Friday, December 01, 2006

Machu Picchu

Cuzco is beautiful, enchanting and exhausting. The capital of the Inca Empire has some of the most stunning colonial architecture you can imagine. With ruins strewn around the surrounding hills and buildings built from the preceeding Inca stones it is an amalgalm of the cultures of the conquerors and the conquered.
A mild annoyance familiar to anyone who has travelled in Sth East asia are the inscesant hawkers selling paintings, finger puppets and massages, leading to the automatic response of ´no gracias, no gracias...´
Cuzco is for most the embarkation point to Machu Picchu. For us it was no different and a 4 day trek on the original Inca Trail was to take us to the famed site.
We had heard that it was a challenging walk, but given the amount of people who do it and our good ol´kiwi camping skills we figured that it would be almost literally ´a walk in the park´.
The first days trekking seemed to prove our suspicions right but the second day was to put it lightly - gruelling.
2-4 hours of solid uphill stairs with a pack carrying all your gear and another 4000 steps on the other side lend credence to the name ´dead womens pass´.
Of course I considered it my duty to show the rest of these ´soft tourists´the way by walking at a good clip and scaling the pass in 2 hours, following this the next day with super speeds into camp. Of course by the last day I was completely rooted (to use the kiwi vernacular) and was forced to hobble to Aguas Calientes sideways down yet another inhumanly steep inca stair case with a gammy knee and an exhausted body.
The city of Machu Picchu itself was as amazign as you can imagine in terms of architecture and pure historical wonder. However the mystical jungle passes and smaller ruins on the way there held much more fascination for me. Standing on the top of the mountains proceeding the entry to Machu Picchu, looking out of mist covered jungle, standing on the very same stones that Chaskis (Inca Warriors) had trod some 600 years ago, gave the feeling of being an intrepid adventurer. Walking out of MP and seeing the $US500 ´Sanctuary Lodge´ literally on it´s doorstep, with tourists strolling a few steps up and into the compound certainly didn´t!
A must do, something I wouldn´t trade for the world. MP is amazing but the trek to get there sure adds weight to the addage that the journey is often more rewarding than reaching the ´goal´.

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