Thursday, November 8, 2012

Machu Picchu, Part 2

Climbing down the ruins was just as much as an adventure as climbing up the ruins.  My legs were beginning to tell me off for torturing them on all these stone stairs at an altitude of 10,000 feet.  Plus it started to rain.  I got lucky.  I ended up falling in with a small group who were perfectly willing to help me down all those wet, slick stone stairs.  When we finally got down to the tourist center I promised them a beer.  At the base of Machu Picchu I took the opportunity to have my passport stamped for the site and then climbed on a bus for a ride down the rest of the mountains.

I was wet, tired, in pain, and happy, happy, happy that I had accomplished something I had wanted to do most of my adult life.

My new found friends who made getting down the mountain possible.
My plans for the rest of the time I had in Machu Picchu included exploring the community at the base of the mountain.  By the time I got back to my hotel evening was almost there and all I wanted was dinner, some aspirin, and a soak in a hot bath.  Exploring could wait until morning.

The next morning I had breakfast at the hotel and then went in search of an adventure.  Number 1 on the list was to find a decent cup of coffee.  I am not a tea drinker, no matter how many flavors are being offered.  Luckily there was a tiny shop just down the sidewalk from the hotel offering a coffee deprived American a wonderful cappuccino.

Coffee!  A great cappuccino is a great way to start my morning. 

Beautiful buildings and courtyards.
Coffee and breakfast taken care of, it was time to explore the area.  Across the railroad tracks from my hotel are beautiful old buildings and courtyards with lovely flowers and blooming trees. 

The railroad is the only way in and out of Machu Picchu.

The railroad through the middle of the village.

The village is very small and completely dependent on tourist traffic.  It's safe and clean to walk with lots of wide walkways interspaced with small shops.  If you're interested in shopping, it's an easy thing to do.

Of course when a train cuts through the middle of a village there is no way to escape the noise of the approaching train.  Everyone takes the train in stride, crossing the tracks at various marked locations and waving at it as it approaches with tourists, supplies and mail.

Machu Picchu uses water for power and a large river roars down the mountain along the road.  It looks very intimidating but I kept looking for suicidal kayakers trying their luck.

We use the term 'making mountains out of mole hills'.  Peru doesn't use machinery to accomplish a lot of jobs... like making gravel.  As I walked the road to the local museum and botanical gardens I came across a group of workers, making gravel.  Using sledges, large hammers, picks and shovels, these young men broke large granite boulders into smaller and smaller rocks, until the finished product was gravel.

I think a lot of young people would be shocked at what is considered a good job in Peru. The unemployment rate is almost zero, because of jobs like this, making little rocks out of big ones.

The road ends at a local museum and botanical gardens.  It's a nice destination for a morning walk and not so far that my sore legs decided they weren't going to work any more.  The museum had just opened and I was the only guest, in front of all the tour buses.  The museum officials didn't speak any English but it really wasn't necessary.  All of the displays contained panels in several languages explaining the ancient history.
 The museum contains a detailed history of how the ruins on the mountains were built hundreds of years ago, along with painted murals of the Inca building the temples, tools and implements recovered from archaeological  explorations with explanations on how they were used.  I'm sorry, using stone tools to polish huge blocks and copper implements to split the stones doesn't work for me.

The outer grounds around the museum contained a wonderful botanical garden.  I wandered down the path of the garden by myself, smelling flowers and reading signs in Latin and Spanish.  I crossed paths with the gardener and he motioned for me to follow him.  I spent the next couple hours sampling fruits and nuts from the local plants that the gardener handed me.  We couldn't understand each other at all in words, but he kept pulling off a piece of fruit, peeling it and handing it to me while he did the same, or shelling a couple nuts to try.  He pulled down large leaves to show orchids growing in a a crevice in a tree, or a bird's nest in a branch.  

 When we finished the path and came back into the parking lot the first tour bus was pulling up and my private tour was over.  I shook the gardener's hand told him 'thank you' several different times.

I left a large donation for the garden at the museum.
My return trip to the village took me down a gravel path and under a sign that said Butterfly House.  I found a small fenced enclosure and a young native man trying to safeguard and grow a population of endangered butterflies. He had a group of panels hung around the enclosure, in English and Spanish telling about this particular butterfly and how it was almost gone.

Do you see the butterfly?  Look for the eye.

He didn't speak any English but he took me around the enclosure, pointing out eggs under a leaf, cocoons under another.  He showed me the flowers that this species of butterfly used as a food source.  These plants were also endangered.  I don't speak Spanish but we communicated very well.  He told me he had 45 butterflies in this tiny enclosure and with great pride pointed out the one that was perched on a tree right beside of me.  I would have never seen it. When I left the enclosure I left what cash I had left.  He was a one man environmental movement, making a difference one butterfly at a time.  I felt so much pride at seeing his efforts.

My walk back to the village was a lot slower than the walk to the museum.  Lunch found me at a street cafe with a hamburger. I had been trying to eat local dishes the whole time I was in Peru but I finally gave in to the need for a huge hunk of meat.  All I can say is that they make a burger!  Big enough for three people.

While I was enjoying my burger and a glass of wine a local group sat up and played music for everyone sitting around the street cafe.

The group played all sorts of local melody with pipes and drums.  Needless to say I bought their CD and I still enjoy it.

Because the railroad cuts through the middle of the town, freight and supplies are moved from the railroad station without any mechanical assistance.

While I enjoyed my burger, glass of wine and music, a group of young men, the majority wearing blue vests or other uniform shirts pushed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of supplies up the hill to the stores and hotels.

Anybody need a job?  I guess I'm still amazed that manual labor is the preferred method for getting a job done.

After lunch it was time to retrieve my luggage from my hotel and head for the train station and my ride home to the hotel in Cuzco.

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