We enter Cuzco the first big Peruvian city it is an amazing trip into the city center. Anybody that has traveled through Peru will know that some festival carnival is in full flight. The police are struggling to direct the traffic from one side of the road to the other demonstrations costume wilding Peruvians are in full swing the colour is fascinating the drums are unrelenting banging away constantly, the costumes are so diverse it is a struggle to see what would be traditional or not. It is pointless to try and deviate from the flow of the traffic, glancing at some of the side streets Victor would struggle to pass they are so narrow and run into steps heading higher and higher into the surrounding chaotic buildings like a huge mud brick quarry all plastered together no amount of navigation aids will help you to reach your destination here.
IT IS CHAOTIC CUZCO at 3600 mts high… people arrive from Europe and other destinations around the world in their hundreds of thousands most of them by plane. They are keen to stuff as much in as possible there is so much to see here. They jump out of the plane and start rushing around like we all do at sea level and then they fall over it’s a common sight only tourist rush around here, you soon learn to walk slowly at this altitude even if you are in a hurry.
Victor is also a spectacle the Cuzco taxi drivers they are mesmerized and come as close as possible to inspect this strange vehicle as we shuffle along in the thick diesel chocking thin air. Their occupants are just as amused they are jammed in like sardines 20 plus sometimes in a Toyota Hi ace van which normally seats 12. Their black hats pushed hard up against the cabs roof the woman have lots of silver adorning them but their teeth are pretty stuffed when they smile at us they make a small wave when we wave to them, sometimes they turn their cocooned babies towards us so we can see them …just!!! The Taxi drive now makes a tour around the car making sure all the occupants have seen us. They are all smiling and you cannot get too upset with their Andean driving skills???? We are cocooned in the traffic at one set of traffic lights which seemed to be working, but everybody was so interested in us the lights went through one sequence before anybody realized. You navigate the roads with all due care and attention ….large pot holes drains without grates are common place eagerly waiting to consume your suspension.
THE HEART OF THE ONCE MIGHTY INCA EMPIRE EXPLODES AROUND US…………
We eventually entered the main square PLAZA DE ARMAS the one way systems are a night- mare and with one wrong turn you will need a good retirement policy to eventually get you back to where you want to go. I tried to stop and buy our country sticker for Peru but the police just would not have any of my illegal parking tactics and waved us on blowing their whistles ever harder. Cuzco or qosq’o in Quechua language is the center of the Inca Empire its archaeology sucks you in like a huge vortex the surround buildings emanate a fascinating past.
The main square hits you hard its architecture is stunning a mixture of blended pasts cultures and now the massive deluge of tourists. There is more tourist than any locals, with restaurants at every corner possible the endless hawkers selling you everything including Texan number plates.
Relentless they are tours here tours there Machu Picchu, The sacred valley, Saqsaywaman, Pisca, Ollantaytambo, The Inca Trail…..and every other possible combination. The city is a buzz of beggars, pick pockets, drug dealers, bag snatchers, slashes, Drug dealers and Police often work together. Again the list would be endless it’s a shame but true.
We found a spot and it was only a few seconds and we were surrounded by tourist and locals the road became blocked which drew 2 tourist police to come and investigate the commotion. You either love this attention or you begin to hate it, I am still vain enough to enjoy having interested people wanting their photos by the car but this was getting out of hand.
30-50 people had gathered mainly tourists which for the most part make up 90% of Cuzco’s transient population, plane after plane load arrive in a constant stream the jet engines roaring above as the constant stream of snap happy Inca crazed tourist arrive packed in coaches all trying to embrace this amazing culture.
The crowd grows and we have become a major traffic jamb the Tourist police also wanting their lime light are laughing away as they struggle to keep the traffic from rubber necking slowly going past what looks like the best free show in town.
We are stuck I can’t even buy our country sticker ,but one of the tourist police offers to take me to a shop to purchase one so we can place it on the bonnet.
I leave Elayne Cocooned in the Buggy as people clamber over it to try and get their picture taken with the best back drop possible.
I return after walking 20 minutes with one officer and I was pleased we had a sticker at last so had a photograph with them pointing to their country sticker now firmly stuck to the car.
A tourist stopped and chatted as I struggled to get back to the car with my camera in hand trying to return it to Elayne who was still cocooned in the Buggy. People were 5 deep around the car so …….I made the fatal mistake and placed it back into my wide old leather jacket pocket…….. And carried on the conversation with an interested Tourist……
It was a stupid mistake one we will remember for a long time to come a painful mistake the corner of Loreto and Maruri will be permanently etched into my mind.
IT WAS SECONDS AND OUR LITTLE OLD CANNON CAMERA WAS GONE……………..
I climbed back into the buggy thanking the police for all there assistance and pulled back into the chaotic traffic and unrelenting motor bikes to find a campsite which had been given to us by a fellow travel Rupert Kaye and Kelly had stayed a la la quinta which was within walking distance to the town center and a welcome stop over by many bikers and unimogs alike.
Elayne had the GPS way point logged in but we could not find our way as the direction pointed straight up a small mountain which overlooked the city. How to get there was still a mystery but we tried our best. It was only 500mts into our quest when I looked for the camera ….a sick feeling came over me as Elayne looked in all the usual places. I pulled over and jumped out the car and ran back to the spot we had stopped. The two Policeman where still there but they where unable to help me……
1000 pictures gone our entire Amazon pictures vanished in one second…………
The policeman called on his small hand held radio and after several minutes he received a faint reply, his eyes lit up as if to say it worked the radio worked…..With the message received he asked me to follow him to a street corner not to far away.
