Friday, 4 December 2009

A Grand Finale

You're not likely to ever visit a place more touristy than Machu Picchu Pueblo. If it wasn't for the proximity of the famous Inca pile of stones up the road, it obviously wouldn't exist. Consisting of guesthouses and restaurants whose prices would have you checking the eatery next door if in London, it's a shameless tourist-milking spot. We'd arrived here fairly early in the morning, taking the train from Cusco. It was a fairly pleasant, sedate trip over the hills; the train scales these by a series of switchbacks, so effectively zig-zags up the hill and down the other side. Quite an engineering feat for this country.

Having exhausted the entertainment possibilities of this dump way before 8pm, we decided to get our heads down for an early start in the bus queue the following morning. Arising at 4.30am, it was a good job we had: there were at least 100 people queuing in front of us as it was, and there were another 200+ behind us when the first buses arrived.

It's a quick 20 minute ride up to the summit, and we passed through the gates in the first 100...thereby gaining access to Wayna Picchu at the far end of the plateau and it's higher viewpoint. There's only a limited amount of visitors allowed to scale this jagged piece of rock each day, and it's worth the early start.

We crossed a narrow ridge and began our arduous climb upwards. How the fuck these little bastards lugged all these pieces of stone up here and built a civilisation is beyond me. Breathing hard, my heart almost jumping out of my chest, I fought my way up the steep route. At times it's almost vertical. My pulse throbbed in my temples, and I was soaked in sweat as I approached the top, making a mental note to get back down the gym on my return to Blighty.

The sight from the top is worth the strain; there's a piece of rock you can climb onto which affords you a full 360° view of the valley, surrounded on all sides by huge jagged peaks. No wonder the Spaniards never found this place...the location is stunning. I think the ruins themselves are a bit of an anti-climax, it's just the setting and the sheer logistics of building this city which impresses.

After the physical trial of Colca, and scaling Waynu Picchu, my knees were burning. Any more of this, and I'd be coming home to a Zimmer frame. But it was pleasing to have a sight so impressive as my last on the trip.

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