I left my heart at Machu Picchu

11 Jun

Or my camera, at least, which is next to the same thing. In a bathroom stall, of course. Bad bathroom karma. But I was in that stall feeling completely nauseous, and such feelings do distract you. I discovered the camera was missing on the bus ride down the mountain from the site, and Deborah and I paid bus fare back up to go look for it, but it was gone. Machu Picchu was stunning, and there will be photos, but all the photos of the trip will be Deborah’s now. Luckily, we often took the exact same shot. These written memories will be all mine.

Our day started at 3:40 AM with a wake-up call from the hotel. We scarfed down breakfast in ten minutes flat and caught the van that would take us to the “Vistadome train.” The hour and a half van ride from Cusco to the village of Ollyantantambo started out in the dark. Then, slowly, the gorgeous valley of farm land, sleepy villages, and nearby mountain peaks was revealed as dawn rose. The train ride was also an hour and a half. You pass through a narrow canyon past peaceful agricultural land that slowly transforms into a jungle following the rushing Urubamba River. All around you, the mountains soar sharply, lush with green and pitted occasionally with jagged stone. You can see all this out the side window of the train, and out of the windows that curve up from the train walls partly over the roof.

The train ride ends at the town of Aguas Calientes. There, you catch a bus for a twenty-five minute ride up a curving mountain pass. It’s a narrow dirt road where you can encounter another bus or a work truck coming down the hill. And then the negotiations begin. We had a guide who met us at the train station in Aguas Calientes and gave us a personal tour of the site. His knowledge was impressive, and he hiked us across stepped terraces, up stone staircases, and through narrow passages. The weather was gorgeous. I have to say it’s been lovely during our entire trip. Hot in the afternoon whether you are in summery Mexico or wintery Peru, but we never saw rain (yet, anyway). Somewhere near the close of our tour of Machu Picchu, I became slightly nauseous, and then the “slightly” gradually became downright blech. I assured the guide that all I needed was a nice sit on the pot for a while, and since our tour was almost over, he obliged me. And well, you know how that “came out.” After we had no luck finding the camera, Deborah and I opted to take the lunch that came with the tour down in Aguas Calientes, which was a delicious Peruvian buffet. I had tenderloin stew with some kind of wonderful sauce, and two helpings of the chocolate pie to drown my sorrows.

Then we followed that age-old sage philosophy: when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping, and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the vast open-air market. Other archeological sites we have visited on this trip have vendors roaming the site trying to sell you trinkets while you are taking in their ancestors’ glories. Not Machu Picchu. They are all camped at the bottom the hill away from the site. But they are equally persistent.

Finally, we found a seat in the train station and collapsed. I wrote this blurb on an envelope on the train ride back. While I was writing, a dancer in local festive costume clowned his way up and down the aisle and took all the willing ladies for a spin. This was followed by a fashion show by the staff of Yet More Things to Spend Money On to the accompaniment of loud Peruvian-inspired Latin disco. Fortunately, all that lovely wool is wasted in Phoenix, so we weren’t tempted to do anymore parting with our solés. We got back late between the train ride and the van into town, so there was no time to do as we had done Thursday night, wandering the narrow cobblestone streets of Cusco and sampling a bit of the local cuisine. We opted for a glass of wine in the lively lobby of our hotel instead.

Today we go back to see the Sacred Valley in more detail. And hopefully, there will be time in the evening to wander the streets of Cusco once more.

7 Responses to “I left my heart at Machu Picchu”

  1. cornerofmadness June 11, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    sorry to hear about the camera. that sucks
    it sounded really great except for the nausea (a reaction to thin atmosphere?)

  2. neshaffer June 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Not sure what was going on with the nausea. It´s been a regular visitor here in Peru. Must be something I´m eating or drinking.

  3. cornerofmadness June 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    wow that sucks

  4. anomster June 13, 2011 at 3:36 am #

    It can be an effect of the high altitude & the low oxygen; there are others. When I was in Bolivia in 1994 to see a total eclipse from way up on the altiplano, I got severe headaches & my tentmate got nausea. There were times I needed to just sit & do nothing. but. breathe.
    Sounds like you’re having a good time apart from the nausea–& losing your camera. Not sure which is insult & which is injury there. I remember in Bolivia being amazed at how steep a slope could still have crops grown on it! Some of the other people on the tour went on to Machu Picchu the 2nd week, but I couldn’t spare the time or the money (having just gotten started freelancing). I’m glad you’re enjoying your trip & look forward to seeing Deborah’s photos!

  5. neshaffer June 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    It was never *bad* bad, as in debilitating. I swigged my pepto and did my bathroom business and got on with the tours and the eating. But it was annoying at times.

  6. neshaffer June 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    It was a pretty amazing trip all around. We went for the archeology and ended up enjoying the contemporary cultural samplings just as well. Exhausting and fast, but wonderful.

  7. cornerofmadness June 15, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    no doubt

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