I did as he asked and slowly walk with him in the direction he pointed his baton, he seemed clearly upset we had been robber especially after we had taken his photograph the very last picture ,and only being no more than 2hrs in Cuzco. I waited at the dusty nosey diesel chocking street corner with him his smart green and grey Tourist police uniform his shinning shoes a sharp contrast to my worn out leather jacket and trousers which had seen better days and especially my old leather Australian boots covered in dust and dirt as again I looked at his shinny black boots Soon a small police car turned up and I was ushered into the back seat all on my own. WE drove off I was not interested in taking in the scenery all I could hear were those relentless drums banging away ,some 15minutes battling its way through the maddening traffic the driver clearly not understanding what a gearbox is for, staling the car several times it was almost embarrassing to be seated in the back hoping I didn’t look like they have just arrested the most wanted criminal in Peru……I slowly began to hate Cuzco it will always shape my thoughts the first experiences you have are always make the most impression. They dropped me off outside a police station and indicated to me I needed to go up stairs. I thanked them and they soon joined the chaos stalling their police car once again as they tried to reenter the mad traffic eventually disappearing back into the chaos of Cuzco.
I went inside the typical drab police type building and climb the flight of stairs and followed my nose along a corridor only to see a row of what looked like tourist all looking the same as me PEED OFF.
Directly in front of me waiting was a tall Dutch girl the, the normal Dutch Blonde and about 2.00mtrs high blue eyes and brilliant white teeth, that’s what Dutch Edam cheese can do for you, and trying to peer over those dike walls I thought. I guessed she was about 23, but it was quite clear on further observations this queue had the same theme, all here had been robed in and around Cuzco City.
I could not believe it 8 tourists and more still arriving manly girls, all making statements in writing hoping to receive an official police statement .You will need to pay a 1.00 Dollar at some National bank before they would release an official police statement , the Dutch girl informs me …..So you could claim against your travel insurance.
We started to chat the tall Dutch girl explains she has lost her credit cards and her 8 megapixel digital camera whilst taking an overnight bus trip from Puno to Cuzco. She has tight blue denim jeans and a Peruvian brightly coloured Poncho top with Machu Picchu spelt out across the front. Where did you have your camera and credit cards when you had them stolen…. I asked her….. in your back pack I guessed?….The tall Dutch girl begins to explain……. down my Knickers in the very front part and politely points out the very critical personal position as if I was some investigating officer…….MMMMMmmmh….Well I said…..slightly taken back by the hiding place chosen…. obviously your camera was not an old 35mm reflex with a telephoto lenses, you could not possible fit those down there…I reply still in shock thinking to myself well the credit cards I can understand ,but I am still trying to work out in my mind what make and model of camera could possibly fit in that very personal place??? …but the generation gap appears as she does not understand what a 35mm Reflex Camera looks like…..and what’s a telephoto lenses….she asks?
I explain briefly with my hands drawing in fresh air trying to describe dimensionally what an old reflex camera looked like hoping she could see by my fresh air drawing it would not fit in that position…..O she reply’s… I understand she said……but I am still convinced she doesn’t understand the old camera jargon and my fresh air explanation.
She politely asks if I had had anything stolen…..Yes my camera too but I did not have it stuffed down my trousers like you….…she laughs…. and I think she understood that comparison.
They were all stories of woe as I spoke to two Australian girls again having their camera with all their 3 weeks of photography gone in a flash. It was also clear I was not the only one who forgot to download the photos before arriving in Cuzco.
Did you not feel anything…..? I asked the tall blond Dutch girl …….No that’s not the best question to ask….. My mind trying to think of another angle …..I mean did you wake up…????…… Hoping she felt this was a genuine question with no other connotations!!!!
NO she replied …..But I was sure dreaming about my boyfriend on the bus…..This time my head physically moved back as my brain was trying to interpret the Dutch accent ……..Was this a serious reply to my question !!!!!….Or had the generation gap kicked in and now it was my turn not to fully understand the telephoto lens bit……!!!!!! The Tall blonde Dutch girl’s frankness catching me out …….ME LOST FOR WORDS…….not quite the reply I would have expected in my day 35 years ago????
I struggled to gain some conversational composure …..Was your boyfriend on the bus ….I gingerly ask trying to act as if I was real cool…… but really trying to back out gracefully from a conversation which could get….well you know that old man syndrome…..NO she quickly replies …he is still in Holland……Guess they were pretty good then ..I said..….. She looks directly at me and asks me…..who is pretty good??…..THE ROBBERS …….. I said ….you know getting the camera and credit cards from ….Well where you told me out of the front off your jeans….not wanting to go any further or point with my fingers I was embarrassing myself ……yes she replies out of my knickers I can’t believe it myself ……she goes on…….they must be good I didn’t feel them at all, except the coach did rock around a lot!!!!
I fill out my form and walk out I was not interested to collect an official statement for a messily $1.00 at some National bank……Maybe it will show up at the black market on Saturday they often do a young Peruvian Police officer practicing his English on me trying to console my gloom…..Yes I reply I will take a look with the rest of the tourist looking for their stolen stuff. I said my goodbye to the tall blond Dutch girl and wished her well and safe travels for her next part of the trip….thanks she reply’s I have a lift in a van with 3 young Chilean guy’s heading down to Santiago…….CRICKEY……I thought she will need my luck as well.
We were warned about pick pockets and again it proves to me where you have so many tourist you will have these problems., in fact I spoke to an old friend of mine on SKYPE just a few days later on and he told me he had travel around Cuzco in the early 80ts and his backpack was slashed 3 times until he eventually placed chicken wire all around his stuff….That stopped them they could not cut through the old chicken wire. !!!!!!!…….This is the second time we have been robbed the first in Georgia a few trinkets where pulled from the dashboard but Cuzco had the prize we would willingly give the Camera away but all that effort all that pain getting in and out of the Buggy a Thousand times for those pictures still hurts.
