The Wonderous Inca Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (and scary ziplining)

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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
June 30th 2012
Published: July 19th 2012
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Day 3

We slept in a little bit, avoiding the alarms as much as possible. The walk to get breakfast was met with lots of Buenos Dias from everyone but no one actually meaning that it was a good morning. The hangover heads were visible from well across the valley I’d say! Luckily for us we opted to do a zip lining morning rather than trekking for the morning so I was glad of that! A small group opted to trek so we were divided for the first half of the day.

We arrived at the zip lining and to be honest I hadn’t really thought about it, just that I wanted to try it cos we hadn’t done it this far. We got geared up in our very attractive harnesses, braking gloves and helmets and then we had a 20minute uphill climb to reach the lines and we were all struggling. The amount of alcohol sweat from the group of us, I reckon if you were coming in the opposite direction you would be drunk! When we got to the top I realised that this was gonna be the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. John realised it too and kept nervously laughing in my direction. I didn’t look at the line or where it went, not for a while anyway.

Lots of us were nervous but lots of people went ahead anyway. One of our group didn’t make it to the end of the line. Oh shit, what if that happens to me??? I’m going into over thinking mode and I finally approach the line. I cannot believe it. It was so high and so long and Id only be connected by a fecking piece of rope and a karabiner or two. Our group were so encouraging though and I’ll always remember that!

It came to my turn, I was connected and it just was NOT happening. I couldn’t give up the control to just lift my feet off the ground and whizz away. John was telling me I had to do it; I was hoping I could just walk down the hill again. A Danish girl who was more scared than me was just pale and watching me freak out. I really couldn’t do it. Then I gave myself a bit of a talking to and I was off. And I was turning around facing the wrong way; I was not breathing, going across a valley and seriously shitting myself. I was still facing the wrong way and then I managed to turn around to see the guide smiling but then I stopped, not at the end…… Panic set in, I was urging him to come to me. He did and all was good. Then I realised that all the adrenalin had taken over my body and I had a burn on my arm from the cable. I couldn’t feel any pain cos I was buzzing from fear. I still have 5 lines to go and I was just so afraid. John arrived and I don’t really remember what I said but I showed him my arm. He looked so annoyed, saying that I’d have a scar. He tells me since that I was so buzzed up I actually smiled and said happily I got a burn. Funny how the body works!

On the next few lines I kept turning around but the guide gave me some tips on what to do with my hands. Each time I got to the end I was having serious panic attacks but the guides all helped to calm me down. By the end of the third, I was done. I had just crossed a massive valley and I got to the platform so afraid. I waited for John to come along and then I spotted this vertical climb up a rock face and I couldn’t believe it. Up I went and I mean when I got to the top I had a proper fight or flight attack. Nearly crying and all. I felt so sick from all the adrenalin in my body and I still had three to go. The next one was the highest and longest not only in Peru but in all of South America and my body was already failing me with fear. About then, I wished we had done the trekking this morning!

John was also finding it intense, or so he said….. We both agreed that we didn’t think that it would be this crazy when we signed up. The group were all at the next line. There was a backup because it was long. Everyone was pretty buzzed up or just wanting to get it done. Another one of the group also burned his arm on the cable too. I still didn’t care too much about the arm…. The wait was a bit long for everyone but some people were so brave. On this one you could let got, do whatever you wanted. There was also a challenge to hit a blue canvass with a water balloon below so some people were attempting that. I didn’t attempt anything. I was hurting myself from holding on to my hands to tight!!! The longest and highest one did seem to go on forever. I was so happy to put my feet on the platform on the other end.

By the last two lines I actually had a ball. The fifth one was the fastest and oh god I was flying along, I nearly knocked the lad out on the other end! And he right away put me on the last one; no waiting and I found that better than hanging around. John came zooming in after me and thankfully it was over!! We were both a bit relieved it was over I think but also I was so happy I talked myself into doing it. I can safely say I won’t be doing it again. Zip lining done and dusted thanks very much!

The arm was the next concern and when they tried to clean it with alcohol at the base camp, I cried like a little girl. I actually think I may have scared the guide a bit. Once the adrenalin was gone, the pain was intense. I was given ice and sent on my way… We were off to trek for an hour or so to meet the other group for lunch.

The lunch was just amazing. We were in a bamboo hut somewhere on the way to Machu Picchu and the place was so basic but the food was like something from a posh restaurant. The trekkers told us they had a terrible morning, walking in the burning sun on a dirt road with no shade, hungover as hell. Ok, ziplining was a good choice!

We followed the train tracks for the afternoon walk. The train comes from a town called Ollantaytambo to the town of Aguas Calientes at the foot of the hill to reach Machu Picchu. The walk was easy with trains passing, crossing a bridge that holds a train I don’t know how, walking along the tracks, taking in the sheer size of the mountains above and then we got a glimpse of the ruins on the side of the mountain and it was exciting! Nearly there!

We arrived in Aguas Calientes and were dispersed to numerous hostels around town. We got a lovely room with a view of the river and we had the sound of it to calm us too! The evening was met with talks about the ways to get to Machu Picchu the next morning, buying our lunches for the next day as the food up there is horrendously expensive, having dinner and being told the plan for the tour of the ruins. The decision that had to be made that evening was whether we were going to climb the 1869 steps to reach Machu Picchu or get the bus. John was clear he was doing the steps. I was thinking I wouldn’t make it but I couldn’t give in. We have done so many things on the trip together so far that I couldn’t just let him go off in the dark to do the steps. So we were going to climb them and then climb Machu Picchu Mountain. Ok a long day ahead the next day. Alarms set for 4am, Machu Picchu here we come!

