Peru Diary, Days 5 and 6

On Thursday we saw Machu Picchu! I wish I could have climbed more of it, but I’m just happy I managed to wheeze and cough my way up there at all. We left our hotel at 5:45 am in order to jump on the 6:30 train and be in Aguas Calientes around 8. Then there was the most vertiginous 20 minute bus ride I’ve ever been on. I cannot overstate how narrow the Hiram Bingham highway is or how steep the drop down the side of the mountain it climbs, or how FAST the driver was going.

In and of themselves, the ruins are pretty interesting, but what makes them spectacular is that the Inca put this citadel on a totally inaccessible mountain surrounded by innavigable rivers, in the middle of what I believe is called a cloud forest (a less jungly jungle…but still invasive and difficult to penetrate). Even now, with buses and trains and fancy hiking boots, it’s still inaccessible, and maybe there was a reason for that beyond defensibility. It certainly functioned as part of a network of Inca cities oriented according to the cycles of the sun and stars, and possibly it was the end point of an ancient pilgrimage (the Inca Trail), which might have taken its walkers on a long, symbolic journey through a landscape that was filled with religious significance. The Inca worshipped the sun, the Pachamama, mountains, and rocks. Nobody knows for sure exactly what Machu Picchu was, or what it was for, and probably nobody ever will. The mystery is, of course, part of the charm.

A llama tried to make out with my mom. I’m going to have to go back and add pictures to these entries (maybe). It was adorable when it cuddled up to her, but then things took a bad turn when my mom tried to keep its head still so my dad could get a picture, and the llama started making some VERY aggressive noises. Also, I was a really annoying person for like the first ten minutes of the tour because, guys, I read a BOOK about Machu Picchu, and goddamn if I’m not going to make sure the tour guide knows that I know what she might be talking about.

My parents totally punked out on climbing to the very top of Machu Picchu Mountain and so did I, so we ended up going back down to Aguas Calientes to eat some delicious soup at a place called El Indio Feliz. It was a pirate themed restaurant. I think? I mean, there was a lot going on, decoratively speaking. Every square inch of wall had some sort of knick knack on it. It was great, though. The food in Peru is fantastic so far. Eating is always a big deal for me on trips, because I feel like I’m spending so much money on food (compared to eating at home) that I feel obligated to search out great experiences, plus it’s such an opportunity to try new things. This trip has really rewarded my obsessive research, which is not always the case.

On Friday we took a car from Ollantaytambo to Cusco, where we will be for the next few days. We are staying in a hotel with really good beds and central heating (not the case in Ollan, though I really liked that hotel too)…it’s going to be hard to leave this fluffy bed behind when we move on to Puno. Anyway, my mom is sick, but my dad and I managed to squeeze in a walk around town. It reminds me a little of Florence, in both good and bad ways. It seems like most every house has an Inca foundation, and colonial architecture is everywhere. People are literally and figuratively living in their history. There’s a TON of tourists, and there can be something a little depressing about a place where everything going on is about the past. But, what a past.

I got to use my mom’s oxygen tank for a few minutes just now, and now I feel high. Weird. I really want all my clothes to be made of alpaca, and for there to be an oxygen tank available to me on my runs, like maybe a camelbak for oxygen. NO ONE STEAL THIS IDEA.

Also, I am wondering: what can I get away with wearing in terms of Peruvian textiles? Because I feel like I can’t really deal with a poncho, but maybe a sweater with llamas on it is ok.

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