Saturday, June 27, 2009

I can die now

macchu pichu is the most over-rated tourist destination on the planet-PSYCH!

forget all superlatives, which are rendered forever insufficient. macchu pichu effortlessly surpasses my previous favorite places and takes the prize. nothing even comes close to the grandeur of its natural setting, which alone is worth the trip. situated between two rugged tree-clogged peaks in a sort of saddle high above a roaring river valley at the border of the amazonian rain forest, macchu pichu is worth all the effort and expense. do i wish i´d hiked? would i have enjoyed spending the night there, climbing wayni pichu for the view? sure, but even catching the train and the bus from aguas calientes is a magical experience.

the train from cusco took three hours, and actually descends three or four thousand feet en route. we took the vistadome, which has assigned seats and a nice breakfast included. there are spectacular views of the andes along the way.

aguas calientes is a bit of an eye sore with its half-assed construction and new agey groove, but it is nowhere near as bad as the Lonely Planet guide made it out to be. we had a good time there, and met a parrot in a tree who said ola and whistled and made baby noises at us-at first we thought it was a child taunting us from a nearby balcony, but no. we also saw a hummingbird, which actually alit for a moment and regarded us regarding him before he blurred away dragonfly fast.

the bus ride up is not for cardiac patients. i nearly shat myself four time in 20 minutes, what with the switchbacks and the crumbly one-lane roads with buses running two directions. several times we inched painfully close to the ravine to allow another bus to pass, and i could stare straight down several thousand feet at the rusting carcasses of previous, less lucky buses. i can only hope the folks aboard died on the way down.

that´s the first thought i had in macchu pichu itself: i can die now. i´ve seen and done what i needed to see and do. the incas certainly surpassed any urban aesthetic planning i´ve seen elsewhere, and did so half a millenia ago. then, once we finished our tour* and started climbing around, i realized that i actually could die now. a few stairs and paths and terraces lead directly to the abyss. watch your footing.

tho we were pooped cha insisted we climb to the guard´s hut, and though it was exhausting it was well worth the views of the city. we had a lovely 80 degree day with spectacular blue skies. roving clouds would catch on the surrounding peaks, veiling them mysteriously for a few minutes before drifting on. the light continuously changes, making a new dramatic view of the city every few minutes.

we of course missed the June 21st solar alignment spectacles by a few days, but we saw all the stuff: temple of the sun, temple of the condor, the astronomical measurement stones, the temple of three windows, the southern cross stone. maybe i´ll upload pix tonight if nobody is using the pc´s later.

we´re getting pretty remote tomorrow. we leave at 8am to visit the Uros people, who got so fed up with the bullshit violence on shore centuries ago that they built rafts of reeds and they have a sort of floating village on titicaca. thence we´re off to amantani island to stay overnight with a native family and participate in a coca ritual at the sun temple. then we have a trip to taquille island and the curious sillustani ruins the following day before flying back to Lima, taking the bus to Nazca to fly over the lines, and then back to Lima to wind down. This trip has already lasted forever, and we´re unbelievably not yet halfway done!

*must remember to look up books by our tour guide, Darwin Camanche. Anyone with the name Darwin Camanche has to write good books.

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