I returned to Elayne where she had been waiting for 2hrs, the police did not return me back to the Plaza de Armas I got a taxi and the Dutch girl wanted to join me as she also was trying to return to the Plaza de Armas and her hostel nearby. We arrive in the taxi along-side the Buggy WOW ….the Tall Dutch thinks the buggy looks wicked and gets out with me …Elayne gives me the evil eye look as the TALL YOUNG BLONDE Dutch introduces herself to Elayne… I try to explain she also had her camera and credit cards stolen and robbed just like me pick-pocked ……NO…NO… The Tall Blonde Dutch Girl try’s to explain I told you where I hid my camera and credit cards ……..YIKES…..I Thought……AS I GRAB ELAYNE ……WE MUST BE OFF….I say … and I am sure you need to get your police statement before the banks close… DESPERATLEY trying to steer the conversation away from all those details again ……YES… The Tall Blonde Dutch girl replies…..Yes I must get going……..she walks away smiling and waving…..maybe I will see you in Chile not many of those buggys around…she calls out disappearing into the crowd.
Sitting on the side of Victor in the main Plaza de Armas feeling very dejected the tourist still taking pictures but I was not in the chatting mood.
Elayne felt bad I had a premonition this was going to happen as we left the last campsite 30 klm out from Cuzco I asked Elayne to download the pictures as I have a feeling we will loose them. How will we lose them …Elayne said we won’t loose the picture’s I’ll download them when we get into town later!!!!!!!!
Well we sat on the Buggy and waited for something to happen…… but what!!!!…. We were not sure.
We sat around the bug I was not in any talking mood even the magnificent buildings and local pageantry had worn off ,Elayne felt so bad she did not download the camera in the morning when we had the chance ….( I could see she was trying hard not to cry ) too late now it was not worth thinking about it anymore. But my thoughts keep nagging me …IF ONLY…..I had given the camera straight back to Elayne and not put it in my pocket……… CRICKEY ……..it’s not the easiest part of the world to get to let alone travel across the BR230 and all those beautiful Scarlet Macaws gone forever.
AN HOUR HAD PASSED EVEN THE POLICE WHERE GETTING FEED UP TRYING TO MOVE US ON
A young lady approached us and asked if I was all right…..No not really I said….her English was perfect and she had huge eyes that smiled from light years away.
Can we help you she said…? I looked around to see her partner a young man in his late twenties
Long hair and glasses, and looked like a thinner John Lennon …I don’t think you can help us we just had our camera stolen……….my expressions clearly indicating my grief.
Where did you have it stolen she asks……..not far from here as I pointed on the tourist guide local street map we had collected…..well we can place a reward for the S/D card and post it up around the area you had it stolen….NOW that’s an idea …..I thought….. would you help us translate it….Sure they would help ….they replied….follow us we will go straight to an internet shop and we will print out 10 REWARD NOTICES…….Great I replied I feel better already…..sure you do …she replied you even look a bit better.
Mayten and Andy they introduced themselves as we were quickly walking towards the nearest internet café. Her pace was a fast run …but she was quite short in stature and she was out walking me. It was all done in a flash and it was not before long we had posted all the reward notices up Andy doubly tapering them on even with their phone number so we receive a phone call….think positive …you never know what might turn up.
They walked us back to the Buggy after nearly 2hrs of work….Can we buy you some supper or a drink I asked……..NO that will not be necessary we are fine…….
You will stay with us they said for as long as you like we have a small house on the outskirts of the city and you can even park your wonderful machine safely.
Could this be true I thought 2 strangers offering their house for as long as we wished and a bed for as long as we like?
My thoughts of the lost camera were fading fast…. WHAT KIND WARM HEARTED PEOPLE……we have found and CUZCO just got a lot better.
We followed their cab back to their home set in a small courtyard with neighbors all around with a security fence and a guard.
Mayten was a little packet of dynamite she was a whole blast of energy with us in trail. Andy was great an astute guy with an intelligent mind which was quietly spoken.
They both had been providing earthquake relief work for families which had suffered from a huge earthquake also they had constructed a communal house for young raped girls in a small village miles away I was not quite sure where but it all sounded fascinating and both were fully dedicated to helping those unfortunate families which had suffered greatly.
It was without doubt a fabulous encounter their warm hearts and understating soon alleviated the pain…sure its only pictures and I will always feel sad we lost them, but we had gained two new wonderful individuals as friends who where truly ambassadors for their beliefs and countries. Andy was from the USA and had graduated with a few degrees, he had a passion for jazz and trained as a musician, as Mayten had also been working in New York as a director for a large educational department, both wanted more and we would only direct you to their website so you can read all their wonderful accounts working in South America………………WWWWWWW
It was great to have a house around us once again the setting wonderful perched high overlooking Cuzco outskirts with a huge Volcano behind us which erupted in the late 1950’s and blew half the Volcano over Cuzco…… There was a small back courtyard and ,neighbors with lovely old ford falcons straight out of the sixty’s ,mud brick houses next to newly developed modern homes vivid blue sky’s only that altitude can produce with fine pulverized Peruvian dust everywhere you walk their was so much new buildings being constructed around us. The air was thin at 3660 our current elevation making the walk down to the shops a tough endeavor especially coming back with a few bags of shopping …but you can always squeeze into a taxi bus and for a few pesos return home without needing oxygen therapy which was almost a must if you missed the taxi bus. Mayten and Andy had a great location for their small house but everything was within a few peso ride which made visiting Cuzco center easy, but if you miss the time for your return trip home with peak hour Crazy Cuzco Peruvians all trying to find away out to travel home you will surly find out a new Guinness Book of records for how many people in a Toyota High Ace van is being broken everyday.
Elayne looked forward to the local shopping but not the walk it was a killer with Mayten who’s vegetarian cooking impressed both of us. Her and Andy’s small budget was an inspiration to witness and we both learnt a lot for watching Mayten shop with a few Pesos.
