Now, I must say that I am certainly tempted to write about our trip to Machu Picchu, but really, I would just be repeating many things said before: beautiful, outstanding, breathtaking, etc. I just cannot sum up such an amazing experience via words at the moment. When I return, I will post photos and tell mysterious, Inca-related legends, told to us by a young Peruvian man we met at the top of one of the mountains we climbed. In the meantime, however, I will just say a few things worth noting. First off, I, along with the rest of the group, was shocked at the westernization and cleanliness of Machu Picchu’s town, Aguas Calientes. It did not look like Peru. The buildings did not resemble anything I had seen around here, except maybe in the rich part of Lima. We passed several five-star hotels, and it felt like we had hiked into another country. Not only that, but there were wall-to-wall gringos (Spanish slang for white people). Gringos and gringas were pouring out of every restaurant and store, tons of them yakking loudly in English as they walked along the streets. I categorized them into three groups: retired couples or clean-cut, American families or young backpackers. It was very strange to be surrounded by unknown white people again.
Our hotel was pretty normal by North American standards but was utter luxury for us. Each room had its own bathroom! Not only that, but the bathrooms were equipped with a toilet seat, toilet paper, and even, get this, hot water in the shower! The students could not contain their shrieking. At least half the group took a shower. It is amazing what one can take for granted.
The weekend was fabulous; we were pampered, eating exciting things such as pasta, pizza, and avocado salads in a fancy restaurant (albeit again normal by North American standards). Everything was paid for, even the one free Pisco sour or white wine! I chose the white wine, and after a day of intense hiking, even the half glass made me feel light-hearted (headed).
That being said, we did many hours of hiking. We hiked from a place called Hydro Electrica to Aguas Calientes, which was probably around 12 kilometres but all on flat ground. Once we arrived, we ate (and indulged in that white wine) and an hour or so afterwards, eight of us, decided to climb a nearby mountain. It was a great, yet intense, hike. There were parts were it was so steep to climb that they had installed very long, wooden ladders. After the part with the ladders, it was a steep, rocky climb the rest of the way. Surprising us all, we made it up in exactly one hour, although it was said to take at least an hour and a half. Atop the mountain gave us the most spectacular view of Machu Picchu. The photo I have just posted is the view that Kyla and I, along with the others, witnessed.
It was at the top of this mountain that we met our Peruvian friend. He was dressed in Inca garb, complete with the colourful poncho and hat. Yannick was sure it was a tourist who had been traveling too long. It turned out that he was Peruvian, with excellent English, mind you, who was from a town near Quillabamba. He was our best tour guide, telling us all sorts of myths and legends surrounding the unknown and mystery of Machu Picchu and the Inca trails. Our hike was certainly enriched with his vast amounts of knowledge, and Erika and I both jumped with excitement when he told us that he was part of an emerging NGO that had to do with the protection of the Indigenous and modern cultures. I can’t wait to research more about it when I return home and have the luxury of unlimited internet.
Well, perhaps I said more than just a few things about the weekend, but there is certainly much more to elaborate on.
This will be my last entry from Peru. I hope to write one more blog entry about the Peru Stage upon my return – I want to write about our Peruvian partner, AYNI Desarrollo, headed by four young, incredibly ambitious, and hard-working women.