Saturday, December 09, 2006

Macchu Picchu, Km0 and Puno

A warning: in line with your lazy preferences, this blog entry is heavily biased towards pictures not words! Do not attempt on sub-broadband connections!

The night before..
It's done. Macchu Picchu ticked off. What is Macchu Picchu? It is a complete and very well-preserved Inca City, nested in amongst mountains and deep green valleys. The Inca Trail is a 3-4 day trek up to Macchu Picchu, which I did not do. I took the train and bus, like a good tourist!

Day started.. well.. the night before, when I decided that whatever time I had to get up (about 6am), I couldn't go to bed this early (8pm), being in Cusco, the party city of the region.

Cusco's main square at night

I'd passed a bar on the way up to my hostel called Km0, and had noticed some musicians sound-checking through the window, so decided to go back there.

I should mention, in case I haven't already, that my hostel [GPS:13.51430S, 71.97279W] is at the top of a very nasty hill, up from the Plaza de Armas, which is effectively the centre of town [GPS: 13.51678S, 71.97875W]. Good fun when the road, or staircase as perhaps a more accurate description, is very wet.

Down to civilisation from my mountain hut hostel

Anyway, Km0, so named because the owner is from a village near Madrid, and apparently in the Spanish empire all distances were measured from Madrid, so Km0 is the centre of Madrid. However, as the Metric system long post-dates the Spanish empire, the story doesn't entirely stack up, but my Spanish is not up to enquiring further (not yet Jenny, but I'm still working on it!)!

Who is this dodgy character at the bar?

The bartender in there, Miguel, was very friendly, despite sitting me next to a drunk, who fortunately cleared off soon after. I got chatting to a Spanish singer called Mita (?) who was planning to perform the following night, Miguel, and later a Peruvian chap called Juan, and an Aussie called Johnny. Nice crowd, and as we came out of happy hour I switched from beer to shots of Pisco (puro, i.e. neat), then started trying out cocktails, before heading back to beer.

My only excuse for drinking this monstrosity is that it was called the "Macchu Picchu", seemed highly appropriate!

Meanwhile the musicians were playing various Peruvian songs with vigour, and one of the guys in the audience joined in on the harmonica. Really informal and intimate affair. I was sat at the bar thinking how this is what travelling is about, not going to see a load of over-rated rocks tomorrow!

Made it back to the hotel, and of course failed to set alarm clock. Should have stayed in the bar - apparently they went out afterwards and called it a night at 5 or 6am! Cut to this morning, and a loud banging on the door. Walter, the young chap who does most of the work around the hostel, was banging on my door. 20 minutes till train the other side of town! Panic!! Grabbed some stuff together and legged it down the very wet hill without breaking my neck. Made the train with two minutes to spare. Phew!

The train

Better nick than most UK rolling stock!

I was taking the backpacker train, and was not expecting much. So was impressed that the train was really quite comfy. I had a Peruvian chap next to me who was very enthusiastic and would wake me at every opportunity to point something out, of which normally I would have been appreciative, however in my extremely hung-over state, I would have preferred to continue sleeping. The valley up was not anything out of the ordinary.

To the right, to the left, to the right, to the left, to the...

Now, something remarkable happened on the way out of Cusco. The train basically climbs up a hill out of the city... by doing train "switchbacks"! Yes, the train kept reversing back and forth and presumably each time switching points on to a slightly higher piece of track. It took absolutely ages! The smart way of doing this journey (as I now know) is to take a bus or taxi to the first or second stop on the train, which takes 15 or 40 minutes, but saves you about one to two and a half hours on the train respectively!

So four hours later, and about 80km from Cusco (!), we arrive. There are buses waiting, which take us up, for $12 return. It's raining, and I prepare for wet weather - books into plastic bags etc. The entry fee has gone up! Book (2006) says 77 soles, it's now 118.5!! What a rise! There is no advance warning of this, and no means of taking money out in the area, plus they don't accept dollars or cards, only soles! I am firmly of the opinion that anywhere that charges that sort of money for entry should take cards. And this must be the most expensive entry fee in the whole country. Milk those tourists!

Mr Bingham stumbled across the site by accident, jammy sod

Into the compound, and up a short path to the left, which gives a stunning vista of the whole site. It is impressive, and my cynicism melts away. The place is enormous, and perched high above the river, which winds around us, deep in the steep valley below. Lots of photos, then wander through the site, trying to pace myself to avoid the larger groups. It's also quite a challenge to work out what's what from my little guide in my LP trekking book.

The money shot..


Macchu Picchu is [GPS: 13.16531S, 72.54456W]

They're like a cross between a sheep and a baby giraffe

How to predict what the sun will be up to. Use a rock with many strange angles

Okay, I am impressed. Note weather consistent with Crawley expectations

At the far end of the site is a mountain called Waynapicchu which it is possible to climb. However, all the books say that it is extremely steep, and there was a warning sign at the entrance to the climb saying it was steep, and there was talk of ropes to pull one's self up. I was busy convincing myself that I shouldn't do it, due to my fear of heights and the fact that it had been drizzling steadily, meaning presumably it would be slippery.

Go up there?! Seriously?

I had almost turned away, when I chatted to a chap who had just come out. He'd spent a few hours at the top, the view was so good. Okay... And then my fate was sealed when a Japanese grandma went in with her children!! You can always rely on Japanese grandmas to shame you into doing things!!