They had internet and they were only to glad to share it with us so we were able to send a few emails and Skype our love ones.
Checking our emails one afternoon it was great to receive an email from Vincent and Maryline our French friends traveling in a Land rover Defender which Vincent and Maryline had fitted out very well. We had previously met near Lower Green Canyon in Utah and had a few great days traveling together. Vincent was currently traveling on his own as Maryline had returned to France to see newly born babies and relatives.
It would be good to catch up as Vincent was intending to stay a week in Cuzco at La la Quinta and take in a few sights around. We arranged a meeting in the following few days and planned an evening meal all together. It was great to meet sadly without Maryline and I could see Vincent had lost some weight and was looking a bit tired just like us a week or so ago. He goes on to tell us he has been robbed in Lima his Land rover broken (this was the second time) into while he was out shopping and only 2 days before arriving at Cuzco he had a lucky escape from a bad situation as three men approached him late at night and told him to go as it was dangerous to camp, luckily he had decided to take heed and pack up quickly and was starting the Land rover just before another three men approached in a car with guns aimed at him as Vincent speed off. Mayten and Andy confirm Vincent’s storey of bandits operating in and around the mountain countryside, and warns us to be careful pulling off the road wild camping.
Mayten also tells us about the protests which go on regularly with road blocks shutting down the whole Country for days on end. Do not try and drive through she explains it is too dangerous and you will be pelted with rocks and stones if you try and drive through a barricade. Take it easy and wait it out there are many genuine reasons for the protest and it’s the only way the people can express themselves in the poorer regions of the countryside.
Vincent planned to work on his Land Rover while staying in Cuzco, he need to replace some rear shocks and try and repair his headlights as he was only running on side lights. I suggested we meet later on in the week once he is settled down so I could help him repair his car. Our evening soon came to an end our meal eagerly devoured as poor Mayten and Andy could hardly keep up with only what long distance travelers do bests…………………….
THE MISSION FOR LONG TERM LONG DISTANT TRAVELERS IS TO BORE THE PANTS OF THOSE POOR SOULS SITTING AROUND DINNER TABLES……………LISTENING TO….THOSE NEVER ENDING TRAVEL STORIES, OFF BORDER CROSSINGS< SHIPPING <DOCUMENTATION,VISAS, CUSTOMS AND HOW MANY DIARRHEA STORIES CAN YOU TELL …..The boring list goes on and on
PLANS AND MACHU PICCHU…………………its all been done or has it????? Every tourist you bump into asks…..have you been to Machu Picchu….you must go if you have not seen these spectacular ruins. I’m not just saying this but if it was not for the floods the local people endured in April 2010 I would not have bothered to go but I hope some of the revenue generated will help some locals to rebuild. Elayne was more interested in following Mayten around the local markets and also felt she would hold me up climbing all those wonderful steps as she knew I would walk the whole way and not take a ride in a tourist bus.
Vincent and I hatched a plan after a few drinks …we will meet in town Vincent suggested we buy our entry tickets from the official government office and drive to the nearest place we can camp with the land Rover and walk the rest…….GREAT ….Maryline was not around so just the two boys could explore these wonderful ruins.
AAAARGH>>>>>>there had to be more of a challenge than just the ordinary visit like the tens of thousands do every month……….
SO THE REAL PLAN WAS HATCHED……………we both agreed we will camp overnight at Machu Picchu………. I am sure this plan was hatched over a few bottles rather then a few drinks. This was a world heritage site of some significance as you all would agree. I am convinced we will go to jail if we get caught camping overnight. It was clear from all the information we had there was not a snowballs chance in Hell you could possible wild camp at this site overnight. But non the less we agreed a time and tickets in hand a packed land rover ready to go anywhere, we woke early one clear morning as the chorus of 1000 stray Cuzco city dogs howling across the sleepy mud brick homes woke me from a deep slumber (hangover no doubt) …but soon the excitement of the next adventure lured me from my sleeping bag to brave the sub zero morning temp’s …..-5c I call out to Vincent who was already studying the route lying in the Land Rover and I in the roof top tent …..OUI…OUI… his French reply …..IT’s colder up on your roof I replied as the tent must be another few meters in altitude from Vincent’s slumber down below. We broke the ice from the Land rovers windscreen and fired up Dee Dee 5 (Vincent’s nickname for his Land rover) and headed off. Our route was straight forward leaving Cuzco to Pisca, Calca, Urubumba, Chilca, Ollantaytambo, Santa Maria, Santa Teresa.
The drive to Santa Maria was spectacular in its own right the mountain roads a delight to drive in the all round comfort of the Defender. Power steering and all those gears made effortless meals of the gradients. It was a pleasure to be with such a dedicated adventurer that had traveled for 2years and still has more to see. Vincent was always with a smile and as a true Frenchman always ready to share a good bottle of wine or indulge in any cuisine there was on the table….you know ….we eat to live …THE FRENCH LIVE TO EAT……………. It would be a long drive we guessed about 5hrs as we were taking in the scenery and there was that lunch not to be missed but all was going well even when I made some navigation mistake we approached a road block high in the mountains not more than 20klm from our intended destination Santa Maria
We climbed out off the L/R it was around 3.00pm ,Vincent’s mastery of languages was far in advance of my bad English so after a short conversation with the Peruvian guy with the road works hat it was clear we will not be able to pass for at least 3-4 hours.
