Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Peru Trip: Macchu Pichu

Looking back at my favorite trips a common theme becomes evident. Self-guided wine tours and safaris, finding a nearly forgotten hot spring well off the beaten path in Iceland,  snorkeling in Caribbean waters off an isolated shore, hiking Irish trails where sheep outnumbered people 100 to 1 or family vacations where we just stayed and played.  The theme? Not being surrounded on all sides by tourists.

For examples, my least favorite part of Iceland was on the Golden Circle, Guinness brewery in Dublin, and any area near a cruise port (whether in the Caribbean, HI or Alaska).

So therefore I was coming into my time at Macchu Picchu with mixed feelings. On one hand I was uber-excited about seeing the place of Tin Tin and one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World. This place has probably been on my list of must do trips the longest.  On the other hand, it is one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World and attracts millions of visitors a year. Because of its scale it is hard to see, but if you look closely at any Macchu Picchu photo and you cannot help but see hundreds of other people.
At Ollantaytambo, I was able to climb my way from the droves, would I be able to here or would I be frustrated by the masses like I was at Denali?
A note about the train. If you do go to Macchu Picchu,  you will most likely go by train. Get a seat on the left. The views along the way are gorgeous and if you take an earlier train most people are sleeping so it's like you have it to yourself.

The solitude was shattered as soon as the train stopped in St. A. There was a line to get a bus ticket and then a line so long its end was out of sight to board a bus to make the short trip to Macchu Pichu. It took us over an hour of waiting to do the 20 minute journey. It only mattered because Matt had reserved us a hike up the peaks surrounding machupichu but I needed to start it by 8. I met a girl and her mother from New Orleans, Shelby and Sarah, who also were doing so we hauled over to the gate. We got there at 8:10 but the guy let us through. This meant however we had to pass all the other people allowed on the trail. Which was a lot.

In fact it seemed unlike Ollantaytambo,  the higher I went the more people were slowly moving ahead of me. And the climb wasn't for the faint of heart with narrow trails and sheer cliffs. But this just made it more frustrating with the backjam of tourists who were clearly not prepared to do much climbing but didnt seem to have any issue with stopping where ever they pleased which made it quite unsafe.  I got up to the summit which was enveloped in clouds and slathered with tourists all sitting around for their chance to get a photo of Macchu pichu. I opted out and quickly scrambled down.
But as busy as Huacapinchu was Waynapichu was just as empty. I hiked over to the smaller peak and I had the summit to myself with considerably  better view of the ruins without feisty European pushing me to get a better view.

So my brother doesn't like heights or sleeping crappy accommodations so there were already two reasons while I wss kinda glad he couldn't come. But it was on Waynapichu that made me really appreciate him not being here. On my ascent I must have stepped on a bees nest but was stung probably two dozen times. My leg is pretty swollen and uncomfortable. But Matt is allergic and I bet you he wouldn't have brought his epi-pen. See. Everything works out for a reason.

Then I went to the Sun Gate and this where the white hairs really got annoying. First off Peruvians with authority apparently love whistles. I first noticed this with police officers in Cusco but it get annoyed by it until it became unending as the guard tried to herd the masses. Plus the ruins are massive so to keep it organized they have devised a one way traffic pattern that courses circuitously through them but creates traffic jams as everyone decides its appropriate to stop in the middle of the path for photos. I literally had a person yell at me that I was in his photo. Did I walk in front of him on the path?  No he was about 150 feet higher up and apparently I got in this way. But most people didn't seem to mind the hundreds of people that would show up on their vacation slideshows that they would make too kind friends and family sit through. Why people would want photos of other tourists taking photos was beyond me but I took a few just in case any of you really wanted to see them.

Okay so my final impression of Machupichu???

It's all about management of expectations. The Macchu Picchu of my mind was different that the one I started to learn about as I researched our trip. Originally,  was expecting a hiking destination with some ruins rather than ruins with some hikes clogged up by people who, if a motorized vehicle hadn't done more than half the work for them, would probably would just have stayed in the market depleting the world of alpaca garb. Luckily there has been enough talk of the commercialization and tourist congestion,  thay my expectations changed. So if  you go in expecting to see amazing natural scenery with some pretty good landscaping and a bunch of short but hair raising (due to the heights and sheer fall potential), then you will be pleased. I do find it pretty amazing that while other societies at this same time were building fortresses and castles, the Incans were landscaping with plethora of terraces. Granted the mountains provided some pretty good natural protection. Well at least until the gold hungry Spaniards came along.

Seriously though it is really quite impressive and even more so as you start hiking a little off the beaten path. That is because you see all the ruins that haven't been touched. Peeking through overgrowth makes you realize just how massive this place was.
So anyway, yes its worth the trip. 

Its definitely worth the trip. My recommendation would be take the train in the night before, get up early and hike to the entrance. Walk around the main ruins before the tourist lines get so long that it becomes frusrrating and then be the first one to hike Hauchupichu. When people start coming up after you, skip over quickly to Waynapichu for some solitude and maybe breakfast. Then just as the hordes of people are getting off the bus, make your way up to the Sun Gate which after a bit of a hike will afford y
ou that 
iconic Macchu Pichu picture.  All before noon. Then hike down and get a massage or dip yourself in the thermal hot springs.

Remember though,  while Macchu pichu is pretty amazing, the surrounding countryside is just as amazing. Snow capped peaks, white water rivers, a plethora of FREE hiking trails and cheap food once away from Macchu Picchu makes Peru an outdoor enthusiast's dream.

The day when I traveled to Pisac with my sister and her husband, I realized just how many other amazing ruins and landscapes there are within an easy taxi from Cusco.

But I will save that for another day. I will leave you with some pictures.

Until next time,


No comments:

Post a Comment