A new apartment, ancient ruins, and foreign bacteria...
30.01.2012 - 06.02.2012
After a series of days in the festering wound that is Loki Hostel, we miraculously made it out without contracting either a mass of STDs or liver disease. On Monday, I moved into a nearby apartment with Donovan, Steven, and Sam. We spent several days relaxing, cooking our own meals, and enjoying the silence that exists in the normal world. Steven and Sam left for the Pacific coast in the middle of the week, but it was certainly a treat having them around for the week. The remainder of the week was somewhat uneventful, but it was wonderful just meandering through the city, taking in the sights and smells of Cuzco. No one felt especially ambitious since we were all conserving our energy for the trek to Machu Picchu that took place this past weekend.
We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to head out to Machu Picchu, bright eyed and bushy tailed, but unfortunately for me, with one hell of a stomach bug. I guess eating meat sandwiches from street vendors and unwashed vegetables finally tipped the scale of the constant battle between the onslaught of foreign bacteria and my poor immune system. I woke up several times throughout the night with excruciating stomach contortions, and other "digestive issues" associated with such circumstances. I waddled onto our bus, and fought nausea for the next hour as we made our way through the winding mountain roads. We spent the next 2 hours on a train and finally arrived in Aguas Calientes that evening, and somehow I managed to avoid vomiting the whole way!
I slept the next fifteen hours or so, and woke up Sunday morning feeling much better. We took the 15 minute bus to Machu Picchu, and arrived bright and early, ready to see one of the wonders of the world. After being herded around like cattle for about a half hour, we finally started our tour. For some reason, the English speaking group was paired not with the English speaking guide, but with a plump little Peruvian man with a pair of crooked spectacles, a miniscule English vocabulary, and a voice so soft and gentle that we all nearly fell asleep throughout the tour. The bits of his dialogue that were comprehensible were interesting, but really the greatest part was just wandering around and seeing the ruins. It really is a magnificent sight to behold, crumbling ruins on top of a misty mountain surround by beautiful rainforest, unfortunately I still felt slightly ill and tired, so I fear my appreciation for the experience was slightly numbed.
After our tour of the ruins, we had a hike up Hynu Picchu, the tallest peak nearby Machu Picchu. The hike was somewhat grueling for us prairie folk unaccustomed to inclination, but we marched on, up the hundreds of stairs carved into the mountain by the priests of a long gone civilization. As we started the hike I felt excited, but about five minutes in I felt that ominous discomfort in my intestines, and realized we still had a long hike ahead of us... and that due to respect for the integrity of the sight, Hynu Picchu is completely free of toilets. By the time we made it to the top, I was getting seriously worried. The view was breathtaking, but once again, I could not concentrate on the majesty of my surroundings... I was consumed entirely by the physical reality I found myself in. In these types of situations, one always ponders their options, but in this specific situation, I had very few. Machu Picchu is very popular, and thus, there were people everywhere. Also, we were on a steep mountain, so wandering off into the bush was also impossible. The only option left was to trek back down, and so I waddled back down those steps, cursing the gods, and wondering what devious vendor had brought me to such a state. We finally got back down to the ruins, but there was still another ten minute walk to the main area with the facilities I so desperately needed. I abandoned the rest of the group, and half walked, half jogged through the twisting alleys of Machu Picchu. As I was nearing my destination, I was trapped behind a gaggle of Spanish tourists and could not get by. You don't realize how close I was to pushing those unsuspecting señoritas down the mountain... if only they knew. But I managed to restrain myself, and as soon as a path opened up, I sprinted past and didn't stop until I found the bathrooms, fumbling like a drunkard for the single sol coin to pay my admittance. I was saved.
We spent the rest of the day playing cards in cafes and waiting for our train back. We made it back to Cuzco late that night, and I was ecstatic to have a bed and bathroom so easily accessible. It was a glorious day, Machu Picchu was an incredible sight to see, and although it was slightly expensive, it was undoubtedly worth it. Along with all the pictures and memories of that wonderful spot on earth, I also will have a story to tell for the rest of my life... I very nearly shit my pants at Machu Picchu.