The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Machu Picchu Trip

Click on the link to see the post.

Growing up, I was fascinated by the Mayans after doing a report on them. When I told everyone that I was going to Peru, many of those that knew about my interest congratulated me on being able to fulfill a childhood dream.
Besides that fact that comparing Incas to Mayans is like comparing Vikings to Romans (they both lived in Europe, didn't they?), I'm not sure if I ever dreamed of going to Machu Picchu as a child . . . I was, however, more then interested in going.

It's a long road to Machu Picchu from Cusco. As mentioned in a previous post we needed to head to
Ollantayambo before we could proceed further. With the choice between two buses for 5 Soles, or to split a taxi the entire way at 10 Soles each, we went for the later. We soon found a driver that agreed to take us to our desired destination if we could find a fourth person. We looked around a minute and found an older Peruvian man who wanted to go three quarters of the way to Urubamba. We were on the road!
When the driver let the older man off, however, he decided that he wanted an additional 10 Soles on the grounds that it was late at night (it was after 10). No go Buddy -we had agreed on a price . . . So he dropped to 5 Soles. We still refused to be taken advantage of -even if it was for an extra $1.50.
At that point the negotiations stalled. After two or three minutes of silence, he finally continued down the road. We had won . . . or so we thought, for he only drove half a block down the road, at which point he called over a large crowd of Peruvians.
Opening the front door (we were in the back) and the trunk, he motioned for them to all climb in. He had added an additional six people and a baby to his four passenger station wagon . . . to make matters more interesting, the four locals in the back (including the lady with the baby) all seemed to be drunk on Chicha -cheap corn alcohol.

Through our combined limited knowledge of a mutual language - bits of Spanish, English, and hand signals - we were able to establish what I have later dubbed:

The Ten Commandments of Traveling with Peruvians . . .

  1. They were indeed drunk on Chicha.
  2. We could have some if we so disired.
  3. We really ought to try it.
  4. Peru was a good country . . .
  5. and it was good that we thought it was good.
  6. The president was bad . . .
  7. Very bad.
  8. Something or other that they said in Quechua and we were thus unable to understand was a big problem.
  9. It was apparently funny that we didn't understand any Quechua
  10. The guy sitting behind me was named Walter.      
All of these ten commandments were repeated several times . . . untill we made it to Ollantaytambo.

We payed our driver and got out.

Ollantaytambo is a very interesting town -unlike Cosco which is mainly built in the colonial style, many of the buildings we built out of the original Inca stone, surrounded by walls and with a small stream running through it, we found the place enchanting at night. I also liked the stray dogs there, my friends in travel, however, did not. (While I am more then understand why Lubavitchers don't own dogs, and plan to do so myself, I often find it rather annoying that so many bochurim are afraid of things . . . it's almost ridicules to see adults panic in front of a poodle) 

Finding a decent place in for the night (The Andean Moon) at the "student" rate of 8 USD per person, we settled down for the next five hours.

Arriving at the train station, we borded our 5:45 train to Aguas Calientes.

There are two types of people who travel on vacations:
Tourists and Backpackers.
I like Backpackers, even though they are often dirty, I loath Tourists.

You see, backpackers are interesting people. They travel the world on a shoe string budget, and thus must be practical. Tourists not only are not practical, they can't - it's against their very nature. Backpackers will walk up a mountain, tourists we take a bus up to the top -and complain that the ride was bumpy, and too long, and that they ought to use something more practical . . . like a cable car.
Back packers wear hiking boots, tourists wear fanny packs, their passports on lanyards around their necks and large Safari hats with a picture of Machu Picchu printed on them. Backpackers take pictures of the ruins with DSLRs, tourists will only take pictures of themselves in front of the ruins . . . with their cellphone cameras. Backpackers try to learn about the local culture and language, tourists only speak in English, loudly and then wonder why nobody is smart enough to speak English like them.  
I could go on . . . Thankfully Tourists get up at 8:30 in the morning for the Continental Breakfast, and our train was at a quarter to six.

In which I learn that Los Angeles is much like Afghanistan -only shorter:

As we rode, I looked out at the Urubamba river winding it's way through the dry brush and yucca covered mountains. It reminded me of Los Angeles . . . only with bigger mountains.

Behind me sat a British man that spoke sounded like Howard Carter (skip to the 1:33 mark to hear him speak) or some other well traveled explorer who had seen all corners of the glorious British Empire, but would give nothing more then to be back in the Shire sitting around a fire with a good cup of tea and some crumpets.
He spoke about his travels to a group of enthralled Czech students as one would describe a trip to the corner store to a child.
  " . . . Indonesia was nice -a pleasant group of chaps they are, and the language wasn't to hard to learn either. Afghanistan was different -noble people they have there; very proud. I used to go with them into the mountains . . . much like the very ones outside the train now -really one of the most remarkable places that I ever lived in. Keep in mind now, that it was over 30 years ago . . . It's a good deal different now! You fellows are from Prague, Now aren't you? I do say it's a nice place -bloody good beer and a stellar football team to boot!"

And here I was thinking about the Hollywood hills . . .

We shortly arrived in Machu Picchu.

