Peru 2005 Day Fourteen: Machu Picchu

by Kara on August 4, 2005

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

We got up and made the 5:20 a.m. bus to Machu Picchu with time to spare. It was already getting light when we got up there, but the sun would not rise over the mountains for at least another half hour. Stephen and I weren’t sure where we were to meet Narciso, so we wandered around taking pictures and kept our eyes open. Right before the sun appeared, we saw Narciso on a lower level and I went down to greet him while Stephen waited for his picture. After the sunrise, Narciso and I saw Claire and Eric near the top, as they were to join us for a tour of the ruins. We started off, but after about 10-15 minutes it became apparent that I wasn’t in any shape to be climbing around. I sat down and Claire took my pulse, which was over one hundred. It did go down shortly, but the hot sun and the altitude made it awfully hard for me to go on. They found a shady spot for me to sit, and I rested there for a couple hours with my trusty Gatorade while Stephen, Claire and Eric took the tour. I didn’t worry too much because there were plenty of people around and I knew the sanctuary’s doctor would arrive there around 9 a.m., should there be any problems (there weren’t). It felt really nice to know I didn’t HAVE to keep going, as I did on the trek.

While I sat on the bench and enjoyed the panoramic view of the ruins, numerous people came and went next to me on the bench. Mid-morning, a guide sat down with a woman to whom he was giving a tour. I don’t recall how it came up, but he started telling her about the people who had died on his tours. That was not exactly what I wanted to hear!

Machu Picchu

But honestly, though I probably made circumstances sound rather dire, I don’t think I was in too much danger. Narciso was extremely knowledgeable and kept a close eye on me. He has been guiding for more than 30 years, so I am sure that if he thought I was in real danger, he would have insisted that I be carried down and taken to a doctor. Instead, he was very encouraging and supportive of my insistence on finishing the entire trek on my own two feet. Despite the difficulty, I am glad I did it. But next time, I’m taking the train!

We said goodbye to Machu Picchu and headed back down to Aguas Calientes at around 11 a.m. At noon, we met Narciso for lunch at a local restaurant. He had arranged for them to make a bowl of plain boiled white rice for me. I was really hoping to be able to eat it. It looked and smelled good to me. While Stephen and Narciso were at the buffet, I took one bite and immediately threw up. Luckily, the restaurant had just opened and we were the only ones there at that point. My next strategy was to wait for it to cool a bit, then I took tiny bites and chewed them endlessly before swallowing. I am normally a slow eater, but Stephen and Narciso were practically ready for dinner by the time I was done. I managed to eat maybe a little more than a quarter cup of rice. This was a huge triumph for me.

After lunch we went to buy an “I Survived the Inca Trail” t-shirt for me, which we all felt I had earned. Stephen wanted me to buy one that said “I am Survivor Inca Trail”, but I just couldn’t bring myself to wear a grammatically incorrect t-shirt. He insisted that this was somehow more authentic, but I didn’t fall for it.

In the afternoon, we started the long train ride back to Cusco. Stephen and I mostly slept. I enviously stared at another passenger’s Pringles, so I thought that was a good sign. We ended up back at the Hotel Tikawasi at about 9:30 p.m., and watched a bad Antonio Banderas movie while I tried to eat a few Club crackers. I think we both slept quite well that night.

Check out more of Stephen’s pictures of Peru.

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