|Headed for the train station,|
past the as yet unopened shops
At the station, everyone raced to the train station with oxygen deprived me, gimping along in the rear.
|The train station|
|The Machu Picchu Express awaited|
|The train interior was nice & lush|
|View looking towards the walkway from downhill|
(taken during my return later in the day)
I meandered around lost for maybe a half hour. Finally I spotted tourists lined up where several buses were lined up. Boldly (for once!) Panicked, I rounded on some guides. On of them spoke English and checking my papers, he shrugged, pointed to a blue ticket and told me it would gain me passage on any of the buses to Machu Picchu. Relieved, I boarded one such bus, which so help me had the narrowest aisle and seats of any bus I've been on in my life. I felt like I must have gained 500 lbs since the previous day.
|Glared view out the bus window on the way uphill|
I've heard the bus ride to Machu Picchu is steep, treacherous and terrifying. Uh... no, not really. The bus route went up hill but it wasn't any steeper than any drive in the California Sierras, or maybe the route is steep but how would I know? I'm not afraid of heights.
When I got off the bus, I realized the 7,972 foot above sea level altitude was still kicking my butt. I took my time climbing steps up to a little square where tourists milled about before crossing the gate onto the grounds of Machu Picchu. I was light headed and seriously needed a seeing-eye llama or better yet, a saddle horse. I sat on a low stone wall and was feeling good and sorry for myself. Then, out of the blue, a gentleman seated next to me and chatting on a cell phone shouted at the top of his lungs, "NORMA MILLER?"
I almost fell off the wall. "I'm Norma Miller", I shouted back at him.
Uh yes - "Norma" which I'm stuck with as it is my first name and it is on my passport.
The man was with Inca Connections which was actively - seated-ly - trying to locate me. He happily told HQ over the phone that he had found the lost tourist, Senora Miller. Then he told me who my guide was and how to find him so I could rejoin the tour. I told him there was no way I could hike uphill and keep up with a pack of snails, much less other tourists. He told me just to make sure I made the last bus back to the train station at 5 PM .
So I was off to give myself a tour of Machu Picchu. I showed the guards my official Peruvian government permit to tour the ruins, and I was on the grounds! After crawling up the rising walkway you see signs that mark Machu Picchu as... uh... well hell, they were all in Spanish so I don't know what they said exactly but I'm sure it was cool stuff.
Finally I made it to the first Y point where I could either go uphill, downhill or forgetaboutit. I decided to go uphill figuring if I went down, and couldn't get back up again I'd be Peruvian toast.
|As I tackled the ancient stone steps, old ladies|
wielding canes, raced past me, shouting "Vamanos Senora!"
|The view downhill from the switchbacks|
|Tourists were everywhere and I |
sincerely wished I had the energy to join them
I sat right by a structure the Peruvian Government had 'restored', adding a thatched roof. The government is restoring many structures of the ruins. No one really knows how the structures were thatched or what they may have been thatched with, i.e., straw, wood, what? I would have just left well enough alone myself, but that's just me.
|I sat by a structure with a thatched roof|
|A little distraction|
|Inca Orchid - the hairless dog of Peru|
I was jolted awake when the bus halted an hour later, and the bus driver yelled in broken English, "Senora! Los Niños Hotel!" I got off the bus, realizing the hotel's street was so narrow there was no way I could be dropped off at the hotel gate. So, off I drudged downhill, thankful it was and not uphill.
Then I freaked. I spotted a sign, "Los Los Niños Hotel" on the right side of the narrow street. Why did I freak? Because there are dos Hotels Los Niños in Cusco, and if this was mine, it would have been on the left side of the road. I was in serious danger of bursting into tears on that long dark street as I wondered how the hell I was going to make it to the correct hotel at 10PM when I had no clue where the hell I was... taxi?
"Senora!", a call echoed up the street. Hurrah! far downhill, on the left side of the street I saw the same hosteler waving at me from downhill. I was on the right street! I very nearly broke into a run as I tromped downhill, grinning like a jack-o-lantern, and profusely thanking him for keeping an eye open for me. Soon I was unlocking my hotel room door, where I took two big steps, and landed, WHOMP on my face on the floor. I'd forgotten there was a step just inside the dark room. Oh well. At least I was face down on the floor of my own damned room.