There must be another way around …but you are stuck in the Andes here so any other route we take could be as long as the delay. After a brief look at the map and another discussion with a local who offered us the option of following him until an all most hidden turn of we would cross to the other mountain and go around eventually arriving at Santa Teresa. Both in agreement we opted to follow take the alternative route, dust bellowing from the old overloaded Peruvian taxi we followed it until the hidden turn off and waved our goodbyes. The scenery was on an epic scale once again the L/R now navigating mountain tracks high above our previous position up with the Condors cutting through a maze of coffee plantations with small villages clinging to the steep side were the coffee hung draped over sheer drops along ravines and cliffs. How they gathered this crop looked like an impossible task…. But someone somewhere would be drinking one of these high altitude beans……if they knew where it came from I’m sure it would taste a lot better.
Around and around we drove the mountain tracks the scenery ever more inspiring as we tried to look for Wayna Picchu around 2690mtrs as we cut around what seemed like several mountains.
Daylight was running out the sun was getting lower and we still were not sure if we had taken the right fork from our previous instructions via the mountain taxi cab.
At last we arrived in Santa Teresa to see most of the backpackers drinking coffee sitting around waiting for the next taxi to drive them to Hydroelectrica ( Hydro electric power station) the following morning we soon found a camping site to stay but it was also soon clear to us we were about to be ripped off as so many others have passed this way before. Vincent and I decided to make new plans and try and camp at Hydroelectrica if we could and walk from there in the morning leaving the L/R packed outside the front entrance to the Hydro plant opposite the security gates hoping the guards will keep a close eye and look after DD.
ALL WAS FINE WITH THE SECURITY AT THE HYDROELECTRICA Plant……………
We crashed into our sleeping arrangements after the usual pasta and sauce but this time we were very much warmer I think just around 1900mtrs.
The plan was to leave early next morning and walk for a few hours along the old railway track to base camp at the municipal campsite just before Aguas Callentes to survey the possibilities.
It was a warm night and we woke early to pack our planned overnight stay at Machu Picchu, food and water for two days were packed in small day packs as we were informed no large backpacks would be allowed at Machu Picchu and certainly no food. Two light weight ground sheets and thermal blankets make up all we could squeeze in and off we trekked with our food bag and water swinging between us as each had a handle to hold for the next few kilometers.
The walk was great and nobody around to bother us as we lengthened our stride to maximum to get their before the hordes of spectators like us.
Our discussion along our trek to the municipal campsite was how we could find a campsite surly all possibilities would be surveyed and closed, but it was pointless speculating about any possibilities before we made our own inspection of the site, and anyway even if we cannot find a place to hide we are sure the days trekking around one of the worlds most famous archeological sites would be impressive enough. To our amazement there was not a soul at the municipal campground set along Rio Urubamba a camp spot with showers and toilets and FREE as we had no tent.
Vincent and I grab a few hours sleep resting in the warm sunshine looking up at Macchu Picchu watching the tourist busses snake their way to the top. We viewed the possibilities for wild camping from the ground with our binoculars but alas all looked rather impossible.
TIME TO GO AND THOSE THOUSAND AND SOMETHING STEPS…… MACCHU PICCHU…..
Laying high up all most vertical from our perspective as we ground up each and every step with my legs aching, at the halfway stage they ( the legs) turned to jelly puffing and panting, It was hot the weather was crystal clear the sweat pouring down my forehead.
Arriving at the top at last my legs shouting… THANK GOD THAT’S OVER……little did they know what was next!!!
The entrance was full tourist buses approached in a continual stream dropping off hundreds of people all filing through the main entrance passports in hand with tour guides gathering in their groups, English, Spanish ,German, French ,Arabic the Country list is endless you can just about hear every language spoken hear at the main gate.
WHAT A SPOT …it’s hard to describe your first impressions but whatever your expectations Vincent and I drank in the first few moments before we official entered.
VINCENT AND I LAUGH…..WHERE’S YOUR CAMERA CHRIS……VINCENT ASK’S….WHERE’S YOUR’S…….I ASK…….STOLEN…..VINCENT REPLIES
JUST LIKE MINE………….I REPLY……….
Passports and your ticket in hand I approached the entrance. I just had my entry ticket stamped when Vincent asked if what time we could enter to-morrow. The attendants eyes lifted and shook his head these tickets were valid only for a single entry.
Vincent and I both thought the tickets were valid for three days so we could at least take in all the possible sights……..I tried to ask if we could come tomorrow as only the first 400person can climb the highest point way up on Wayna Picchu but my request was refused. Vincent behind me felt very disappointed but entered with me and we walked clear. I am even more determined we will find a spot to hide and get another day , the tickets were so expensive we could not believe they were valid for just one day walking around.
It did not mater the weather was perfect not a cloud INCA BLUE SKY GREEN TERRACES AND PERFECT BRICKWORK……..do you have the builders telephone number I asked one of the special 60 guards watching over each and every site ……he was not amused as I am sure he had been asked that question before???? it was 2.00 pm and we needed to see what was around before it was too late, all we could hear every few moments were the guards whistles as either an over excited tourist (or a lama/Alpacas peeing in the wrong spot) tried again for that perfect camera shot standing on some sacred stone, arms waved from the guards and the offending tourist told clearly he or she were not to try that again.
COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHY………………THAT’S IF YOU HAVE ONE……
You can truly appreciate the guard’s frustration to keep all these over enthusiastic spectators at bay. The setting is just fantastic all you could imagine from all those shots we have seen over our life time the stones terraces the water system all so impressive…House of the high priest,
Temple of the Condor…..Temple of the three windows, sacred plaza….the industrial sector, the residential sector house, the names goes on with this impressive structure. It was great to see the lamas /Alpacas skipping around almost posing for the next shot as each and every tourist tried to get that most elusive backdrop that Macho Picchu could offer.
It was getting late and only after around 4.30pm as the sight officially closes at 6.00pm we wanted to climb W/Picchu but time had run out as only the first 400 visitors each day could climb this area. I tried all I could until the guard relented and Vincent and I were allowed to climb just the smaller rock which we did. Even this small climb was strenuous and after the days exercise us were both getting a little exhorted.
