Thursday, August 4, 2011
Napping at 9,000 feet. Huayna Picchu.
Okay, back to our recent travels.
After leaving Cuzco and taking the train, we arrived in Aguas Calientes. Its a tourist stop-over filled with hotels and restaurants and where you need to buy a pass to get into the ruins. We did actually run into folks we know! Hannah from Minneapolis, who was doing some kind of shaman training in Peru. We also ran into, Sam, a college student I met in Valparaiso. Small world.
Anyways, I (Laura) got up at 2am the next morning to save a place in line for the four of us for a 5:30am bus which climbs 3.5 miles of switchbacks up to the ruins. Why such an ungodly hour - so that we could be one of the first 400 people to enter the ruins and thereby be allowed to climb Huayna Picchu, or "young peak"in Quechua, which overlooks Machu Picchu, or "old peak".
At 6am when the entrance gates opened, we were one of the last to get tickets to climb! So we made our way through the misty ruins, saving it all for later, took a right at the llamas, stood in another line, and finally climbed a very steep and sometimes vertiginous (no railings) trail up 1,000 feet to the top of Huayna Picchu at around 9,000 feet.
We were all sweaty when we got to the top among the clouds. It was strewn with Incan temple ruins and tourists. We found a nice terrace that wasn't too near the edge and waited for the clouds to clear, so that we could see Machu Picchu from above. We snacked on Pringles potato chips and something akin to Powerade, our long awaited breakfast, and I napped!
The clouds cleared after 45 minutes or so and it was SPECTACULAR! The ruins lay below you, while everywhere else as far as the eye can see are incredibly high peaks, some of them standing on their own, jutting up from the tropical, snaking Urubamba River basin. Its lush and green and easy to imagine why the Incans chose this area to be close to their gods.
Well worth a night without sleep. :-)