Day Four

When the alarm went off, I felt like I had no sleep at all but up we got and we wandered in the dark towards the gate. It opened at 5am, they checked our tickets and passports and the steps lay ahead. The line of torches ahead and behind us showed the path we were to take for a short time. We started the ascent with one torch guiding us both; I had the iPod in one ear to drown out my breathlessness! Some people were clearly in a race but I had decided I was taking my time. We climbed for a while and met the road where the buses pass. Small blocks on the side of a wall led to the next ascent and this is the way the trek continued.

People passed us, others stopped to let us by and everyone had their own agenda on how to tackle the intense stepping machine. We met one girl who was clearly not motivated and we egged each other on. If it wasn’t for Calvin Harris, David Guetta and the Chemical Brothers I wouldn’t have done it!

As we got up the misty cloud forest wandered through the emerging mountains and the views were worth the climb. It kept getting brighter and this lifted the mood for me too. At about half way up I knew it was going to be fine. We met two of our group and they were finding it difficult because they had dodgy tummies from the night before. I would have found that near to impossible!

When we reached the top I was like a sweaty tomato but felt great for doing it. It took us about 1hour 15mins maybe but one fella from our group did it in an easy 35mins. To be fit! The other thing that made it all worthwhile was when we walked in to see the wonder that is Machu Picchu. It felt surreal. I couldn’t believe that we were here and that it looked just as impressive as in all those photos I have seen.

Our group congregated to watch the sunrise over the mountains to the right of the city below. As the sun rose every inch, the shadows changed, the rays caught different points along the valley and finally this ancient city itself. We had a great viewpoint and I think everyone was pretty impressed.

Our next challenge was to climb Machu Picchu Mountain. This is higher than the more popular Wayna Picchu (the mountain you see behind the city in all the photos) and we had bought the 10 dollar ticket so we thought we better make use of it. My legs were tired and I could have done with a rest after the steps but we had to be back to have our tour at 10.30am and it was now about 7.40am. So off we went, starting our climb.

This was a true challenge. Continuous steps, steep, uneven, never ending. We did the same as before and took our time but before long I realised I wanted to get to the top more that do the guided tour of the city so we made the decision we would go at our own pace rather than rush and not get to the top cos we (really I) was wrecked. There was another couple who basically were taking it at the same speed as us and we kept stopping at the same points, out of breath and sweaty but pushing on. We met some of our group now and again too.

Not long in, my legs and hips were wrecked. I popped two panadol and I tell ya I was flying. In fact I found it nearly easier than earlier in the morning and I may have been doing a bit better than John (ahem). Again, the more we climbed the views became more awesome. With that came steeper steps too and it was a good challenge.

We made it to the top at about 10am, feeling great and stunned by the views of the valleys all around. We had a quick bite to eat, chatted with some of our group and told them we would join the tour late. We then took it all in, took some photos of the views and the massive Inca rainbow flag. We could see the entire valley we walked through to reach the town of Aguas Calientes on one side, Machu Picchu straight ahead, the other trails that led to the city on the mountains all around. Beautiful and rewarding to have put in so much effort to get to see it all.

The descent was tough because the steps were uneven and steep. In fact going down felt a bit harder on the body than going up at times but it was also getting really hot. We were happy to make it back down and made the decision that we would get the bus back later in the day rather than descend the 1869 steps again. We did a total and we ascended about 4500 steps that morning and descended about 2700! That’s not including all the other random steps on the ruins!

When we got down we weren’t too late at all for the tour and found our group easily. For the next couple of hours we got a tour and information about the people who were here, about the ruins and the way of life. The ruins themselves are immaculately kept but I think that this could also be a testament to how well they are built. How these people constructed this city up here is just unbelievable. A lot of the city is not just built in random places either; there are close ties to the sun, the mountains, the weather all within different structures and planning of the whole place. The agricultural terraces are themselves a feat of forward thinking and how they farmed and took soil from more fertile lands to progress their produce and land further, some 2400m above sea level, truly was work of some very intelligent people.

By the time our tour was finished a few of us huddled to have some lunch, had a final walk around the ruins and decided that we would head back to visit the Hot Springs in Aguas Calientes. At this point, there were a lot of people in the city and it was just a bit too busy (they have a max of 3000 people a day). We had seen all we wanted to see and were satisfied that we had final conquered Machu Picchu!

We hopped on a bus back down (much easier than steps) and grabbed a well-deserved beer first! After this we all picked up our stuff from our hostels and met at the hot springs. To be honest, we should have stuck with the beer. These hot springs were murky, dirty, not very hot and I felt like I might catch something in there. Needless to say we didn’t stay in too long but the very quick blasting hot shower I had was worth it alone! We all headed to grab a quick bite before hopping on the train back to Ollantaytambo.

By the time we all got there the loose plans we had made earlier about going out were diminished. We trundled like zombies into a bus for another trek towards Cuzco. When we arrived, we made plans to meet the next day to watch the Euro Finals and made our final trek towards bed. What a tour! Four days of adventure, nature, trekking, dancing, drinking, hanging, stepping, befriending to top it all off in the Wondrous Machu Picchu. Four days we won’t forget for a long long time……

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