Into the Land of The Incas

Hola Amigos.

After bidding a goodbye to the White City of Arequipa, I boarded yet another night bus, from quite possibly the most confusing and most dangerous bus terminal yet. Luckily Arequipa has only one main bus terminal so it is almost impossible for a taxi driver to take you to the wrong terminal, before demanding double the original fare again to take you to the correct one. If you have ever traveled in Peru, then you will know how common this is and how annoying it can be for you and your wallet!

Of course for every plus, there is always a negative to level things out and this certainly was evident here as I barged my way through the crowds of Peruvians en’route to my check in desk, which obviously was locared as far from the entrance as possible. My backpack soon became scared from the much unwanted attention of various light fingered indiduals and so it clung to my back all of the way.

Checking in was actually suprisingly easy and I eventually found my bus, after having to pay the guard at the exit to leave the station, something which I tried to avoid, but proved a little difficult with a 70 litre backpack moulded to my back.

Soon our bus made for the open road and so I was treated to yet another 8 hour sleep deprived night, with wheels avoiding certain death by a matter of inches.

A trouble free journey had our bus limping into a dimly lit bus station at just gone 5 in the morning and so after hitching up with a couple of Ozzies, jumped in a taxi and made our way to the Plaza de Armas in Cusco´s centre, where we hoped to find our bearings and satisfy our hunger. After nearly two hours in a small cafe on a side alley, we parted ways and made our way to different hostels, mine being Pirwa Backpackers, yet another hostel affiliated to The Flying Dog in Lima, a mighty fine Backpackers that I had grown quite fond of after repeated visits.

I had planned to spend a week in the Cusco region and ended up spending the first three days in the famous Inca city before making the journey into the sacred Valley and The Lost Inca City of machu Picchu.

I soon discovered Cusco to be a very pleasant town, with many well preserved buildings, churches and Cathedrals as well as a healthy number of leafy plazas, bars and cafes.

Later on my first day I soon got chatting to the other two people staying in my dorm, a typical Aussie girl with a broad Steve Irwin type accent and an Israeli, who owned a head of hair that had a mind of its own.

I ended up heading into town with them and had a great night and a cheap one at that, as we were offered various free drinks coupons from pretty girls patrolling the Central Plaza. With a temperature very close to zero, I soon realised that these girls must have been pretty nippy as they were dressed more for a tropical climate.

We spent most of the night in a great place named Mama Africa´s, not very Peruvian or Incan, but we had a terrific night nonetheless, as we danced with some of the local girls, very badly I must add, but it didn´t prove too much of a problem!

After having retired to blanket street rather late the night before, I spent most of the next morning in bed, before I headed to the Central Train Station, to purchase my train ticket to that famous landmark perched on the crest of a mountain. The train station proved to be typically Peruvian, as I queued for what seemed for an eternity, before I managed to purchase my ticket for an obsurd amount of money. Unfortunately all return tickets had been purchased already, by those with planning a little better than mine and so as a result was only able to travel back as far as a small town named Ollantaytambo, situated in the Sacred Valley. Whilst here i also purchased a ticket to Puno, as i had heard it was a celightful journey and so thought- why not?

I spent the remainder of the afternoon sitting in the Plaza de Armas, enjoying the sunshine and a good book, but was little disturbed when a teenager suddenly ran in front of me, closely persued by a gang of Policemen armed with Guns and batons. Unfortunately for the boy, he was caught and the policemen proceeded to beat nine bells out of him, right in the middle of town. He was eventually dragged to a pick up truck and bundled in, before it sped off. I suspect the chap had been caught with his hands in a till or some tourist´s pockets, but I do hope that he is ok.

Later that night, I headed into town yet again and ended up returning to the hostel at 6:30 am! I had heard that Cusco had a buzzing nightlife, but had no idea it would be this good. I actually met quite a few backapckers who had got stuck in Cusco for some weeks, seduced by life after dark. Funnily enough a number of these people happened to irish too. Make of this what you like!

A day or two later after the hazy eyes had cleared from quite an intense weekend, I made a very early start and took the 6 or so hour train journey up the sacred valley to a small non-descript town named Aguas Callientes, only a few kms from the Incan ruin I had been dying to see for years!

Being in backpacker class, every seat was occupied and I soon got to know my neighbours, a 20 year old British lad named Aser and his travel companion, a nice girl from Guernsey, named Jess. We chatted away en-route, mostly about typical backpacker things, such as where we had been, who we had met and where we thought the most beautiful people were! We ended up sharing a triple room that night and myself and Aser enjoyed a delicious Chinese meal for next to nothing. The waitress giving me the eye and winking made me eat in a hurry though!

The next morning we awoke to the sound of the alarm clock, informing us that it was 4:30am and time to get up. Finally the day had arrived and we all jumped out of bed and ran about like children on a snowy christmas morning, throwing clothes on before running to the bus stop in a hope that we might be the first people in the line and so first into the ruins. We were all a little dissapointed by the fact that there were already a good 20 people or so in the line. Had to take our woolly hats off to them though for making the extra effort.

As the bus finnaly arrived at just before 6am, I suddenly realised that somehow I had managed to padlock my pack shut and change the combination number. This of all days aswell. I spent the remainder of the day struggling to get things in and out of my pack and must have looked a prize plank! It was just as well people thaat I had one of the World´s wonders to distract the people !

At just after 6am, we were standing at that point, where that typical Machu Picchu scene can be enjoyed at its best. Unfortunately for the first hour or so, the entire site was shrouded in thick cloud, only very rarely revealing parts of the ruin. At this point there were hardly any people about and it all seemed very mysterious and other-worldly.

We took our seats and waited for the clouds to lift and with time they did just that and there was that view that we had all been dreaming of seeing ever since deciding to travel to South America. It really was quite an incredible moment and it certainly exceeded all expectations I had before I visited. I spent the remainder of that day just wandering around the ruins, taking far too many ( or not enough) photos, to show off when I eventually get home and hopefully inspire others to travel out to Peru.

If the actual ruins are not spectacular enough, then the scenery around the site just make it all the more impressive, with a river nearly encircling the mountain base and with towering forested mountains as a backdrop. Despite Machu Picchu being only being 5 or 6 hundred years old ( I must confess to thinking it was much older beforehand ), I certainly admire the Incas for their work and choice of location. Natural setting made the city almost impossible to attack,but hiking to and from the river for water,must have been a pain after a while!

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