52. Macchu Picchu II; Agua Caliente back to Cusco

52. Macchu Picchu, then from Agua Caliente back to Cusco 18 Sept.

I awaken early again, and find better weather and a longer line awaiting me outside.    I’m alone this time: neither Ragna nor Selma felt like getting up early this morning; and as I left the room, Ragna  and I quarreled.   So I’m very alone.

Again I drink a coffee in line, this time making casual conversation with strangers. 

Again the bus winds up the switchbacks, under the gaze of those extraordinary mountains shrouded in mist. 

Again too it’s a rush through the beautiful grounds to the line for Huayna Picchu. As we enter, and I pass the sharp, uphill left that would take me to where I spent so much of yesterday, the place tugs at my heart.  I’d like to see how things look from there so early on a fine morning; and it would be quieter, contemplative. Still, I rush along with the others.  Walking fast, but shooting too, sometimes without quite stopping.

The line today is much longer than the previous day’s line.   I feel foolish, standing in it.   It looks like the start of the Boston Marathon.  I may wait in line, wasting the best early-morning photographic light, only to make a sweaty climb with hundreds of people around me — a great view of some other hiker’s fat ass above me, and 25-year-olds racing past me like deer, as I once ran up and down the trails in Nepal.   I am not even sure there aren’t 400 people in front of me already.   I may not even get in!   When a young couple standing with me gets talking about this, and he remarks that they were on the 22nd bus, I do the math: for just this reason, I counted the seats on the bus: 29, 28 of them occupied on my particular bus.  Multiply 22 by 28 or 29, and . . . I’m outta there!

I feel lighter the moment I leave the line, realizing I just want to wander back up to the wonderful place I spent the previous afternoon, and see how Macchu Picchu looks from there in the morning light. 

I work my way back up there, enjoying plenty of other fine views on the way.

Macchu Picchu is indeed beautiful from there, in the morning light.










I walk back a bit and into a nearby field and find myself alone with several llamas.  They are grazing, and chewing some kind of berries or leaves off the trees, and seem perfectly content for me to stand among them.  One works his way along the berries until he is nearly chewing on my elbow.

Photographically, it may or may not turn out; but it feels extraordinary to be standing among these llamas, in this place, at dawn.  I feel privileged.  I feel as if I’ve been holding my breath the whole time, so as not to disturb anything.   Everything else — the morning quarrel with Ragna — pales. 

































People come.  One woman steps into the middle of this tableau, apparently unaware of the llama, and stands there hollering “Gordo!”   Even her, the llamas don’t mind.  She bellows, “Gordo!”  a few more times, and eventually goes away. 

I go back where I was, and sit awhile.  Mostly my mind is blank.  Meditative.  When thoughts of problems sidle into my mind, the spellbinding view banishes them.

I leave.  I do not want to; and yet, I’m ready to.  The moment has been so fine that I am sated, and ready to return to “the real world.”  Perhaps I have a sense already that I will need what this moment has given me.

sm-08-1488-top-of-wayman-picchuWhat I have not said, but must, is that when Ragna came to bed last night she was angry with me.   When I awakened early to return to Macchu Picchu, she was angry with me.  I wanted to get back out here, and didn’t pay much attention to her, and spoke sharply to her in return.   We are two people who have loved each other but have often made each other miserable — despite my best efforts and probably hers too — and are wearing out.   We have had these sorts of quarrels — over what, I often don’t know – too many times over too many years.   She’s a wonderful, charming, charismatic woman, but each of us has long wondered how much longer we can stay together.

sm-08-1490-llamasWhen I leave, I start down a set of stone steps and glance up, and see that I have a new view of two grazing llamas.  They’re grazing on a grassy platform at about eye level, so I have a worm’s eye view of them, just as the morning sun burns through the sm-08-1504-llamasclouds.   






When sm-08-1515-hut-and-peak1I leave, I walk quickly, still enjoying my solitude and the splendid surroundings.






Return to Cusco:

I run into Ragna and Selma in a cafe as I enter Agua Caliente.   Ragna is not speaking to me any more than necessary.   We rush to make the next train to Ollatatambo.   On it, Ragna and Selma sit far away from me.  

We recover the car, and drive back to Cusco a different and quicker way, making no stops.   It’s pretty country, but grey and rainy.  The mood in the car is darker.  Back in Cusco, we again get a double room and a single: but this time Ragna and Selma are in the double, somewhat to the confusion of the folks working at the hotel.

Travel Notes:

We stayed at the Hotel Bromeliad in Agua Caliente.  It’s one of the cheaper options.  It’s basic, but clean.
In Cusco, we’re again at the Q’orichaska.   I recommend it.  (See first Cusco post for more details, and the hostal’s address and phone number.)


Other Points:

1. Obviously for photography, or simply for enjoying or studying the place, the tours that get you to Macchu Picchu for a couple of hours in the middle of the day just don’t cut it. Flattest light, most people wandering around, fewest llamas, very little time, etc. Agua Caliente boasts a range of places to stay, though they’re over-priced by Peru standards generally.
2. If you want to go up Huayna Picchu, line up early – or perhaps try the afternoon, hoping the ranks of climbers will have thinned out by then.
3. Although guidebooks and a sign at the entrance tell you that you can’t take your backpack in, or carry walking sticks in, I saw no semblance of an effort to enforce either rule, or the prohibition against food and drink.
4. Making a sharp left and climbing as soon as you can after entering the place [or following the signs for the Inca Bridge for awhile] will take you up to the observation point I describe in the text and much enjoyed. For photographers, going up there first might be rewarding. [Note that the trail to the Inca Bridge was closed when we were there, which meant you couldn’t go too far by following that trail.]
5. Consider taking a good sun hat as well as sunblock, insect repellent, and bottled water. Simple raingear may also be needed.

One response to “52. Macchu Picchu II; Agua Caliente back to Cusco

  1. Wonderful photos!
    I’m disseminating this interview about healing with ayahuasca shamanismand I thoguht it could be interesting for you…

    best wishes
    Jose Luis

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