I thought I was in shape. And then I went to Machu Picchu. The day started innocently enough. After the night before, I drank more Coca tea and felt I was recovered from my altitude sickness. We were going to take the train to Macchu Picchu.
We were greeted at the train station by Peruvian dancers and mimosas, and then we boarded the most luxurious train I have ever seen. I felt like we’d stepped back into time when train travel was the way to travel. We were seated our a lavish dining table and plied with food and drink, including pisco sours, a form of whiskey sour made with Peru’s national drink, Pisco. I’d seen that on the travel channel too and didn’t want to think about the traditional way it was made, by people chewing the ingredients until they fermented, then spitting it into a vat.
The three car train ambled up the mountain path while musicians strolled its length and we snapped pictures of the country side, passing farmers and shepherds. Electric pole sliced through the stillness of the mountain beauty, every now an then snatching me back to the present day. The train is the only way up the mountain, other than walking for four days on the Inca trail. At times we were so close we could wave at the backpackers and their porters who chose to rough it. The route is too steep for an old fashioned straight run, the train had to bypass multiple switchbacks to make it. The end of the road is Aquas Calientes, and from there we boarded buses to continue our climb on a one lane road that was so steep I just had to close my eyes so I wouldn’t picture us rolling down the hill. There were a few times when we had to back up to let another bus pass.
We made it to the top, finally, and headed up to the breath-taking ruins of Macchu Picchu. Our guide was excellent and I couldn’t help picture and angered Inca just pushing someone off the side. And then it hit me. We just kept climbing up. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would burst and I had to stop to read several times. The air was so thin that my nose hair hurt. So much for cardio vascular fitness. I was having a great time, absorbing the history of the Andean people. At the top, you realize that you are standing between the Andes mountains above, and the Amazon jungle waaaay below. I dropped a rock over the side and it was still falling when it disappeared from view. I never heard it hit bottom. They said that a Canadian woman fell to her death a few months ago. She got overzealous with her picture taking. There would be rails everywhere if this was in the US. And then, and then, I had to go down. Narrow steps just carved into the side of the mountain. Lordy, lordy, lordy. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and the Incan gods, too. I crawled down the mountain backwards on hands and knees. No one laughed at me at all because they wanted to do the same thing. The whole trek was almost four hours and my legs were wobbly when I finally made it to the bottom and tea at the lodge.
Tomorrow, Saqsaywomon and Arequipa.