So went in and up. Was steep, but more like a staircase, rather than what I had imagined, i.e. having to find finger-holds in the rock to pull myself up etc. Not rock climbing basically. I went up at a good pace as I had a couple of girls behind me and was loathe to let them overtake me. Not sure whether they were mountaineers but they set a horribly fast pace which I of course had to match. Up to the top, perspiring profusely, then found a perch which was slightly sheltered from the rain. Sat there and ate my ham and cheese pasty from Panaderia El Buen Pastor and a mini-panetone, soaking up the view, as clouds rolled back and forth, from [GPS: 13.15653S, 72.54578W].

Others admire the view too. Note the road leading up to the site on the left.

The whole site. The modern building on the left is a 5* hotel

The upper bits, including the religious temples and sun-calculating rocks

The lower bits, unexciting according to the guide, but pretty nevertheless, and very well preserved

Round the corner, and realised I still wasn't quite at the top!

The actual top

Down the other side which was where it started to get nasty. There was a staircase, but it was extremely narrow, extremely steep, and some of the steps weren't even deep enough to take my foot side-on! Plus nothing to hold!

Nasty nasty staircase

They should put up metal holds like they have on the walk up here, it's not fun currently. Anyway, long way down, and knees are jelly by the bottom! But I've earnt my dinner!

That's what I went up

Out, back in to town, talk to a very nice girl called Flor (Spanish for flower), and we have lunch together back in town, well she has lunch and I have a drink, as I have a train to catch soon..

Almost miss the train again. Much less comfy this time as I'm facing other people, irritatingly nice American Peace Corp types. And again, the length of time!! Unbelievable.

I didn't know they made 2W bulbs!

By the way, I haven't moaned about headphones yet. Here we go: So my headphones packed up on the way to Cusco, so I've had to (out of desperation) buy normal "old-style" headphones! Absolute dark ages! How do people use these horrible non-Sony-EX headphones? I'm so desperate to get another pair, but can't see it happening until Brazil.. La Paz doesn't sound promising, though I will try my best! I may have to book a couple of extra flights or rejig my round the world to do La Paz -> Tokyo -> Rio to sort this!

Anyway, dinner at Jack's Cafe, as recommended by Swiss girl back in Huaraz. Had a spicy chicken curry dish. Yum.

Not quite as spicy as they implied, but still tasty

The great thing about Peru is that there's a fairly standard "trail" that everyone does, either one way or the other, so you always bump into people who give you tips for the next place. Same applies to Vietnam I suppose. All good. Back for a long-overdue shower then to Km0 as the Spanish girl from yesterday is singing today. Again, really nice atmosphere there, though today I stick to a small quantity of beer. Don't want to miss my bus to Puno tomorrow!

The place of temptations

Buses buses

Royal Class? Not the British Royals that's for sure!

Bus was okay - boring (aburrido)... 6 hours. Had a Japanese chap sitting next to me who I had talked to at Macchu Picchu. He was the one who persuaded me to go up Waynapicchu! Small world. There is a train that does the same route as the bus, but I've had enough of Peruvian trains for one lifetime, and this after only one return journey! Can't wait till I get to India!

It may be quicker to hike than take the train

Anyway, bus trundled along a fairly pretty valley, here's a random GPS reference about a third of the way along: [GPS: 14.73767S, 70.74801W] with scrub covering the altiplano, and pretty mountains behind.

Nice dirty window blotchy Sony shot!

Then the mountains went, the valley widened, and the bus carried on for hours more! Wasn't helping that again the "luxury" bus was boiling hot, which always makes for an uncomfortable journey. Of course, all the cheapo buses have windows you can open! Was talking to chap next to me about Bolivia - there is an enormous salt lake at Uyuni, which is tempting, but it's 11-13 hours on a the bus from La Paz. Looking at the timing, with my flight to Brazil on the 17th, and now it being 9th, I can't see it happening. As in, I can't stomach 26 hours on a bus for a couple of hours of pretty lake. I'll have to make do with looking at it on wiki.

Puno [GPS: 15.83707S, 70.02770W] seems like a chaotic port town.

Milton Keynes town planners may have been involved..

There isn't much water though. Am staying in a relatively expensive place, costing 35 soles per night! Wandered down to the waterfront with my new chum Akira, but it's rather smelly as lots of algae has been blown in and has collected in front of Puno harbour!

Lots of tourist boats, and one that appears to be sunk not far off the jetty. Hmmm

Tomorrow morning I bus it to Copacabana in Bolivia, whence my next trek, Copacabana to Isle del Sol, starts. What worries me is that the only source of drinking water on that trek is this self-same lake! Yucks! By the way, last time my pack was weighed, it was up to 24kg. Where is all this extra bulk coming from???

Why oh why does it weigh so much? At this rate First checked baggage allowances won't be sufficient by February!

I don't have anything extra compared with the day I set off from London when it was 18kg. Madness! Do I have two 2.5l bottles of water stashed somewhere cunning in one of the side pockets? It's a mystery.

Tonight might try Guinea Pig. Spending my last pennies on dinner, then I'm out of Peruvian soles as we cross to Bolivia tomorrow. Hope no unexpected charges are sprung, otherwise it's dollars or washing up!

Ominous clouds. It's very windy but not as cold as all Peruvians elsewhere had implied.

1 comment:

pine-cones said...

Awesome photos for an awesome adventure! Great pix.

After compliments like that I should probably say something like "come check out my blog, great deals on remedies".... :|

Seriously i like the typical Crawley commentary to the photos. GOSH!