From our bedroom window we watched the morning dawn on Machu Picchu with light rain and misty cloud drenching the site and swirling clouds allowing different parts of it to fade in and out of view. Time to look at the site later; first we had to have breakfast.
Never in our lives had we had so wondrous a selection: hot dishes of spicy sausages, mixed dishes, bacon and eggs; plates of slices of finest Parma ham, smoked salmon, cheeses, salami; jugs of freshly squeezed fruit juices, quinoa cereals with bowls of fresh yoghurt, huge platters of freshly sliced papaya, pineapple, melon - as well as plates of whole fresh fruits and a complete corner full of the most delicious pastries, croissants, rolls, buns and breads! All washed down with copious cups of proper coffee!
After a serious bit of overindulgence, we packed up our now rather incongruous duffels for the last time and went out with Eddy to look at the site in more detail. It was still overcast but he took us around the various temples, terraces, houses, fountains and greenswards explaining what was important in the Inca site. Everyone took photographs despite the dull weather, keen to capture some of the magical qualities of the place, the precision in building, the craft of shaping stones, the siting of important ceremonial structures, the sheer beauty of the mountainous surroundings and the indisputable certainty that this is a ‘must – see’ site.
We had time to wander around by ourselves; the birders to look for endemic hummers, the rest of us to drink in the wonderful mix of space and creativity, expertise and intent and just take time to be there – before the crowds began to arrive in their dozens – spilled from buses, neat and clean in their hurriedly bought multi-coloured ponchos, in the intermittent rain.
After an excellent lunch in the cafeteria we got in the bus for the zig-zag, back and forth drive past layer upon layer of lush vegetation, begonias and orchids on the road down to Aguas Calientes. At the bottom of the hill the road crosses the Urubamba River and because of a ‘peaceful’ picket by some locals we had to walk our duffels and gear across the bridge and part way along the River. The angry locals had long ago been promised a railway line into the jungle, and as is the way of things in Peru, after years it still hadn’t materialised, so they were disrupting the tourist route, hoping it would be a conspicuous lever. It was a lovely walk along the River as soon as Eddy had commandeered some porters to carry our heavy duffels to the station! We were able to concentrate on birding and saw Torrent Duck, Torrent Tyrannulet, a Trogon and a flock of marvellously noisy parrots shrieking back and forth along the river valley.
Aguas Calientes is a small, poorish town that has grown up around Macchu Pichu tourism and the railway to Cusco. At 4.40 we got on the train for the 110 km back to Cusco and for twenty minutes it went well until it then ground to a noisy halt. The carriages jarred and jolted, squealed and jerked for the next two hours as we made gruesomely slow progress. Apparently, due to the protest at Aguas Calientes the engine had not been turned around and wasn’t able to work back to front! At Km 88, they were able to turn the engine around and we made Cusco 3 hours late! It was worse the next day, as the tourists were completely stuck with no trains in or out of A.C. as part of the rail track had been pulled up and a helicopter burnt.