Arriving at the Aqua Calientes train station was a bit like a zoo, mostly because of the sights, sounds, police, vendors and aggressive tour guides. I am glad that I arrived early as the scene would have caused me to have a Howard Hughes moment (that reference is for you, Coleen:)). This is the only train station servicing Machu Picchu
. Then, you take a 20 minute bus ride up a winding, single lane road with no shoulders to the reach the actual mountain.
The weather was pretty chilly, but I thought I was well prepared - or overly dramatic and more like the Michelin baby, depending on your point of view. You decide. I was wearing four layers of clothing (thanks dad and Larimers!), two hats, a scarf and gloves (thanks Primroses!).
Before beginning my trek, I stopped at a public restroom, where you are required to pay to enter. So, the attendant guards both men's and women's restrooms and makes you pay (33 cents) for one rotation of the toilet paper on the holder (I wonder if I could have gotten two rotations for 66 cents?) and proceed. The scene just seemed so funny to me.
I chose the looooong and treacherous* trek and NOT the short, tourist trek - again because I am (supposed to be) in such great shape. Within three minutes of climbing, I was sweating profusely, down to only one layer of clothing, gasping for breath, and already sitting down to rest. I was then taunted by some very fit hikers fully decked out....including walking sticks. Gracious.
There were many wonderful nooks and crannies to enjoy.
I kept running into the same few hikers, so we took pictures of each other. It was great to celebrate our climbing accomplishments together.
There were two rewards awaiting me at the end of the trek:
1. A MP stamp for my passport (for you again, Coleen).
2. More mate de coca and another carb snack at The Sanctuary Lodge
(where rooms are $1K/night) at the base of MP.
After sightseeing in the city square,
visiting the local church,
and honing my negotiations skills with a couple street vendors, I caught the sunset train back to Yucay.
Once there, I did (have some more mate de coca, of course) enjoy the special Machu Micchu foot massage offered by the hotel spa. I knew it was the last creature comfort I would have for a while. Later that evening, I experienced my second food adventure by eating a skewer of alpaca meat.
And Part Two of the journey begins...
*I know, I know, a little dramatic.