Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Great Travel Experiences: Morning at Machu Picchu

There are two different ways to get to Machu Picchu . The easy way is to take the train to Aguas Calientes and then take a bus up to the ruins. It's a great way to do it, sitting on at rain through some stunning scenery, arriving at the small town, getting a beer and chilli while you wait for the bus, riding up the hill to the most famous ruins in the world.
It's a great way to do it but it isn't the best way. I've visited the site twice, once by rail and once by hiking the Inca Trail and without doubt the Inca Trail is the best way to see it.
Actually, from the Inca Trail the first sight of the lost city is a major disappointment. The hazy light renders the tree covered mountainside into a dull greenish grey against which the walls of the city are a dull brownish grey with no visual impact at all. Worse though is the vicious white zig-zag scar of the road which has been carved through the trees to carry busloads of tourists from the valley to the city. This is such a high visibility feature of the landscape that Machu Pichu would be insignificant by comparison if it were painted day-glo pink. To add insult to this monstrous injury the road has been crowned with a bus station and hotel with no attempt at all to blend them into the background.
That's only first impressions though and as soon as you dip down onto the trail that leads from the Sun Gate into the ruins you lose sight of both the road and the bus station and the closer you get, the better it gets.
We had arrived early, before the first trainload of daytripping tourists and so it was eerily empty. At a point that was still outside the city walls we paused on a grassy plateau looking down at the remains of the buildings. Our guide, Raoul, gave us a potted history and we listened attentively to his words.
As we sat listening to him a bank of cloud rolled in from the left gradually but inexorably eating away the view until we were looking at a white wall. He paused in his descriptions and silence fell. Then, just as gradually it dispersed, this time like a morning mist, first thinning and then vanishing, slowly revealing the city again. As it thinned, changing from a thick shroud of cotton whiteness to a vanishing series of lacy threads it was easy to imagine the city as it must have once been, populated and thriving. I could almost see the sunlight glistening on the gold hanging on the walls, almost hear the noise of the people going about their daily tasks, almost smell the llamas. As the last wisps vanished I realised that I could smell the llamas, a silent herd of them stood just one terrace down.We deceded the steps and entered the city.

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