Day 33 - Fri 4 May 07 - Aguas Calientes, Peru
Phew what a day! Up at 04:45 to get the first bus up the hill. Had a bit of a headache, so took some pain relief pills with breakfast. Walked down to the bus station and joined the queue, but it wasn't until a bus left that I realised that it was the queue for tickets, which I had purchased yesterday! Joined the next queue only to find that it was a group waiting for a bus of their own. So pushed up front and got on the waiting bus.
Got to the entrance at just after 06:00, and just after sunrise, but that didn't make much difference as the whole place was covered in cloud. I saw a group leader doing her patter in front of her group of tourists, and all they could see was white clouds. Classic!
I headed over to the far end of the site where you can climb Huayna Picchu for some great views over Machu Picchu. It doesn't open until 07:00, so I hang around and watch the Llamas. They open the gate early and let us all in. They limit the numbers climbing the mountain, and I'm number 4 on the list. The climb up was very hard, and in fact I climbed a bit too high and got to the very top of the mountain which was a bit too exposed for my liking. So I retraced my steps a bit and found some Inca terraces a little lower. Got some great views of the Machu Picchu as the cloud started to lift.
The climb down the mountain wasn't quite as bad as the climb up, and it was quite a good feeling to see all the other people struggling up! My round trip took about three hours. On the way out I saw one of the guys that was on the tour with me yesterday, he was off to do the climb. I headed back up to the Gate keepers house, and just sat there and took in the views.
After I'd got my breath back I headed off to see the Inca Bridge, a far easier walk and I got to see a lovely 'bridge' than spanned a gap in the walkway across a sheer cliff face. All they did was pile up rocks to fill the gap. Very clever.
After that I did another walk up to where the Inca Trail enters Machu Picchu. Blooming hot by this time, and my legs are starting to hurt so decide to head back down.
Back in Aguas Calientes I pop into the station to see if there is an earlier train back tomorrow, but there isn't. I toy with the idea of heading back to Cuzco today, but decide not to. I walk back to the hotel and then go to check my e-mail. I get an E-mail from the 'English Couple' suggesting that we meet up in Cuzco tonight, ant 19:00. I run back to the hotel, throw all my stuff in my bag and attempt to checkout - he tries to get me to pay for two nights, but in the end we compromise! Then it's a run down to the station where the train is already boarding. I have to pay about $6 to get my ticket changed for today, but after a bit of effort I'm on the 15:30! And who is sitting next to me? The Swiss couple! Fate was taking a hand - but I didn't realise how much..
You see the train arrives in Cuzco at 19:30, and the 'English Couple' had suggested 19:00 to meet up - I'd sent an e-mail, but would they have read it? But the Swiss lady tells me that they are getting off the train at the station before Cuzco, and taking a mini-van from there. Doing that saves time as it cuts out a lot of the switch backs the train makes to get down into Cuzco. So the plan is to get off the train with them, and see if there's space in the mini-van. Fate you see! If I hadn't met the Swiss couple, and hadn't sat next to them I might have missed the 'English Couple'.
Afternoon tea is server on the train, and after that we're presented with the train crew doing some traditional dancing, and then the conductor and conductoress did a cat walk show exhibiting some Alpaca wool clothes.
There was space on the mini-van, and I managed to get dropped right outside my hostel in Cuzco at 18:50! Checked in again much to their surprise (as I told them to expect me tomorrow!), and I even got the room with the original Inca Wall. A quick wash and then nipped around the corner to the Irish Pub to meet my pals!
Had a drink, caught up with all the news, headed for a pizza and ended up in the Cross Keys (where else?) for another quick drink. Feeling VERY sleepy now and it's just 23:30 before I crawl into my bed - a very happy man, everything just worked out!