We were blessed to spend some time in the sacred valley and see a variety of sights and Inca ruins. These consisted of the free ruins outside of Ollantaytambo, as well as the temple of the sun in Ollantaytambo, Moray, Salineras, Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy woman), and of course the infamous Machu Picchu. We quickly discovered that the Incas, those crazy Incas, they LOVED terraces, a lot. They also really liked to drag gigantic stones very far distances and stack them. We all have our hobbies I suppose.
They were all beautiful, some more elaborate than others. The stonework on parts of the temple of the sun was incredibly intricate, and the giant stones fit together perfectly creating penny joints. Sacsayhuaman had similar beautiful stonework...but had the bonus of a few alpacas running around the ruins. Moray, with its perfect circular terraces worked like an amphitheater, projecting our whispers up from level to level. Salineras was a fun stop and something different from everything else we had been seeing. From a distance as we were driving we saw the whiteness on the rocks, it almost looked like snow. Then the pools in varying shades of browns, tans and whites began to take form. Yes they were terraces too, but unlike the others there wasn't grass at the levels but these pools of salty water that climbed their way up and down the rock. We watched from the overlook eating our stale angle food cake and manjar sandwiches as piles of salt were scraped into mounds. The sandwiches got better with time, and they were filling and free...and I was starting to like the taste and texture of this bread.
In order to get to Machu Picchu we spent one night in Aguas Calientes so we could get the ruins first thing in the morning. We took another train this time not nearly as fancy, but it got us there nonetheless. When we got the hostel in Aguas Calientes I had one thing and one thing only on my mind, a hot shower. It's a simple desire really, and one that I knew I'd have, but that night I would have sold a portion of my soul for one. The last few showers, since as far back as our time in Puno (that was three days ago) I'd had nothing but lukewarm bordering on cold water showers; which aren't so bad when it's hot out. It was NOT hot out there. The hostel promoted its hot water showers. Other people took them and raved about the glorious temperature. I was excited, very, very excited. Unfortunately, I was misinformed. By the time I'd gotten into the shower the water was...lukewarm bordering on cold. I wasn't happy about it, I would have been if I'd known what was coming.
Covered in soap I felt it happen, quickly without warning. The lukewarm turned to ice water. I stood to the side of the shower just out of reach of the ice knives and in a panic I turned off the water. Cold and soapy I stood there in the shower, praying that this was a mistake. The lukewarm water will be back, it has to come back, and I will love it so. I tried a couple time to turn on the water, and nothing but freezing cold came out of the head. Logic tells me it's just this one, there are 3 other showers, one of them must be warm. I took a chance, poked my head out of the shower door and looked to see if the coast was clear. Naked as a jay bird I ran across the hall to the next open shower, said a prayer for warm water and turned on the faucet. Evil ice water was all I found. Again and again I tried my luck, hoping each time for different results. Eventually I found myself back in the first shower, still soapy debating the necessity of actually rinsing off. I turned on the water one more time, faced my fate and got in the path of the ice knives. It was a short as humanely possible. All the critical parts were cleanish. My fingers were blue, I had goosebumps on every inch of skin and my arm hairs stood on end. The only emotion I could muster at the moment was rage. Pure, fiery rage. Rage that had no way to contain itself and seeped out of me in the form of tears. But at least the tears were warm...so I let them run and enjoyed that small trail of warmth on my skin. I crawled into bed, still shivering with tears on my face and cried. I hate this I thought. I know the time will come where I won't have a choice, and I'll take those ice showers, grit my teeth and bear it, but I was not prepared. I was promised a hot shower, and I believed it was mine. Expectation is the worst, it wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't expected it to be hot. Tomorrow will be better, is has to be. I will sleep with rage tonight, but tomorrow is a new day.
Tomorrow came fast, I was up a 4:30 to get ready to hit the road for Machu Picchu. This and the fancy train ride were gifts from the girls. They covered the expenses for me, and what amazing gifts they were. Sidenote: Machu Picchu is amazing, but holy cow they will be bleed you dry with the hidden cost of things! Aside from the ticket it's a $15 bus ride there and back from the town. You can't bring in your own food so you have to buy it there for and outrageous price, and they charge you to use the bathroom! If I didn't respect rules and history I wouldn't have broken the rules and brought my own food and found some nice leafy place to hide and pee. But I do have respect for rules and history, so I didn't. Ok, back to raving about its amazingness.
Laurie had informed us that we were hiking Waynapicchu since we didn't hike the Inca trail. There are two time slots to hike Waynapicchu one from 7-8am and one from 10-11am. We had reserved our spots for the first group so we had to speed walk our way through the ruins to get to the hike. The clouds were low, the sun was hidden behind the fog and it gave the site the feeling of some old English castle. It was green and damp, such a different environment from what we had seen so far. Everything to this point had been desert - dry and brown. We were used to the sight of cactus and grass planes whipped with cold winds, but this looked like a jungle. Even the rocks that built the mountains were covered in a thick coat of green. But we didn't have time to admire it, we had to get to the hike, and started our climb at about 7:30am.
We took our time, moving slow as we climbed the mountain; stopping to catch our breath, take pictures and drink in the scenery. The sun was burning its way through the clouds, it was the makings of a picture perfect day. By the time we got to the top, the sun was bright, only little puff ball clouds were floating across the sky. After crawling around at the top for a while we decided to head back down. We were getting hungry and needed to use the bathroom and both of those things had to occur outside of the park. Emily and Laurie were on a mission to get there. Stacey and I were moving at our own pace, taking pictures along the way and stalking the llamas. I don't even care if they plant the llamas there for the tourists. It never gets old seeing them. They're cute, I like them and they make everything better. The Machu Picchu llamas are total hams. They pose for you and let you take pictures of them, they even let you touch them. I'm not going to lie, it's pretty amazing.
After lunch and bathroom breaks (and now considerably poorer) we headed back in. It had started to rain a little, and by the time we were back in to wander the ruins the sky had opened and let loose. We were prepared with our rain jackets so we were good. Apparently other people were not, because the ruins, which had been crawling with people, were now mostly empty. Some held on with their brightly colored plastic ponchos, but a good portion of the visitors left. What a treat for us! It was like we had Machu Picchu to ourselves! Like a little bit of rain was going to make us leave? It's Machu Picchu! Unesco world heritage site, Incan marvel, historically significant ruin, far, far away from home and expensive to get to. You'd be crazy to leave because of a little rain. We weren't crazy. We had some exploring to do, some pictures to take, some llamas to chase - the day was young! That was exactly what we did, and it was incredible. We took pictures without people in them. We wandered around without having to avoid large tour groups. We touched llamas, who could care less about the rain or that we wanted to touch them - they were happy eating grass. Every time we'd look up at the mountain one of us would say, "Hey, remember when we climbed that?"
I still say it in my head. Ever time I see a picture of Machu Picchu with Waynapicchu in the background I smile to myself. Remember that one time when I went to Machu Picchu and hiked that giant mountain that's always in the pictures of it? Yeah, that was pretty awesome. Standing in the rain, it didn't seem to bother me that it was cold and I was wet; and touching the thick wool of a baby llama with ancient ruins in the background, I'd forgotten all about my ice shower. All I could do was smile.
This is my life and yeah, it is pretty awesome.