The Machu Picchu "money shot"
Over a period of 6 hours this amazing sight was slowly revealed. Sort of like those page 3 girls hidden behind the KP nuts down the local.
Firstly I realise that this is a break in the tradition of alternating who writes each blog - but please forgive me as I have something to "shout from the rooftops!!" - At approximately 1.45pm on the 22nd of May Carla agreed to marry me.
The full story goes (for those interested) that I woke up on our final day in Cusco and had the urge to do something about a proposal (maybe it was the beautiful surroundings - although I blame the coca tea!) so I excused myself after breakfast in the hostel saying I was going to "buy a coke".
I had no plans of exactly when I wanted to do it, but knew I wanted to propose with a ring and after spotting a small cobbled street with at least 3 jewellery shops near our hostel I decided on a travellers budget and headed off at great pace (I only went to buy a coke remember).
In the third shop I found a very dainty silver ring with a pretty large diamond (well it looked like a diamond!!) and after using my little finger as a guide I decided the size was close enough and after
The sacred wishing stone of Machu Pichu
I was actually wishing for UEFA to declare Inzaghi had taken banned substances and award the game to Liverpool.
attempting to explain to the ladies in the shop it was for my girlfriend (in Spanglish) I managed to get a heart shaped presentation box thrown in.
I had now been gone half an hour so quickly bought a coke and ran all the way back to the hostel - which is not a good idea when your 11,000 feet above sea level - meaning I arrived back gasping for air with the ring carefully hidden in my bag.
I made an excuse about trying on an Alpaca jumper which seemed to work and let out a sigh of relief (which is pretty difficult when you're gasping for air) until Carla told me that she had lost some information on one of our bank accounts and wanted to look in my bag IMMEDIATELY so she could access our account on the t'interweb.
Now the bag in question is the one I am always wearing in photos and its size meant it was already bulging and couldn't be opened without displaying the heart shaped presentaion box inside.
"No you can´t !" I said
"Why not - what are you hiding ?"
I had been rumbled, so panicked
Heart shaped box
Ok, so it might not blind you with its beauty, but its the thought (and the heart shaped presentation box) that count.
and said I had bought a "present" which she now couldn't have because she had spoilt the surprise.
An hour later we were sat in the beautiful Plaza de Armas having coffee and I had been asked approximately 50 times...
"What's my present? can I have it yet?"
...so decided to take the bull by the horns and suggested we go and sit in the sun on the Cathedral steps. I must admit I felt very nervous by this stage so after waiting for a protest march to go past and shooing away 3 kids selling postcards, the moment seemed right so I leant over, completely forgetting about the "one knee" thing, told Carla I loved her and asked her to marry me.
Now an onlooker (of which there were many) may have told you that my voice was shaky and that I was crying slightly at this point - but they would have been mistaken and although Carla´s first reaction was...
"are you serious Paz ?"
...producing the heart shaped presentation box did the trick and the rest, as they say, is history.
The remainder of the day is a bit of a
The 7.01 from Cusco
If you miss the 7.01 from Cusco train station it takes so long to zig-zag up the mountain that you can run up the hill and catch it at the top.
blur but involved our final Spanish lesson, skyping our parents with the news and celebrating with a slap up meal in Cusco´s trendiest restaurant 'The Witches Garden' after collecting the resized ring (it had been 4 sizes too big) and returning to the steps where this time I remembered the 'one knee thing' and thanked Carla for making me the happiest man in South America.
The following day we boarded the 7am train bound for Aguas Calientes - the stop off point for Machu Picchu.
After the train had spent approximately one hour doing 'switch backs' (zig-zagging backwards and forwards up the side of a mountain) we headed off into the beautiful and spectacular Andes and announced our recent engagement to a large group of Americans led by Eric and Aleysha who were sharing our carriage.
4 hours later we said goodbye to our new American friends, who had jumped off the train early to hike the final 14km ad arrived at our destination.
After checking into the hostel my first priority had been to find somewhere showing the Champions leage final, which was due to start at 1.45pm. This proved to be
The nervous Llama
what you can't see is Carla behind the camera licking her lips and holding a knife and fork.
harder than expected but with an hour remaining until kick off we found a Peruvian pizza place willing to let me watch Spanish ESPN on their TV on the promise we ate their pizzas and drank their beer.
