Remembering Machu Picchu

OK. I wrote this DAYS ago, but during most of Peru, I was either somewhere I couldn’t plug my laptop in, or somewhere without internet. And then, I came back and have been since suffering from what some Brazilians have referred to as “North American tummy”—let’s just say, I’m not really absorbing much nutrition from anything I’m eating, and it’s left me a touch on the listless side. Listless, but I still went to the gym yesterday and today. Probably a bad idea. 😀

To the tale, now!


This is a travel story, if I may. Also a story of personal growth. And I just want to document it so I don’t forget it—forgive my self-indulgence. I’ll make up for it with a couple of posts of photos. YAY!

On Friday morning last week, we awoke in Cusco. So far, so good. We had a 5am wake-up call, a 5.30am taxi, and a 6.30am train departure from Poroy (near Cusco, and bloody well higher) to Aguas Calientes—3.5 hours of locomotive fun! Aguas Calientes is the town that serves as the base camp of sorts for all travellers to Machu Picchu, and so our journey began.

We made it out of bed without incident, albeit VERY slowly after Jessica’s near death experience getting up too fast from a nap the day before. She wasn’t actually near death, but only thought so. Thank you, altitude, for the gifts you were to bestow upon us… We took the taxi (and got Gringoed on the price—argh) without incident, and then we boarded the train with hundreds of other intrepid travellers… and began to wait. Which we did for over an hour. Right after I’d read in Lonely Planet that PeruRail trains were now running on time…

When we first boarded, Jessica and I were at a seat of four facing a woman and her roughly 7-year old daughter. They asked if we would switch with the OTHER woman and her 7-year old daughter across the aisle from us, so they could all be together. Sure, no problem.

In hindsight, THANK GOD WE DID. And I’d tell you the whole saga of what happened thereafter on our 3+ hour train ride, but let me sum it up like this: little girl + altitude sickness + riding backward on a train + sunlight broiling down on her = SHE WAS SICK AT HER SEAT. TWICE.

(For visual reference for all this, please see my Day 67 in Photos post—though I promise NOTHING GROSS.) 😉

Mom, if you’re reading this, I would like you to acknowledge the feats of awesomeness it took for me NOT to run away screaming… Vomiting happened TWO METRES AWAT FROM ME… and I took it in stride. I just coped. I AM A CHAMPION.

Actually, this kid was the trooper. Rallied like it was nothing! She was sick… then she ate her snack. She was sick, and then she went right back to playing battleship with her friend. Jessica and I both commented that if it were us at that age, sickness would have been followed by crying fits and hysteria, and if we were the OTHER little girl sitting across from her, we might have joined in the illness. The other kid made a face once, but beyond that didn’t even flinch. WOW. And the sick kid, though I resented her enormously on the train, was pretty rock star—sick twice, rallied, and then slept the last hour of the trip. No tears, no complaining. IMPRESSIVE.

The train was a touring train—we hit speeds of maybe 35kph, which did nothing to make up for having been an hour late in the beginning. We pulled into Aguas Calientes and our hotel met us at the train station. Without a car, which surprised me at first, until I realised that Aguas Calientes is a place that cannot be accessed by car, only by train and helicopter, and so the only motored vehicles in town are the buses that do the AC-Machu Picchu trips. Interesting! So they had no car, and the porter helped the two American women who had also been on the train with us. 24 hours earlier I was afraid to carry my bags because of exertion’s causal link to altitude sickness, and now… I was my own Sherpa. 😀 Sidebar: these American women were HILARIOUS. Full stop. Before the train, on the train, and after a few drinks back at the hotel. I now have an invitation to a $35 meal in the Florida Keys and some stupendous life lessons, courtesy of a couple of Pisco Sours and my new BFF Ruthie, who once had her right arm broken by a giraffe in Zimbabwe. I couldn’t MAKE this shit up. 😀

Our hotel was… basic. Adequate, but not notable. So we just cleaned up and headed out to catch a bus up to MP. As it turns out, I’m an ass Part II: we paid an extra $20 for a buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel actually AT the Machu Picchu gates. It was for the day we arrived, but our MP tickets were for the next day. Oops. So it cost us $15 in bus rides to go up and back—all for what was a truly sad lunch. If you go to MP, DON’T GET THE BUFFET LUNCH. Honestly—there are such great places in Aguas Calientes that it’s not worth it!

As we left the lacklustre buffet to take the bus back down the hill, who should we find ourselves in line behind but the rock star little girl, totally filthy after a day of crawling around MP’s dirt and dust. I’m still really impressed by her, but there was also no way in hell I was getting on a bus with that kid to do switchback after switchback after switchback in the heat… I’ve come a long way in terms of my emetophobia, but I’m not aiming for miracles or anything.

We instead ended up on a bus 100% made up of retired Germans. Pretty much as awesome as my conversations with Ruthie. Jessica and I now know that to blend with German tourists when we have, ourselves, retired—and we want to!—: we need to pack Korny bars, wear khaki pants and checkered shirts… and travel in packs. And we’re SO going to.

We ate our first real meal of the day at dinner: surprisingly, a Lonely Planet recommendation. I say “surprisingly” because the Lonely Planet was either RIGHT ON or TOTALLY CRACKED on this trip—but since its “our pick” recommendation was the same as our hotellier’s, we went to eat at Indio Feliz. If you go to Aguas Calientes, you should, too… French-Peruvian fusion, and the ambience is “below decks of a Galleon”. Photos in my next post, again…

It was so fun. And so good! And altitude having done a number on my appetite, we made it a habit to share everything. That night it was a menu of salad, tagliatelle and dessert (ick! Creme Caramel! All yours, Jessica!), so we ate well in a nice place for what came out to about $30. Crazy.

So from absolute worst to absolute best, that was Friday. And I won’t forget it any time soon. If I gave any sense that I had my doubts about coming to Brazil for yonks, well, no. None. This trip was like going back in time to the hilarious and awesome time we had in Berlin, and it reminded me how much I absolutely love travelling with Jessica—we have different styles and interests, but it always goes well. Even if the day-to-day of São Paulo isn’t always the same laugh riot, I’m SO glad to be able to spend time with my fabulous friend! At a time when everyone I know seems to be popping out a kid or raising some pre-existing kids, this just *fits*, and I’m happy about the whole she-bang. In the end, dealing with people and their sh*t isn’t always easy for me, and often I choose to separate myself rather than cope… but then a day like this of highs and lows reminds me that bubble living just isn’t the answer.

Please remind me of this next time I’m in the presence of the stomach flu. 😀

Up next… photos!