anyway. I took my time. There were many other tourists there. I went past some of them. We were all catching our breaths.
I reached somewhere close to the top of Waynapicchu and I saw the same group of travellers again. One of the girls asked me if I was alone. I told her my tour group had already gone up because I was too slow. She said sarcastically ‘good team mates’ and then she said, ‘you’re not alone.’ I love that. She invited me to join them so I did.
I walked with them until I reached the top. I saw my team mates taking a rest. As I was about to join them, they started going downhill. ‘We are leaving. We have been here for a long time. We will go to the guard house now.’ Great. I said I’d join them there. I took a rest and slowly walked back down.
Downhill downhill and downhill. Steep steep steep. But it was still better than going uphill. I remember the travellers that I walked with and I had to hold on to a rope on the side of the trail.
During the whole downhill trip, I met some other travellers. Some had done Inca Trail, the classic one and they shared their experience with me.
We went past a sign on the way that said ‘25 minutes’. I pointed at it and said, ‘it is a lie.’ Those travellers laughed. I ran into another group of physically fit women. They were really fit. I was with them in the last part of the trail. When we arrived at the gate together, they said they only spent one hour and a half to finish the trail. That was so impressive.
I walked towards the guard house. But I was too tired so I sat down and took a rest. The people from my tour group were nowhere to be found. An old man saw me and approached me. He started talking to me because he could recognise me. We had met at the top of Waynapicchu. I remembered he talked about a Swiss girl doing BASE jumping so I repeated that story to him. He was impressed. He then asked if I was traveling alone. I told him I was travelling with a group but they went ahead to the guard house. He then tapped on the rock beside where he was sitting and invited me to sit down with him. (When I read this part of my journal now in 2021, he sounded like Morrie in the book Tuesdays with Morrie). He said, ‘tell me what happened.’ I then told him I was too slow that’s why they went ahead to the guard house. He suggested that I go down to see the tunnels instead. So I went with him. Surprise! There were llamas too. I took a few pics. He said, ‘I told you. You can see more things here.’ I smiled. Thank you. 😊
His tour guide came to look for him. He had been roaming around by himself. That’s why. He went with his tour guide.
I had enough rest now so I decided to go to the guard house. I knew I wouldn’t see my team mates but I didn’t really care. I went up there and saw some old people taking pictures at the top of the hill. I wanted to travel like this when I became old. The trail to the guard house was a tough walk. It was an achievement for them. I had been asking myself, ‘why am I doing this trail?’ during this trip. I found the answer here. I didn’t know how long I would live for and how long my bones could support me. When I had the ability to do it, I should just go ahead.
My knees hurt so much after all the walking and hiking. I decided to take a bus down despite the fact that I did not have much money left.
Not long after that, it started to rain very heavily. I went back to the hostel to get my bag. I saw the Dutch from my tour group. They asked me how I came down. I told them. One of them said sarcastically, ‘oh, that was very expensive!’ I hated that.
A few more people from my tour group came back. We said farewell and then we went separate ways. I had my dinner before I went to the train station to Sacred Valley.
I slept on the train. When I woke up, I was already in Sacred Valley. We got off the train. I found a few people from my tour group. One of the guys talked to a taxi driver and he got us a taxi to Cuzco town centre for 15 soles each. The mean Dutch couple didn’t come with us.
We went back to Cuzco city centre safely. This time, we really went separate ways. I went back to the hostel feeling exhausted. Worse, I stayed in a bunk room and only the upper bed was vacant. It took me so much effort to climb up to my bed after my shower. I asked the hostel staff if they could arrange another bunk bed for me. After they knew my situation, they put me in another room without any bunk bed the next day. That was so kind of them.
The next day, no one checked in my room. So I only paid for USD10 for a room with three beds all by myself. That was the dream of all backpackers. 😊
5 December 2012
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