3 hours later I was a little pissed and along with the whole restaurant staff (including a large green parrot) and an Argentinian backpacker, who had all agreed to be Liverpool fans for the day, very sad.
In my slightly unstable condition I decided that as Machu Picchu was one of our most anticipated sites of the trip we should go to bed early and catch the 5.30am bus to the main gates the following morning thus beating the crowds and catching the sunrise over the Inca city.
Gringos in the mist!
It was only as I sat half asleep on the bus climbing its way to Machu Picchu´s main gates that I realised I had never seen a Travelblog, guidebook photo or postcard depicting 'sunrise over Machu Picchu' and as we arrived at the ticket booth I realised why. 6am at this altitude means only one thing, very low clouds, and as we walked into
The arty black and white romantic shot
The ring doesn't look quite as cheap when seen in black and white
the site we could for all we knew have just paid to enter an empty field as the thick pea soup fog meant that we couldn´t see a chuffing thing never mind a sunrise.
Not to be deterred we decided to walk to the 'classic view point' hoping the mist would lift, but after getting lost and hiking an hour uphill in very thin air we reached a place called the Gate of the Sun only to find the mist even thicker.......... then it started to rain and I got in a mood. As we got back to the main entrance I was still in mardy bum mode and seeing that it wasn´t yet 8am was close to jumping on a bus, going back to bed and returning the next day even though it would have cost us another 40 quid to get back in.
Thankfully my new fiance told me to snap out of it and after a bacon and egg butty the rain stopped and we decided to pay a tenner for a personal 2 hour guided tour of the city. This was a great decision, not only did we learn all about Machu Picchu but
The size of our smiles should tell you it was worth the wait
The future Mr and Mrs Parry enjoying the unbelievable sight that is Machu Picchu
the mist slowly began to lift bringing every temple and section we visited into clear view, but also the spectacular mountains and valleys that surround slowly became clear giving the whole place a really mystical and eirie ambience.
By midday we had learnt (although as the Inka language was only spoken and never written a lot of this is hearsay)......
Machu Picchu was built in approximately 1420 and abandoned in 1540 unfinished.
The Spanish never found Machu Picchu but word spread along the Inca Trail from Cusco that they had arrived which sent the whole 1,200 population deeper into the jungle.
Machu Picchu served as a huge religious site, housing only Inca priests and their servants.
In 1911 an American named Hiram Bingham 'discovered' the lost city beneath the thick jungle and with permission of the Peruvian government spent 5 years clearing the site.
What now stands is 60% completely original, 30% semi-restored and only 10% rebuilt - which is testament to how advanced the Incas were in earthquake proof engineering.
Hiram Bingham announced that no gold or silver was found during the unearthing of Machu Picchu, but returned to the US with 125 unmarked crates.
The mighty Rio Urubamba
My travelling hero is Micheal Palin, and it was mainly through watching his adventures as a kid that I got the bug to come to South America. I also remember how exciting the phrase "the mighty Rio Urubamba" sounded, so was pretty happy to eventually get here.
Bingham clearly nicked all the treasure from Machu Picchu.
After the tour the cloud had lifted just above the highest of the moutains that surround the city and we finally got the view from high above that all the Americans referred to as 'the money shot'. It was only lunchtime at this point but we had been waiting for over 6 hours - and maybe that added to the experience - but it was worth it and even the mass of one day tour groups and the odd lone cloud that drifted by couldn´t take away from how spectacular the view was and we found ourselves a quiet grassy terrace and just sat back and took it all in.
After eating a couple of muesli bars we plucked up the energy to walk 40 minutes along a narrow path leading to an abandoned Inca bridge and here we saw our first and probably last ever Hummingbird, which showed no fear and at one point hovered about 30cm above Carla´s head....pretty magical.
By the time we took the bus back to Aguas Calientes we had been at the site over 8 hours and considering the day couldn't
Carla plays Inca "knock down ginger" during our mammoth 8 hour Machu Picchu visit
have started out any earlier or more dissapointing - it turned out to be one of the best so far.
The future Mr and Mrs Parry
PS - We think the big day will be in June 2009!
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