Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Machu Pichu and South American Football

Well, I´ve seen plenty of postcards, posters, and school print outs of Machu Pichu, but seeing it in person was a whole new level of jaw dropping.  After 8 hours crammed into a minivan through mountain gravel roads, a two hour walk to the valley town and a 4:30 am wake up to walk up the mountain, Matt and I were among the first into the ruins.  At first, there wasn´t much to see, until the sun rose and the clouds began to burn off, revealing the massive stone city, a testament to pre-european power and ingenuity.  The stones, some of them thousands of pounds, had been fitted to each other in perfect jig-saw puzzle style, still standing 500 years after their creation.  Temples, palaces, homes, and terraced farm fields stood just as they must have when the last Inca king decided to destroy the roads leading to it to protect it from the Spanish, hiding it from the world until 1911.

After our guided tour, Matt and I wandered through the ruins and also out towards the Sun Gate and the Inca bridge across the mountain side.  We were suprised to learn that the Inca runners carried  messages from Cusco to Machu Pichu in 7 hours, faster than our mini-van ride.

We would only learn just how much longer that distance could be the next day, when our guide took us off of the arranged van back to Cusco and put us instead into a taxi.  This taxi dumped us off in a fork in the road known as Santa Maria, still 5 hours from Cusco.  When it became clear that our guide had duped us and pocketed the cash, we were forced to wait in the rain on the side of the road for 7 hours for the one and only bus going to Cusco, which arrived at 4am.  At the advice of some locals, we asked the travel agency we had booked the Machu Pichu tour through for a refund.  Several hours of arguing yielded $30 and an admonishment that ¨this is South America¨.  Lesson learned, we have succesfully avoided guided tours for pretty much our entire trip aside from the two times it was pretty much required (Machu Pichu and the Amazon).

Happily, the next day we got to experience the uncontrolled chaos that is a Latin American football match.  We went to see the Peru final with the owner and some employees of the hostal.  After standing in a gargantuan line outside the stadium for about half an hour, word spread that the stadium had over sold tickets by about twice the actual number of seats.  Everybody in the line charged the gate, and chaos broke loose.  Fortunately, our friend from the hostal yelled to us to follow him, and took off running through the crowd to a back entrance, where he had a brief conversation with some police officers who rushed me through the door and into the stadium.  I still have no idea what happened, other than that our friend said that ¨he plays some football and knows some policia¨.

Things didn´t calm down any inside the stadium, where the away fans created a constant ruckus and were surrounded by riot police.  Firemen kept watch from around the stadium, and referees had to be protected under police shields after some unpopular yellow cards.  The hostal owner joined in by managing to hit the opposing goalie with a well aimed remnant of his lunch, and the game was a fiercely contested battle that ended 1-0 for the away team (Lima).  While no riots did break out, I was quite pleased with my first South American football match.

After that, Matt and I reluctantly made the decision to take another 10 hour bus ride south to Arequipa, Peru´s second biggest city, in order to get the most out of our remaining week.  Predictably, I developed a horrible case of food poisoning part way through the bus ride, which I am still fighting.  Hopefully it abates soon, as we have arranged for a guide to help us make a summit attempt on the 5,750 meter tall Misty Volcano tomorrow.  Ugh.

Regardless, we´re in the home stretch now, and though I´ve had a blast the past three months, I won´t mind going back to some home cooked (and safe) food and clean clothes.  (the frequency with which I have machine washed my two tshirts and pairs of pants washing has dropped to a level that I am too ashamed of to admit).  Hopefully this last week will finish off the adventure with a (metaphorically speaking) bang.  Anyway, thanks for reading!

Riot police keeping the home and away fans away from each other at the Peru soccer final

Enjoying a South American soccer match

Clouds clearing off the ruins

There it is!

Some very busy llamas

Enjoying a sunrise over the ruins of Machu Pichu

The Inca king´s "throne".  His was the only house with this essential bit of indoor plumbing

Famous Inca sun dial in Machu Pichu

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