Peru Expedition 2009 Part Four: Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu

03/08/2009 - Leader
This morning we packed up our kit, bought everyone breakfast and got on our way in the Servicio Turistico (Tourist Service) bus. We stopped once at a Security Control booth on the entrance to the Machu Picchu park entrance and then off at Hidro Electrica.
We then found out that the only way you could reach Aguas Calientes, or Angus Calientes as Maggie kept referring to it, (the small village next to Machu Picchu) was by train or walking the rail lines, and it didn't help that we should have bought our tickets back in Santa Teresa.
So we found ourselves plodding along the tracks, dodging trains and trying not to trip over the planks, for three hours in a humid forest.
Maggie almost lost her bag to the river. We walked the bridge of thin, rusted steel/bridge of death too.
Relieved and grumpy again at reaching our destination, we put up our tents and then hit the town of Aguas Calientes 1km up the road.
'Hamish' Calientes is a small but lively and atmospheric town. It is buzzing with life at night and there is one road where instead of cars, you look out for trains before crossing the road. The prices here were a bit more pricey and touristy. 
We ate a restaurant (Restaurante Coricancha) for S/10 after the woman inside almost begged us to come back. That night we also enjoyed a laugh in the dark using night vision from an almost full moon. From our campsite you could see some of the Machu Picchu ruins and the 'Ceremonial Rock'. We also saw a couple of shooting stars!!

04/08/2009 - (No role).
Once again we enjoyed a small lie-in before going into Aguas Calientes to buy Machu Picchu tickets - half price with a student card - and shopping. There was an undercover market that was fun, but a bit too expensive to buy much.
A group of us also visited the Aguas Calientes of Aguas Calientes. The changing rooms were much nicer than those at Santa Teresa however the springs themselves stank of something foul, probably pee. The hot showers afterwards were welcoming!
We enjoyed another starry night. Our campsite felt like being in a cauldron.

05/08/2009 - Risk Assessor.
This morning we had to leave at 6:30am to walk up a hideous amount of steps to Machu Picchu. I struggled with my breathing again and could see the steam come off my arms and face :S
We finally arrived at around 8am. Too late to go up Waynapicchu (the mountain associated with Machu Picchu) but once we saw the height - and the steepness - we were relieved we hadn't 'missed much'. The people who came off it didn't seem to look very good...
We started off by going to the Puente Inka which was another walk uphill where you had to sign in and out so that they knew you hadn't died by falling off the edge. You could see the bridge but there didn't seem to be a path on the other side so there was nothing but wilderness and a sharp drop. Apparently someone had fallen off the bridge two years ago and died. Then someone had tried to help them and died too. Puente Inka (which means Inca Bridge in Spanish) was the back entrance to Machu Picchu originally.
 We then went and sat on top of a series of terraces looking out to Machu Picchu and stayed there for about half an hour, before breaking off in groups to explore the ruins ourselves.
At one point the sun was so hot we had to sit in the shade of some walls looking over yet more terraces.
From this site we could also see Hidro Electrica and the train track we had walked to get here.
Once the sun had been clouded over, we continued. The steps were almost hidden and rather precarious. We climbed to a platform that was used for stargazing and gave a panoramic view of the surroundings and then stopped again in the shelter of a strangely large hut next to the ceremonial rock. Paul found us at this point and we talked for a bit, and then we continued on with our 'tour'. The people from the Waynapicchu hike looked awful.
The way the ruins were so well preserved were amazing. We thought Gurthej got lost off a cliff side but it turned out to be some awkward steps.
Our last stop was on some wider platforms where we sunbathed and observed other tourists - Americans being the most amusing - before meeting the others at the baggage storage.
 We got our passports stamped and ate our lunch (bread and butter) before making our way back down to the campsite. It took 45 minutes to get back and everyone's knees were aching.
That evening we went back to Aguas Calientes. Not before Libby had tried to wash her hair in the river though! It was cold just dipping my feet in! She was in her knickers and bra when about five Americans (including three kids) and a Peruvian man came down to the river too.
In Aguas Calientes Kagg, Libby and I bought a plate of chips each - which we got a bargain for "for being pretty" according to the man on the door. This helped the pain of pasta, rice and spicy sauce for dinner. I managed to help Libby buy a whole chocolate sponge and she ate huge chunks of it on the walk back to the campsite. The American kids clung tighter to their parents as she passed moaning as though in labour. 
We returned to find Paul meditating.

Earlier that day when we returned from Machu Picchu, Paul had a go at some Peruvians as they had set up a toilet tent right behind Andy and Marshall's tent. It was rather amusing as Paul's shouting scared them with the noise not his foreign words as a guy came over swiftly about five minutes later.
*Picture below is people trying not to watch (and laugh) at the situation*
Many tears were shed that night over different issues and memories.
There weren't any stars that night and we also attempted packing our bags for the next morning. 
Sharing a tent with Kagg was an experience in itself :P Somehow most mornings she would end up taking up a large proportion of the tent, whether that was pushing me to the side of the tent (I woke up one morning with the tent side pushed into my face, condensation running down my cheek, and Kagg in the middle of the tent) or diagonally stretching across said tent. Love you Kagg! ;)

06/08/2009 - (No role).
Today we had to leave just before 8am for the Estacion de Tren Machu Picchu.
We arrived with about an hour to go  so a lot of people bought a big piece of chocolate cake for S/7 (most ended up sharing).
Tickets were handed out and we started boarding the train about 9:25am.
It took two hours to Ollantaytambo. We saw what actually went in the river as we passed a factory. Paul kept nodding awake in his sleep and Ellen looked like a kitten curled up asleep. Hannah and Marshall had an argument about the Bible and a group of others played charades.
In Ollantaytambo we took a lot of sample brownies before haggling for a coach back to Cuzco. The drivers irritated me as they swarmed like flies around you with prices.
Another two hours later and we were back in Cuzco, back at Hospedaje Amanecer. "It was like coming home."
Laundry was done and shopping continued where it was left off. I finally bought an Inca Kola t-shirt for S/8. [Inca Kola is like the Peruvian version of Iron Bru (a bubblegum tasting fizzy drink)]. We also bought cake at a cafe and then two 'kilometrica' pizzas. They were literally huge but so worth it!!
We were settled into the hostel again within two seconds: mess everywhere!

Next: Ollantaytambo Community Project!
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