Perched high on the small mountain (I have forgot the name) we searched for any possible options, but all those guards and motion detectors it would make mission impossible a walk in the park. We spotted what even looked like a listening sensor CRIKEY VINCENT THIS IS GOING TO BE A TOUGH ASSIGNMENT……as both of us felt like spies about to go on a mission in the Andes of South America.
Nothing…. Absolutely…. nothing we could see only one possibility far up the Eastern slope in the bushes. We need to inspect the area closely but it will take us an hour to reach it and time was now not on our side.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS……….
Vincent and I scramble back down to 2300mtrs and walk as fast as we could against the ebbing tourist all comfortable walking back to a bus trip down and a relaxing hotel room….not for us the chase was on, what hiding place could find before sunset. I spot guards through my binoculars high on the sun bridge already bringing stragglers down to the main entrance. We find the place we spotted from our Condors nest we were puffed it was a long climb down racing across all those one way paths and terraces the wrong way trying not to have the guards pick us out as would be offenders there whistles in hand ready to blow at the slightest infringement. …..VINCENT DUCKS IN BEHIND THE SMALL BUSHES……….Its rubbish ….he quietly calls out there is more human shit here than in a French sewer.
Every panicking tourist with the touch of Diarrhea has been here …… Vincent checks his runners…..are you sure….I ask him…Vincent nodding his head violently yes quite sure.
We start to walk back beaten there is no possibility of hiding here that’s why they don’t bother to clean it up all the shit its out of sight and a real deterrent for people like us Vincent exclaims.
Let’s try along the sun bridge foot path leading high up the Eastern side away from the center of Macchu Picchu some 1.5 -2 kilometers in length at a guess, Vincent explains … you can view the sunrise over Macchu Picchu …. Something we could do tomorrow morning…….Sure I replied sure thing….. but first we need to find a spot to camp and we need to find it quickly. We followed the stone pathway heading in an Easterly direction
Scouring every possibility along sides, dense bush, impenetrable bamboo were all we found.
There were few visitors left and we could hear a constant whistles as the guards walked each and every pathway to clear the area. Radios were used as each sector was cleared and they moved to the next.
We will be caught Vincent exclaims we are running out of time. All we found was impenetrable bushes bamboo thistles and thorns you would not want to find poking into your sensitive area’s………….. Vincent is ahead of me 10-15 meters while I keep an eye for any guards coming from the West behind us.
Vincent calls out quietly as he spots an almost perfectly round hole pushed through the dense bushes. I quickly catch him up and view the circular hole in the bushes …..Climb in and have a look I ask Vincent … and watch your sensitive bits as I don’t want any painful noises ….OUI OUI…. he is much leaner and fitter than I and at least 25 years younger.
In Vincent pops clambering through the dense bushes on his hands and knees cobwebs hang down 2 feet deep all over the place, I watch him disappear into the darkness
…IT LIKE TOMB RAIDERS IN REAL LIFE………
Any good I call out once again quietly as I could. It was getting darker under the bushes the light not even penetrating through …..Just the usual defecators ….can you go further and hurry up I call out to Vincent under my breadth…….Vincent replies….. yes it could be a possibility………Sleeping close to all that shit does not inspire me to enter but non the less time was running out….I hesitated really not wanting to reside next to all that crap…but to late …….I needed to act fast as I could hear a burst of whistles and guards boots running towards us on the stone paths from the Eastern track along the sun bridge pathway.
CRICKEY I THOUGHT THEIR MUST BE 4 OR 5 GUARDS RUNNING TOWARDS US no more than a hundred meters away at a rough guess ……..In I jump through the hole like Alice in wonderland to find Vincent on the other side covered in……No not SHIT>>>>>>but cobwebs from ear to ear….. BE VERY QUITE 4-5 GUARDS RUNNING THIS WAY…..I indicate to Vincent the direction I think they are approaching from…. Vincent is still trying to pull cobwebs from his face….We duck down low……..and wait…..to see the guards running hopefully past our position down the stone pathway towards the center of Machu Picchu…………..IT WAS NOT GUARDS RUNNING TOWARDS US BUT A PACK OF BEAUTIFUL ALPACER”S running from the encroaching guards clearing the footpaths from any lost visitors. WHEEW that was close…..what do you mean Vincent ask’s……well I reply….. can you imagine what the Peruvian headlines in the National newspaper would say………..What Vincent ask’s………
Something like this I reply………Peruvian economy collapses……. as Australian tourist gets killed by runaway Alpacas at Machu Picchu……yeah right Vincent replies….come on lets go the next few meters will kill us anyway……
Tip toe through the tulips if you get my drift…..as we push back beyond those busting tourist who cannot make the next toilet stop. We climb down a small rock wall covered in vines and creepers the density of the undergrowth become impenetrable. Out come our pocket knives and we cut through the undergrowth and hanging vines just the type you would have found in some Jurassic park movie, silently as possible we hack our way back in time into another world lost in time.
Large stones for sure Inca are covered in small vine like trees, large stones 2/5 tons a wall of some description. It felt very odd just as if for the first time we were uncovering the secrets of the….. LOST INCA WORLD…..vines hung over the wall the tree roots binding them together and cracking them apart at the same time, thick green leaves and bamboo thicket’s are everywhere. We spot a small cave under the fallen stones and a clearing in front of the cave, this will do , we are some 40mtrs from the Sun Bridge stone footpath well hidden from the outside world……… We both smile and congratulate ourselves in finding this ancient spot.
IT’S BETTER THAN MACHU PICCHU AND WE DISCOVERED THIS PLACE……….?????
Well that’s what we think Vincent and I and we are sticking to it hahaah……LOL….
