23:00 - What a day! We set off by train towards Machu Picchu. The railtrack runs along a very boisterous river. We got to Agua Caliente (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) at around 10.30. We dropped off our bags at the hotel and then off we went on a little shuttle bus up the winding mountain roads to the entrance of the archeological site. Aurelio, yesterday's guide, was to be our guide for the first two hours today. He took us up to the top of the site where the classic picture that you see for Machu Picchu is taken and then around the various buildings whilst talking all the time about life in this pueblo thought to be an administration centre for the Inca empire. I may not have listened very carefully as I am sure he also said that it was mainly inhabited by women...was the Inca empire maybe run by women??? :-). Joking aside it is an impressive view, nestled in the mist of the mountains. The weather went from rainy to sunny just around 2pm when he left us and we stopped for a sandwich. A few of us then decided to climb to Intipunko as the views were sure to be even more spectacular and it is where the hikers of the inca trail come in from. It's about 45 minutes to an hour climbing steadily up across a mountain to a gateway. It was a little disturbing that just as we started up, it started to rain again and it did not stop until we got to the top. We were all soaking wet but it gave me a sense if achievement :-). The view was even more impressive from up there purely because, I imagine, of the surrounding mountains. The whole experience was awsome. Maybe even inspiring...although one thing did come up again and again...in all curcumstances when visiting the incas remains over the last few days, the guide always ended up saying: this bit or that bit, was never finished. It was said today of Machu Picchu. I do ask therefore: did they ever finish anything they started???? Up here there wasn't even the excuse of the Spanish arriving and destroying things. They never found Machu Picchu! Coming back down towards the exit to the park, we took our time as the birdwatchers with us were curious about sparrows etc. The guard of the trail, followed us a short distance behind, encouranging us towards the exit as the remains close at 17.30 and we were amongst the last to get out. The great thing about either going early or staying late like us, is that the big groups have gone and you get to enjoy the Machu Picchu almost on your own.
Peter and Leo decided that instead of the shuttle bus back into town they would walk down (takes around an hour and a half). Given that it would have been dark by the time we got back to the hotel, the rest of us took the shuttle. We were pretty wet still...and 25 minutes later we were all under hot showers (all in our separate rooms of course). I then walked to the coffee shop nextdoor with my Ipad to update the blog as I had a little spare time before dinner. I bumped into Alison, Phil, Matthew and Harriet having a beer so I joined them but had a coffee as I was still feeling a little chilly. We didn't stay long and at quarter to eight met everyone in the lobby of our hotel to go for dinner at the Indio Feliz. A restaurant run by a french chap and his peruvian wife. The place had tonnes of atmosphere and the food was pretty outstanding...and the wine chosen by Phil matched in performance. We had a real giggle...
Well getting late...and tomorrow before leaving for Cusco I will probably do the walk to the waterfalls with some of the keener hikers.