Taking the 7 USD bus, we wound our way slowly up the hill. At the top, after passing the Machu Picchu hotel (run by the Orient express, it goes at something like 715 USD a night), one goes through the entrance gates . . .

. . . and is greated by Machu Picchu's ruins.

There's something about famous land marks that loom in the sky, the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum in Rome, and Huanyu Picchu - the famed mountain that sits behind the ruins  -one seeks to photograph them from multiple vantage points, the item of desire slowly dwarfing all as one grows closer.

To go to the top of Huanyu Picchu, one most get there early . . . as they only let up 400 people a day, with the doors closing for entrance after 10 pm.

We ran to get there . . .

 . . . and even though my friends were worried that I had gotten them lost, we made it there.

The hike up is arduous -it takes close to an hour, and the stairs are steep . . . but getting to the top was amazing.

Tefillin on the way

Notice the road leading to Machu Picchu winding up  the hill

The summit of the mountain is nothing more then a few sparse stones, jutting up towards the sky . . . There was a sense of camaraderie between those who had made it to the top - though the climb is one attainable by most healthy people, the type of trip and personality involved was one that attracted the more adventurous -i.e. no tourists. 

There was an American named Kip who save sup money from working every year in NY to go abroad, two friends from Oregon on a bird watching trip, two Colombian ladies who work in Washington DC as experts on Latin American, and a whole group of Slovakians

With a Slovakian guy

As we left, we figured it would be worth walking down (what Jew will do to save 7 bucks). . .

. . . unfortunately it started to rain as we made the 4 Km trek.

On to the city . . .

and then back to Cusco. Unfortunately there had not been any return tickets in Backpacker's class (that's its real name!) so we returned in Tourist class (not the real name) . . . where we saw a kitschy native dance and an Alpaca fashion show.

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Sef said...

long live the backpacker!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, way to go - Backpacker!!
Gorgeous pics, woah!

Nemo said...

Who the heck keeps their shirt tucked in all the way up a hike like that? Seriously dude, get a t-shirt or something (and some hiking boots)

(Why do I feel the incessant need to comment on the way you're dressed?)

Mottel said...

-Sefirah: Thanks
-MM: ok
-Nemo: I was planning on wearing a t-shirt, but due to bugs, I wore a long sleeve . . . I just kinda tucked it in out of habit, and it stayed that way,

A Simple Jew said...

Amazing pictures!!! I was there many many years ago after hiking the Inca Trail with my parents and a tour group.

Anonymous said...

great pics makes me want to go their

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

I'll admit that these are some of my favorites of your travels, probably because of how blue the sky looks, how defined each piece of each ruin looks, and how the clouds manage to dangle like smoke in the air.

Not to mention many of these photos of you could pass as senior portraits (wallet size, to hand out to all your buddies).

Thanks for taking us along, again. Someday, G-d willing, I'll be able to trek the world as you have.

Anonymous said...

Dogs are evil little creatures with one intent; to bite us and infect us with rabies... They will stop at nothing. The average american stray will bark wildly if you attempt to approach. The bark may be worse than the bite and i never intend to find out just how bad that is. I think your dog desensitized you to the evils that face us in this dog world. I only pray that your eyes are opened before it's too late.

As for tourists... my only complaint is that macchu picchu would not have cost more than 10 dollars if those !@%#^ard would not have turned it into another disneyland.

Anonymous said...

Amazing pics Mordechai!!! You really feel the depth! One almost made me dizzy! Makes the ruins in Tchufute Kalei look like 0.5 on a scale of 0 - 10!

Anonymous said...

And the white shirt is fine! :-)

Irina Tsukerman said...

These are seriously worthy of the National Geographic!!!

Now I'll be dreaming about going all those places!

Jack Steiner said...

Dogs are evil little creatures with one intent; to bite us and infect us with rabies...

Anon, that is crazy talk.

Loved the pictures. It is on my list of places to visit.

le7 said...

The fans want to know, what sort of camera do you have?

Mottel said...

-LE7: You can tell the fans that it's none too special . . . Just a regular Fuji Finepix f10 point and shoot with 6.3 megapixels.
Didn't anyone ever tell you do with the tools that counts?
If someone would be willing sponsor a DSLR on the other hand . . .

le7 said...

I used to have one of those! It died in July though so I just upgraded...

This I have been told. When you know what tools someone is using though you can better judge them...

Mottel said...

I love this camera - it has an amazing battery, which is a must for travel. WHat did you get to replace it?

le7 said...

I have a Canon PowerShot A590. I love it!

Unknown said...

We went to Machu Picchu last year and had lot of fun there. It is very beautiful place to visit.Apart from this you can get cheap luxury hotels very easily.Newly renovated rooms, SUPER king sized beds, excellent location, an entire lounge dedicated to the concierge to serve you better.
Hotel in Machu Picchu

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Machupicchu 4 Days

Moona Liza said...

The citadel is important, because it has a great archaeological value and a variety of ecosystems. Machu Picchu symbolizes the excellent technical skill, and productivity of the Inca Empire in its apogee.

Dubai Dune Buggy Safari

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