I clear some roots and vines trying to make a flat spot to lay amongst the thick foliage the ground is alive with insects and spiders of all shapes and sizes, Vincent is doing the same making a small clearing to lay down with our ground sheets strung out where possible. I dig and level the matted roots and try and level the ground as best as possible. I try my handy work and stretch out as best as possible trying not to disclose my displeasure with the uneven terrain below me, it will have to do it will be dark in 20 minutes …….we need to eat something before we try to sleep in this jungle….
Vincent curls up on his ground sheet almost in the fetal possession puffing on his cigarette, I can see the red glow brighten as he inhales and his hand waving the smoke trying to keep the exhaled smoke from wafting my way.
We eat some cheese and bread a few apples, and lots of peanuts were consumed by me, it all tasted great if only I could have a cupper tea,???? but my idea of making a fire was iffy to say the least and Vincent’s cigarette was not going to boil the kettle.
We keep reminding ourselves to be as quite as possible we can hear guards not to far away chatting to themselves and laughing , my be 50-60 meters above us we cannot tell the foliage to dense to see anything , we can only hear birds flapping above us returning to their nest for the night.
NIGHT FALLS IT’S TIME TO SLEEP…………we are still hidden from the outside world if anything happens to us here nobody will find us. I think of Elayne our plan to stay at M /P was only sketchy at the time of the wine consumption she will never be able to find me here.
I pull my thermal blanket over my shoulders we can fell the temperature dropping and the mosquitoes have found me buzzing in my ears….GOOD NIGHT VINCENT do not hesitate to let me know if something is wrong….sure he replies as all I can see is the shine from the thermal plastic blankets shimmering with what light is left.
I soon drift off the day’s excursions way beyond our normal sitting behind the steering wheel watching the countryside roll by. I am truly stuffed I fill like I have walked 20 kilometers and every muscle is protesting.
Its cold and I drift off the last thing I know is the Mosquitoes have left me alone and I can only hear the insect world in full blast the whole place is singing with every type of bug competing for the world bug music championship the sound is deafening as the bugs crawl past your ears only a few millimeters away.
I WAKE IN HORROR… A SOUND WE WILL NEVER FORGET AT MACHU PICCHU………..
DID YOU HEAR THAT VINCENT CALLS OUT………….YES …………YES…………I REPLY I HEARD IT
This sound virberate’ s around my head a sound you will never forget, Vincent grabs his flash light as I grab mine we are not bothered if we are seen its beyond worrying about , that sound is still ringing in my ears ….did you hear that Vincent exclaims again…YES….YES…. I say I heard it loud and clear.
THAT WAS NO PUSSY CAT PURRING……………………THE SOUND WAS FROM A LARGE PUMA VERY CLOSE….VERY CLOSE INDEED.
We were both frozen with fear never have either of us heard a sound quite like the sound that woke us from a deep sleep….was it a dream I thought the over excursion was I awake………………THEN AGAIN THE SOUND ROARED THROUGH THE UNDERGROWTH……
MAN OLD MAN it sent shivers down our spines …..can you see ….I called out to Vincent as we both flashed our small led lights around lighting up the darkness our eyes trying to readjust to the bright flashing lights…..NO …I can’t Vincent calls back.
I glance at my watch It’s the early hours of the morning about 2.00am but we cannot see the cat and even if we did what are we going to do????
Sleep was not on the agenda the silver thermal blanket covered in dew as I can see the stars flickering through the top of the thick foliage like eyes watching you from above. We were wide awake and the sound still to this day I can hear that sound I never experienced in my life befor…it even felt life threatening ….
The Growl deep and long even the bugs ran for their lives…..
We stay awake ………….sleeping was off the agenda…….
Vincent lights up a cigarette………..
This time it was different we both could hear the Puma in the bushes occasionally leaves and branches cracked under it’s paws……but our very small led torches where useless to try and spot him the angle of the light was far too small to pick up any shape.
Our eyes strained to make any sense of our surroundings all I could really hear was my heart thumping in my ears just like our East Siberian Bear story we had at the beginning of our trip.
We tried to stay awake but it was about 3.30 am and we had not heard the Puma for sometime, hoping our Shooing and small hand gestures had frightened Him or Her OFF.
Vincent and I slowly sank under our thermal blanket….LETS HOPE FOR THE BEST………I call over to Vincent and try and get some sleep.
This was easier said than done, with both of us not feeling that secure anymore the sound still ringing in my ears.
Heads down and one eye open we make a brave attempt to drift off. Sure enough I must have drifted off because what seemed like only a few seconds was another quite different sound ,waking us both up in an instant……..CRICKEY……did you hear that……I call out to Vincent ….OUI…OUI
The sound was unmistakable and easy to describe……….IMAGINE 200 kgs JUMPING DOWN ONTO THE GROUND FROM 3meters…..very close to you….THUMP…….as the Puma hits the ground ………..Crack….as a few low branches lying on the ground break under the impact.
This time it was nearly dawn and we opted to try and keep awake.
Never again did we hear the Puma, but as the pre dawn early morning light enabled us to see a little better it was plainly clear the small cave which we had chosen to sleep near was not for us only.
We opted to wait until after 5.00am knowing we would be the first up not wanting to be seen walking around before the official gates open.
My back was in a stiff and sorry state the early morning mosquitoes had also had their blood sucking way with me, but who cares the other consequences were not worth thinking about…..NO Vincent exclaims…The news papers would have said…..Machu Picchu closed down as FRENCH and AUSTRALIAN….tourist get eaten by PUMA!!!!!
Sure looking back it could have well been that story hitting the news headlines, but we survived and spent the night camped right at MACHU PICCHU not the usual adventure but a great feeling we made it through the night.
