How many blog posts can one devote to a four-day, three night trip? Quite a lot, it seems (probably too many) so I will wrap it up in one last post. I am back in the land of the living after my bout of altitude sickness. Everyone else was (mostly) fine. My Spanish teacher told me today that it seems to simply be bad luck: a person can be fine one trip and sick the next. All I know is that I was probably too cocky about how good I felt on days one, two and three and was immediately struck down by the Inca god of altitude on the fourth day.
But, despite feeling like I had consumed 1,000 Pisco Sours yesterday, I will always remember this as one of my best trips. It was not an easy place to get to (we counted a plane, bus, train and another bus ride to get to Machu Picchu, not counting all the walking and the transportation to get us back) but it was well worth it and necessary in order to transport us to somewhere so different. From walking down the narrow cobble stone streets in the town of Ollyantaytambo–peering into the windows of Inca buildings–to watching the landscape of snow-covered mountain peaks and brightly colored vegetation from the train, I felt as far away from home as I ever have.
The day before we went to Machu Picchu, we were lucky enough to take a nature walk on the property of the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Aguas Calientes. The hour and a half walk took us around the 12 acre property and through the native cloud forest. It felt like you were walking through a greenhouse filled with house plants on steroids. Nearly every available surface was covered in something green: plants growing off the sides of tree trunks, vines twisting up cliffs, water cascading over moss. I am not a huge lover of nature but I left that walk convinced that we should take an eco-vacation in the future. The landscape of Machu Picchu is so stunning that there are no words to adequately describe it. Much like the cloud forest everything is enhanced: the mountains peaks were higher than any I have seen before, the grass was greener and the sky was bluer. No wonder the Inca chose that remote location to build their settlement, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced.
After our hike and lunch we took the train to Cusco. During the three and half hour ride we chatted, read and watched movies (I finally saw the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” which is excellent). We were also treated to a dance and fashion show by the train attendants. While serving us snacks and drinks they told us that they had a “surprise” for us later on. I don’t know what Oscar was expecting but he was fairly disappointed and little bit scared when a man wearing a lion mask and rainbow costume appeared in our train car and started dancing. Luckily not one of us was chosen to dance with him. (Usually that is me but I was sitting next to the window so Sean couldn’t force me into the aisle. He has done that to me before). After the dancing, there was a fashion show. It was entertaining in a completely ridiculous way.
When we arrived in Cusco it was dark and chilly. We were all shivering in the shorts and t-shirts we had worn hiking. The guide took us to our hotel, El Mercado Tunqui. While we waited for them to check us in we warmed ourselves by the outdoor fire pit in the hotel courtyard. The hotel is in the center of town and the rooms are small but very comfortable (the best bed I have slept in since coming to Peru. Our bed in the apartment is terrible). The only downside is there is no sound proofing at all, you can hear every step in the hallway, every firework (?!) and every crow of the rooster. We ate dinner in the hotel and collapsed into bed–Sean and Oscar in one room and Sofia and I across the hall. The next morning while everyone else was at breakfast I stuffed myself with Gatorade, coca tea, altitude medicine (basically caffeine and aspirin) and rallied enough to walk around Cusco before our flight back to Lima. We checked out the town squares and walked a bit in the narrow streets. We also visited the market which is a fascinating mix of food, flowers, handicrafts and random odd and ends. There were many hats, sweaters and blankets purchased.
Sean’s aunt Rigmor who is a travel agent with Altour along with the Peruvian travel agency Aracari, arranged the trip and did a fantastic job. Thanks, Rigmor!