Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Machu Picchu, Peru
When I was 24, I traveled with my friend, Debra, all through South America. One of the highlights of this trip was visiting Machu Picchu. This is a postcard I sent to my parents and family during that time.
There happened to be a national strike in Peru when we were there, with riots and tank in the streets, and the complete shut down of much of the infrastructure, including the train to Machu Picchu. As you can imagine, many tourists rearranged their trips that year, opting out of Peru. However, we were traveling overland, and that wasn't something we considered. We were determined to get to Machu Picchu.
For a couple of days, we would go to the Cuzco train station, only to be told that yet again, the train would not be running that day. Finally, one morning we showed up and the train was preparing to leave, without much explanation as to when or why that day versus any other.
Our journey included staying in lots of very cheap hotels, often traveling by bus or hitchhiking and we were not on a fixed timetable or itinerary. For these reasons - planning and cost - there is no way we would have had a reservation to spend the night at the small hotel on-site at Machu Picchu. However, when we finally got to Machu Picchu, there was the opportunity to get a room, given that many of the reservations had been canceled due to the strike. I don't remember that we had anything with us beyond cameras and passports, but we went for it. We weren't sure there'd be a train the next day to get back to Cuzco, but decided it wouldn't be a bad place to be stuck and was worth the risk.
One of our better decisions. We were able to tour the grounds all that day, spend the night in the hotel (no electricity and not much food, again due to the strike), and get up at dawn to climb Huayna Picchu, which is the peak overlooking Machu Picchu. From there we could look down on the site, and see it with no people and no tour guides in view. I do remember being pretty happy when the train showed up, primarily to take the tourists at the site back to Cuzco.
If you look closely at the front of the postcard, you can see a little arrow pointing to the top of the peak. (If you click on the image, it will open up larger.) In re-reading the note I wrote my parents, I can see why my mom always says she was glad these postcards arrived after each of our experiences. Notice the casually thrown out line, "Debra and I almost died". So cavalier! As a parent now, I read these words and can't imagine receiving this postcard. (Sorry, mom.)
In case you're interested, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu.