the last man in machu picchu

27 Aug

top of machu picchu mountain. its windy, a bit cold, its somewhere near the end of august

when my pen first touched this pad, no words were coming to mind. i was exhuasted from a week of trekking and spent time sleeping amongst the different ruins, perhaps in the servants old housing, storage units, or perhaps in an old temple.

i had a picture of che guevera in my mind leaning back against the ruins, scribing away in his notebook, using words that would change the world.  as for me, i napped instead.  I  couldn’t find the inspirational words i was looking for even though i was among one of the most amazing things i had ever seen.

one of the first things i noticed sitting on the top of the mountain, looking down at the ruins, was how many layers of mountains there were. 1,2,3,4,5, maybe even 6 unless my eyes were deceiving me.  machu picchu seems to be dead in the center of a monster range of peaks.  some covered with grass and trees, a dinosaur in the midst of a jungle,  others too tall for vegitation lie surrounded with clouds and naked rock.  Argentina, Chile, Brazil, I’ve hiked on trails with gorgeous scenery but never have i ever before seen such a far reaching range, extending further than your eye could ever see.

Ruins 163

the trip to machu picchu started some four days earlier.  first there was a rapid fire bike ride down the side of a mountain, one of the most exhilarating bike trips i have ever undertaken. then it was a night spent in a luxury motel. no pool to speak of but there sure was one nice gas station and five beds to a room.

Ruins 002

Ruins 017

my compatriots for the week consisted of a lobbyist, two corportate lawyers, an investment banker, two newlyweds, and a health care reporter.  it was a change from the marxism of the month before.  i was 10 minutes late the day we set out (the equivalent to being 20 minutes early in South America) and I was met with a confused van of tourists.  They thought I wasn’t coming.

Dinner wasn’t always the most interesting, only a few beers early on would help with the awkwardness.  Meanwhile, A few rottweilers, skinner than usual, milled around and waited for our leftovers.  I was glad they were there to provide an easy distraction.

Sleepy and bug-ridden, the next day was a fun walk through jungles, valleys, and old incan roads.  At the start of it all, we passed by an old ghost town, completely abandoned now save one old bar on the verge of collapse.  Each night the bar would have a different flag outside its door. Red meant it was couples only.

Ruins 018

Wild tropical fruits grew all around us and our guide made sure we tasted nature’s flavors.  Chocolate, bananas, pineapples, and oranges grew in all different directions with no owners to speak of.

High up on a hill, we passed by a family who served up some homegrown coffee.  They were tourist ready and even had an animal who could drink from a Gatorade bottle with two hands.  There we also met a man, 98 years of age, who had supposedly met Che Guevera and fought besides him in Peru.

That night we would sleep in tents just a few minutes walk from natural hot springs.  I was impressed by the tourist company’s logo, which outfitted every piece of equipment that we had.  What seemed like a spontaneous choice based on Yura’s recommendation was actually a trip with one of the area’s top agencies.

The hot springs were cool.  Perfect actually after a day of hiking.  It was that night though that I really began to crave some company.  With a group full of couples, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to travel with a girlfriend.  Looking back on it now, Machu Picchu was never a trip that I waned to take alone.  There was Lauren and Kaitlyn that had wanted to join me too but for some reason things never worked out.  I think it was because I didn’t want to comit to a certain time and place to be in Peru.

Our last day of trekking took us alongside train tracks for the first portion and up along ladders for the second.  We were rewarded with a view of Machu Picchu, ableit a somewhat cloudy and cold one.  There it was, waiting for us.  It was exciting.

At about half past three in the morning, we set out in the dark to get to the gates bright and early and before the rest of the masses.  Already the slacker of the group, I went through great pains to make sure I’d get up on time.  A few months in Bolivia as well as back to back buses had taken their toll.

The hike up through the dark was fun and competitive.  We weren’t the only group in town with the idea and it turned into a race up the mountain, at least for me, especially when two french dudes running up the hill passed me..

But while my group and I got up the mountain pretty fast, our guide would take much longer and was nearly an hour late.  What was a somewhat frustrating experience waiting for him had some quirks as well.  We milled around the cloudy ruins and Machu Picchu felt like an ominous cementary.  There weren’t that many tourists. Not even later when the buses would all arrive.  There were definetly enough incan stones to go around for everybody.

The tour was real interesting, even if the guide did seem a bit bored to hear himself tell the same exact story yet another day.  We climbed a small mountain overlooking the ruins in the early afternoon.  Tiny precarious steps and fantastic ruins marked our hike up.

Then, when most people had to make their way down to catch the buses and trains heading back to town, I had the mountain and all the ruins to myself.

I made my way down slowly, meeting a girl who reconginzed me from buenos aires some 8 months earlier and made the decision to hike to the ever higher machu picchu mountain – which is where i find myself now.  it was windy and i was tired, but i was glad i took the lawyer’s advice to bring food and snacks with me.  They were heavy but delicious.

When it was time to leave the grounds for good, the sun had set and the ruins felt creepy. the ghosts of incan pasts were making themselves felt and I hurried out towards town, anxious not to anger too many guards on my way out for staying too late.

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