Machu Picchu

May 31

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Let's face it, 5am is an obscene time to be getting up, especially if it's dark and very cold outside. After the usual morning scramble we took our pre-packed bag and minimal photo gear (consisting of camera, three lenses, three batteries, 7GB in memory, and a tripod) and went to the lobby. Our other bag and my photo bag would stay behind in storage. In the lobby we were already expected by Holber, our tour guide, the same nice man who was showing us around Cusco on Monday. We were driven to the train station where we embarked on the all first class, almost non-stop train to Machu Pichhu, which is a 3:45 hour ride away. We learned that there is also a second class train for the backpackers, and a third class train for the locals, but that one takes over 6 hours to get there since it stops everywhere. Still, could have been an interesting experience, to be sharing space with natives together with their livestock. On our train we were served breakfast - tea, fruit, a sandwich, and a sort of a cake, like my grandmother used to make around Christmas. As the train was making its way out of Cusco steep uphill on switchbacks we could see the poor and poorer sections of the city, where people live in extremely simple houses along with chickens and pigs running around. And stray dogs everywhere. Hundreds of them. Bizarre mixtures, and oh so many, everywhere, sleeping, or just running around in large or small groups.

The train ends in Aguas Calientes, where we switched to a small bus which brought us to the Sanctuary Hotel right by Machu Picchu. We dropped off our bags and Holber guided us through the ruins. Holber's enthusiasm for ruins, stones, and pretty much everything is incredible, so we got a very good overview of the ruins - the cultural, ceremonial, scientific, residential and agricultural areas of the ruins. I will not go to any great details about the history but will leave that to the experts. Let's just say that the experience is really incredible. So many things are so hyped up, we were afraid this one may be, too. Well, it's just as everyone says, and better. Pack your bags and come here.

Click on the first image to start a slide show for this day (54 pictures)
Images shown below are a small selection.
In slide show, click on image to return to index.

Once Holber left us, heading back to Cusco, we had a quick lunch and went back to the ruins. It felt like by 14:30 about 90% of the tourists left - most people are just here for one day, or rather, 4 hours. This left the place almost exclusively available to us and a few other visitors, most of them staying at the Sanctuary Lodge. About an hour before sunset we joined the majority of the people at a high elevation overlook of the ruins, giving us a full view of the area, most common on all postcards. Surprisingly, most people left there even before sunset; just a couple of British guys and us stayed until sunset, burning film - and in my case, gigabytes. Nobody really knew when the place closes its gates, so we waited and waited until it was almost completely dark. I was hoping to get some shots of the hills and mountains with stars above, but unfortunately there was no moon and by the time stars were visible, nothing else was. So we packed up, and with help of our flashlights headed home. We learned that the gates close at 18:00, or 20 minutes ago, as we were quite vigorously escorted out by the gate keeper. Our only consolation from our sheer guilt was that there were two more people behind us.

After a thorough shower and a good dinner we did only a very quick filter pass of the pictures, still leaving us with 4.4 gigabytes, most of them almost identical from the time around sunset. It will be a pain to go through at home; today, we just wanted to sleep.

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