Today is the day…Machu Picchu!!!! After a lovely hot shower…just kidding; there is no hot water in the house and this is day 3 of no showering; thankfully I still smell pretty good. I pack my bags and off to the Machu Picchu train station to catch the highest elevation train in the world to Machu Picchu. The train is lovely and designed with a panoramic ceiling for maximum enjoyment; and so they should at $180.00 a pop for the 1 hours journey to Agua Caliente (that is of course just for foreigner; Peruvians pay $60…so annoying!!!) www.perurail.com or www.incarail.com. But you can rejoice to the fact that they do offer a cup of coffee and day old sweet bread. On the way there I casually ask Javier if he had purchased the ticket to enter Machu Picchu to which he replies that he tried doing it on line but had no success. Slightly concerned, I ask him to call the ticket office to make sure we can get in and after a few suspenseful phone conversations in Spanish with different offices, it turns out we cannot buy a ticket because they reached the maximum allowed per day! Shock and rage start pulsing through my veins…imagine, I come all the way to Cusco for 3 days just to visit Machu Picchu, I’m on a $180 train ride to the site, gasping for air the entire time and I can’t get in!!!!
Needless to say the rest of the train ride is deathly silent; I contain myself from lunging over to Javier to strangle him. Eventually, my self-preserving instinct that always finds a solutions to all problems, tells me that no matter what, I will find a way to get in; even if I have to bribe a Peruvian for his or hers ticket…I am going in!!!! At last we arrive in Agua Caliente, the semi “shanty town” at the base of Machu Picchu; all right, it’s game time!!!! We walk over to the ticket counter, where there is no line what’s so ever, and with the fear of god, we ask for two tickets for Machu Picchu, to which the teller so very calmly said: “$62 please!”…Javier and I burst out in hysterics after panicking for the last two hours. Apparently there is NO limit of people allowed to the site and there is no problem buying a ticket…ever; we were just given the wrong information. Now it’s time for another ticket counter, this time for the bus ride up the very steep mountain to Machu Picchu: Peruvians 10 Solis, foreigners 80…boooooring!
Finally we’re in the brand new Mercedes Benz small bus to the top; the ride is beyond terrifying with its narrow streets and no guardrails to prevent the very long fall to the bottom. By the time I’m finally at the entrance to the Inca wonder I am a basket case! That is until I cross over a small path that leads to the iconic view that is Machu Picchu; here I gasp over the magnificence of this ancient site, 12,000 feet high in the heavens. Just like at the pyramids of Giza, my breath stops (probably also because of no oxygen in the air…); you can’t imagine how beautiful and majestic this site is. They talk about people’s spiritual exhalations when they see Machu Picchu and I totally understand why. I did not have an out-of-body experience, but I will tell you, I am touched behind believe!
Machu Picchu train
The Iconic view of Machu Picchu
The token Lama…they DO spit!
Javier Millership and Robert Kass in front of the iconic view of Machu Picchu
The amazing carved stones in Machu Picchu
Inca homes in amazing condition
More amazing stonework at Machu Picchu
Javier and I start the slow climb to the top of the mountain to get the better view of the Inca ruins; needless to say, I am gasping for air taking all the time I need to climb one step at a time. At some point, a gentlemen in his 80’s skips right by me, totally fine and with no sign of effort whatsoever; he stops and tells me: “Your breathing is too high…slow down young man, there is no rush to get to the top! Ohh and by the way…I’m a doctor!”. Clearly, I am now totally humiliated witnessing grandpa skipping by me as if he was a 20 year old while I’m gasping to make the next step (time to stop smoking!!!). So much is to be said about Machu Picchu, but my blog is less about the history and more about the personal experience, so I’ll let you do your own reading on the millions of articles written about Machu Picchu and I’ll just tell you that it is definitely a one in a lifetime experience that needs to be done if you have the opportunity; no words can describe how awesome this place is. Regretfully, it’s time to leave and make our way to Cusco. Once again, we go down the terrifying narrow street to Agua Caliente where, after a 2 Pisco Sour stopover at the local bar, we stumble on the train to Cusco.
Train ride back to Cusco
It’s now 9pm in Cusco and Javier is adamant on going to his favorite Pub in Cusco: Paddy’s (www.paddysirishbarcusco.com), with it’s claim to be the highest Pub in the world at 15,000 feet above sea level (how can you even drink booze when you cab barely breath? I guess I’ll find out soon enough). The town of Cusco, the old capital of the ancient Inca Empire, is absolutely beautiful and charming; here you really feel the lack of oxygen and any movement is a challenge. But nothing will stop these two semi-English lads from going to the pub for a few pints of beer and some Shepard’s pie!!! Another charming fact about high altitude is that you get twice as drunk with anything you drink, so after a few cocktails, Javier and I have barely enough strength to get back to the hotel. Reading back this post it looks like I’m always drinking and drunk, but I assure you, it’s not the case!!!! When in Rome…
Paddy’s Pub in Cusco
Interior of Paddy’s Pub
Cusco charming colonial town square
It’s time for bed and Javier chose this centrally located hotel with rooms as large as a she box (literally!!!). Needless to say, I won’t write about this hotel for I would never suggested it to anyone…regardless of its central location! I think Javier was drunk when he booked it! Tomorrow we go back to Lima for the last few days before going back to LA. Where is my oxide tank?