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5:30am…

…And the both of us jumped up right on time. The bus left at 6:30am, we had an hour to get ready, pick up our tickets and get our seats.  The agency where we had to go wasn’t too far, so we didn’t see it as being much of an issue…

…That was until we got to the building and found the office dark and empty!  6:00am, uh oh. A brief moment of “what ifs” flashed in my mind when I tried the number I was given and no one answered. 6:10. Oshi…

Thankfully around 6:15 a woman came jogging across the street and led us into the office. Envelope of officials in hand, she motioned for us to follow and we returned into the street, around the corner we found our bus.

We checked our names off the list, took our seats and ONWARD!!!

Our destination was two hours away, Ollantaytambo. There we’d find the train that would take us to Aguas Calientes, the small town at the base of Machu Picchu that would serve as our launch point before we made the climb. Our train left at 12:45, but the bus got us to our first stop around 9amish. We had time to kill. There was an earlier train but the gap in between was intentionally fixed into our plans so we could explore a bit. Above the town of Ollantaytambo was a host of ancient ruins built into and on top of the mountains that Steve wanted to check out while we were there.

But first….LUNCH! (Or breakfast, whatever. Food happened.)

Ahh delicious. The food was almost as good as the hangover-curing lemonade.

Toward the end of our foodening, an SUV pulled up dangerously close to us. Since we were outside and being near the road, I thought it was gonna plow into our table, but stopped just before and we stared at it with curiosity. The windows rolled down and out popped the heads of about eight familiar faces. My neighbors, the gypsy companion, German, and a few other beautiful people all smiled back at me from inside the vehicle.

“Wha!?” “What are you guys doing here!?!” I said with a curious exclamation. I was two hours away from my house and somehow I ran into EVERYONE.  Energy and happiness renewed!

“We just had an outdoor ceremony, let us park and we’ll see you in a second”. Ahh, I had heard about the outdoor fire ceremonies they were referring to, and so wished I had the chance to participate in one. (This takes place BEFORE I was asked to help during such a ceremony. Previous entry: The Flame Keeper)

We talked for a bit when they returned, but we were on a time limit, so we didn’t hang around for too long.

We entered the ruins (after a failed attempt at sneaking in, 70soles was pretty expensive) and paused at the base of the mountain to observe the scene in front of us. Beautiful stonework, and more large terraces carved into the mountain with signs of structure nearing the top. Speckles of color and the distant sound of voices scattered the mountain from the ant like tourists scurrying about.

We strolled and scanned the lower ruins, stopping to take pictures and talk to lovely ladies before we made our push toward the top.

The climb was little steeper than we thought, and the sun had melted the clouds away and presented itself in full force. By the time we made it to the top, we were sweating pretty steadily. It wasn’t a hard climb, but it was a hot one that’s for sure. I dunno if it was ancient or placed there due to tourism, but thank you whoever put the bench at the top. The cool stone was a welcome ally to my collapse.

We paused and sat in silence for a few minutes, clearing our heads and replenishing ourselves with the fresh, cool air of the mountaintop. I’ve found out here, time and time again, that words do little and fall short in situations like this. The world’s most colorful adjectives do little to capture the vast spectrum of things that run through you when you find yourself in a place like this. Best course of action, for me at least, is to stay silent, take it all in and smile.

Visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo

Our descent came swiftly, tumbling down the trail before we found ourselves standing at the gate of the train station.

We got there just in time too, the line to get into the station doubled and tripled behind us. By the time we got to go in the line had disappeared around the block.

And there it was, patiently waiting on the tracks and buzzing with workers. Step Two.

I’ve heard about this train since I got to Peru; saw pictures of the spaceship like interior and heard of the views while in transit. Before long we found ourselves pushing with the crowd, trying to find our seats.

With a shudder and a lurch forward, we set off for Aguas Calientes!

And there it was, Step three. Our base of operations, a tiny town at the foot of Machu Picchu would house us for the evening, and in less than twelve hours we’d be making the climb. Surrounded by mountains and forests, the only way in and out of the town was by train, or by foot.

Before we started exploring though, we had to find our hostel. Which should have been as easy as walking through the front doors…but it wasn’t. It literally took us almost an HOUR, maybe longer to find this place. For some reason, that reason is still unknown to the both of us, the hostel business card the woman gave us had a DIFFERENT name on it than the actual hostel BUILDING in the town. So we’re walking around, looking for one thing, when it’s called something completely different. We asked, through broken Spanish, police, businesses, pedestrians, no one had any idea. Calling the number was no use either; if anything it just made me angrier to know I apparently, “had the wrong number”.

We were set on buying a new room, because this was getting ridiculous now. I took one more shot at finding this place before saying screw it and going elsewhere. “It’s right there,” said a woman in accented English, pointing to the building directly across from us. “Wha…?” was my only response, looking at the name. That wasn’t it, not if the big red letters on top of the building had anything to say about it, but I figured I’d go in anyway. And there it was, behind the reception desk a small sign with the name that matched the business card. “Wha!? Why!? Huh!? What the hell!? The sign that matches your business card is behind tinted glass, BEHIND a desk?” Whatever, we had the keys.

Frustrated, but more exhausted and dehydrated than anything, we dropped our bags and collapsed on the beds for a few minutes. Cold shower. “Well, looks like I’m gonna be the smelly kid!” I murmured through the pillow I had previously collapsed into.

After that things got back on track. We cased the town at a slow pace, taking it all in. It was about the same size as the town I was staying in, but the energy was completely different. A welcome change, that’s for sure; where I was staying, the town shuts down around 5pm every day, here? It seemed like things were just getting started. Lots of live music, people everywhere, a lot of bars and outdoor seating, this town definitely had an energy that resonates well with me.

Oh and also hot springs. Hot springs you say!? YES. Hot springs, I hadn’t planned on another soak, but if anything, that’s all the more reason TO do it.

First time renting swimming shorts(Odd sentence)

After an hour in the metallically grainy waters, we went back to the room to get cleaned up. AND, I got the hot water working. Yeaaaah!

Back into the streets, trying to decide which of the millions of restaurants to choose from while dodging the people from inside, who would nearly tackle you trying to force a glance at their menu.

We’d be roped in at “The best restaurant in Aguas Calientes” even though I had heard that same boast about fifteen times in the last five minutes. I think the “first drinks are free” statement is what got us in the door. But it worked out, some musicians parked themselves directing in front of our patio seating and we toasted as they played; to new friendship, new travels, and to the evening before our trek up the mountain.

Sure we had a hike tomorrow at 4:30am, but we were alive right NOW! We couldn’t go to bed early! No way! So we circled the city, time and time again, stopping to look at what else this place had to offer, the people, the stores, and a shady looking building on the outskirts of town “Cupido”.

We sat outside for a few minutes, laughing and betting what horrors we’d find inside due to the features of this windowless “Mega disco”, but we decided against a frontal assault. Instead we found another spot hosting a FOUR for ONE happy hour, so we promptly had a few more drinks and a pizza while Steve crushed me in game after game of chess.

Now it was late! The busy town had finally given up and gone to bed, and we decided to follow suit, unless we were planning on staying up all night. (Fun Fact: we weren’t)

Close. We were so close. The anticipation of achieving this goal kept me up for an extra few minutes before the eventual pass out. Tomorrow, not even tomorrow, in a few hours we’d be pushing the last leg of the journey. If everything went according to plan, we’d be seated on the top of the mountain watching the sunrise.

If everything went according to plan…

…Too bad it didn’t!

Part 2 of 3

Stay a night in Aguas Calientes

Visit the Hot springs of Aguas Calientes

 

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