Sunday, May 23, 2010


Marching Band

Colourful Dancers

Humourous Dance

Watching the Show

My alarm beeped at 5AM, I could not open my eyes, but I dragged myself out of bed. I rousted Eric, and sent him to the ATM and the ticket office, and began to ready myself for our morning visit. The only ATM in town was still not working and there was no way to get 'soles' for our tickets and no other way to get up to Machu Picchu. I was desolate. I had arranged for our trainride back to happen later in the morning so we could see the sunrise over the ruins, which I had read about, planned for, hoped for.

Urubamba River

Eric had no trouble falling back asleep, I had not woken Maya, and I just stewed. How could I be here and not see the morning light over Machu Picchu? How could I have not arranged this better? Why did I not get the tickets in Cusco, or insisted that we get the cash in our pockets in Lima or Cusco? I had told our tour operators that I wanted to see the ruins in the morning, why did I not insist they buy us our tickets? I wound myself into a frenzy and discovered that I had a fever and a cold and was absolutely miserable.

We wandered around Aguas Calientes, which reminds me of a mining town, with a railroad in the centre of the main street, and wooden buildings that appear slapped together. I expected to see cowboys around a corner. Near the train station, the kisoks were setting out their wares, encouraging us to buy their textiles and leather goods and jewellery and knick knacks. When we arrived at the train for our ride back to Pisacucho, we discovered that we did not have a seat on the carriage, that because I had changed our train time so we could visit the ruins in the morning, we had been rebooked on seats that did not exist. In the end, seats were found for us, and the train left the station slowly, stopping frequently, pausing in the bright sunshine, so that we could peruse the terraces, Inca trails, Inca buildings, the Urubamba river rapids rushing past us. Next time I visit, I would like to walk the Inca trail and stop at every ruin.

Snow Capped Peaks

Cesar was not waiting for us at Pisacucho as was expected. We milled about for a while, and then found another driver waiting for us; Cesar was unable to drive to the train station, but I was not sure why. We encountered him further on. He told us that today was fiesta day in Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, and that it had been impossible to get through Urubamba in the morning, which is perhaps why he was unable to meet us. He asked us where we wanted to stop for lunch, and we were lucky to choose Ollantaytambo, where we stopped in the main square and were entertained by the local dance groups, in their colourful costumes and ancient traditions. It turned out that this was the biggest fiesta of the year, and would last all week, today being the first day. Music, dancing and bullfights were on the agenda.

The dancers choose traditional costumes and stories to move through. Many of the dances make fun of the Spanish and the conquistadors. I wish I knew the meaning of the dances, instead I enjoyed the movement and the simple music and the wild styles. Children joined parents and the crowd was very appreciative and ever growing.

Sherry and Jeff found a restaurant with a balcony and a view of the show, so we ate pizza and lemonade and learned details about the dances from the wife of the owner of the restaurant who happened to be Canadian, and her children. Watching the dancing and the antics of the crowd helped me forget what a horrendous cold I suddenly had.

Driving Back to Cusco

We drove back to Cusco on an alternate route. We climbed to a high plain, with snow capped peaks in each direction. The land was brown a little dry, and mostly agricultural, and the towns used adobe bricks for construction, so the houses were brown too. Many had a figure of two bulls on the top of the roof, along with a cross or rosary. We wondered where we could purchase one. They were supposed to bring good luck to the house and the family who lived in it.

Good Luck Bulls on top of House

I learned from Cesar that the women who wore felt hats were Mestizo and those who wore a particular headress were indigenous, the latter wore more colourful and patterned skirts. We passed town after small town, until we descended into Cusco and back into our hotel. Shopping was next on the agenda, and Maya and I found the hats we wanted to buy. Dinner was at the Inca Grill (where we ate our first day), but I chose to wander through town and visit the local dance theatre for more dancing.

Local Dance Troupe

I buried myself in bed early, with lots of Ibuprofen and warm blankets, hoping that a little extra sleep would fight a horrible cold I had developed. We were heading back to Lima early in the morning, but would have preferred to explore this lovely town instead.

Native Mother and Child

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