WE make our way back onto the Sun Gate path and walk to the top finding a perfect spot to see the sun rise and light up that most unforgettable sight MACHU PICCHU at dawn on a cloudless morning high in the Andes like thousands of mornings before the colours flickering across the ancient landscape…..IT WAS WORTH EVERY BIT OF OUR SACFIFICE TO STAY AND CAMP THAT NIGHT.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLE GO WRONG NOW?????
CRICKEY Vincent I exclaim hope they don’t check the tickets on the way out…..HOW WILL WE EXPLAIN That????………..WE just run for it Vincent replies, great plan I thought all down the mountain all those steep steps.
To our amazement there is only a handful of people…….what’s happened we ask ourselves making our exit plan even more doggey. It was not until we asked a guard only to be told the roads have been closed all through the area …YIKES….GREAT……No traffic or trains are running to-day and it could go on for a week.
The news was great for us the whole of M/P with just a handful of people even the tourist buses were on strike so you needed to walk from Agua Callients.
It was perfect ….How many times could this scenario happen the timing was perfect, the whole place to ourselves and a few others. The site was completely devoid of any whistle blowing guards and hordes of tourist it was a different place to visit we could not believe the contrast.
We soaked in as much of the shear delight as we could reluctantly leaving to walk back too DD the L/R. The main entrance loomed but all went well and we just walked out shaking our hands as we took the first steps down to the river.
THE RETURN TRIP BACK TO CUZCO.
The security at Hydroelectrica had looked after DD much to Vincent’s and my relief the trip home looked like it will be tough enough without anymore break-ins. We managed to get a through a few towns and climbed up one of the many beautiful mountain passes, no villages here so no road blocks. I spot a cyclist walking his bike several kilometers from the top off the pass. He was British and was cycling around South America for the last year but this particular pass had done him in, so we strapped his bike to the front of DD and took him to the top. What a great ride down the other side.
20 klms free wheeling what more could a puffed out cyclist want…… WE said our goodbyes and left him at the top of the pass as he put all his clothing on for the rapid decent. It was not long after we struck our first road block, taking our time we tried to explain we were foreign Journalist wanting to try and publish an article about the problems they had with the uneven gas prices these people were paying….its a long story one which would take another 50 pages to explain.
Sure enough we managed to persuade a few elders in the next few villages to let us through the rock strewn roads and banners and broken concrete lying everywhere. Again nobody looked that bothered and a party atmosphere was had by all watching the traffic build up not being able to pass. Truck drives sat and waited even we had to wait at the third town proving too difficult to pass even our well rehearsed story failed this time, the locals not happy we were trying to get through.
What did it really matter another few hours and the roads will be opened…this is what eventually happened around 7.00pm we were off again dogging burning logs bricks old cars every sort of obstacles still left lying around some still burning nobody was going to shift them.
THE DRIVING GETS DANGEROUS………..Vincent takes it easy through the last main town CALCA will still have some kilometers he roads are full of debris and its getting dark. Vincent only has full beam headlights plus the huge spotlights all great if you have no oncoming trucks or cars weaving in and around all those obstacles creating huge shadows in the road……WHAT NEXT…….as a large tree still alight melting the road surface.
We arrive back a La la Quinta (Campsite at Cuzco) late around 10.30pm and it was pointless me trying to make my way back to Andy , Maytem and Elayne. Vincent sets up the computer and I Skype Elayne who has been patiently waiting to hear if we made it through the road blocks.
All is well and we quietly set back enjoying a bottle of wine high above Cuzco as a new French Family traveling also in a Land Rover Defender Igor, Rachel, and their three wonderful children Sarah ,Charles & Eleonore join us to exchange travel stories and bore the pants off everybody else.
Morning breaks the howling Cuzco dogs in full cacophony, but this time I wait until the sun strikes through the tall pine trees and melts the ice once again.
Igor and Rachel are great and at least Vincent is back to his native tongue after putting up with my rudimentary English for the last week.
Vincent needs a hand with some small repairs to his L/R so I offer to help him in the coming days as he only plans to stay in Cuzco 2-3 days more before heading off to Santiago to try and work in a ski lodge for the winter season.
After I arrive back Andy, Mayten, Elayne listen to the Puma story nobody cares about that wonderful archeological site but are fascinated with a few seconds of flip camera video I was able to take that morning.
We said our farewells to a wonderful couple who looked after us when we needed it please look at their website ………….and if you ever want to help with any relief work in and around South America don’t forget to drop them a line.
THANKS AGAIN ANDY AND MAYTEM FOR ALL YOU KINDNESS YOU ARE TRUE AMBASSADORS OF PERU………
Back at La la Quinta Elayne and Rachel catch up and great conversations linger long into the cold star filled nights it’s freezing as well all disappear back to our tents ,yes Us , Vincent , and Igor family, are all in tents the rest of the campers are in huge motor homes on wheels large German Unimogs, and specially built cells on the backs of Toyota land cruiser chassis all many from France, yes we now have more than 10 French persons at the campsite …Vincent has had enough LOL and heads of to-morrow after we spent some time not to successfully trying to get his low beam work.
VINCENT HEAD’S OFF………………
It was our usual hug and hope he has a safe trip we never know if we will catch up but it has been fun to spend a great time together one which I will remember for along time.
The whole campground waves him off and the white L/R Defender with its tan top heads out of La la Quinta for the last time…..
GOOD LUCK VINCENT…Elayne calls out ….It will be tough on his own. Elayne Exclaims……I’m not so sure…I reply back to Elayne’s comment…………
Why is that Elayne asks…… I reply HE IS FRENCH AND HE CAN COOK………AND I CAN”T…………I REPLIED…….!!!!!!!!
Mayten and Andy website : www.maytenandtheimpossibleprocect.blogspot.com
Vincent’s website : http://web.me.com/viamundi
Igor’s website : www.5dm.fr
Chris and Elayne’s New Website : www.ouradventurebug.com