Before heading to the jungle we had also organised a tour to Machu Pichu - the famous site of Inka ruins. This also included three nights in Aguas Calientas the town at the foot of the mountains that is home to the ruins.
This meant we had just over a day between getting back from the jungle and getting to Aguas Calientas (AC). We were also travelling as three for this trip, a Frenchman by the name of Lionel who we became good friends with in the jungle had also decided to join us.
To get to AC we had to first get a bus to Ollyantambo then a train to AC. Anyway the three of us met the agent who sold us the tour at the predetermined time and we all jumped into a taxi bound for the bus station. The only snag was that there were no seats left on any of the buses bound for Ollyantaytambo. No problem the agent piled us into a taxi paid the driver and said he would take us all the way. Well this was no ordinary taxi driver, after trying to prove that he was related to Micheal Schumacha for the first 1/2 hour he pulled over and started to demand more money to take us all the way. With thoughts of that famous saying "don't pay the ferry man till you get to the other side" ringing in my head the three of us protested to the point where we finally wore him down and he set off down the road.
We thought we had won this battle of wills but really all we had managed to do was piss him off! He exacted his revenge by filling his small station wagon with 11 people and driving like an absolute idiot. By this stage it was dark and there were so many people in the car that he couldn't change gears properly and was no doubt distracted, distracted enough to not see the four people walking on the side of the road, one of whom he hit with his wing mirror at 70km/hr!
There was no way he was going to stop so we will never know the fate of that poor individual, but I managed to get his licence number and taxi number and reported him. I have no idea if there will be any repercussions but I sure hope there will be!
The train ride to AC was bliss, anything would have been compared to that taxi ride, and we found our hotel without a snag. After a late dinner we all crashed knowing that an early morning get up was ahead of us.
By early I mean that we set off at 4:30am in the pitch black in order to climb up to Machupicchu in time to see the sunrise. We had some basic directions and trundled off half asleep and after 30 minutes we came o the base of the mountain. The way up is a constant climb up uneven stone steps. I have no shame in saying that the going was really tough and while I was pleased to do it it is not something I would rush to do again. One step at a time is really slow and the lack of oxygen from altitude burned my lungs - but I know how to persevere and made it to the top 15 minutes before the sun peaked over the mountains.
The sun rise was indeed spectactular and after a brief rest we met our guide, Ruben, and began our tour of the ruins.
Ruben was excellent and provided a very good insight into Inca life - well what is known of it. Very little is known of what went on at Machu Picchu and why the Incas left. In fact it wasn't until 1911 that a professor from the USA "rediscovered" Machu Picchu and begun archelogical work on the site.
Filled with knowledge and questions after our tour we sat at the highpoint of the ruins, the Inca military lookout, and chatted for a couple of hours about what it would have been like to live in a village at the top of a mountain. It was a really peaceful and relaxing experience.
Back down in AC we stopped by the train station to confirm our train departure time on the following day. Just as well we did because we were amongst the first to learn that the locals had blockaded the tracks and had interupted all normal timetables indefinately - but there was the guarantee of a train leaving in an hour if we wanted to be on it. We desparately wanted to stay to get to know the town and experience the hot springs but we really had no choice - we took the train.
Back in Ollyantaytambo we still had to get Cusco. We had met up some other Australians and a mother and daughter travelling from the US so we all decided to share a taxi. Our hope was that this would prevent overcrowding and we certainly were not going to pay before we got to our destination.
For all our good logic it didn't do us much good - we still had an argument over money and he still drove like an absolute idiot. We made it to Cusco and headed straight to the nearest bar for a stiff drink or 3 and thanked our lucky stars that we were all still alive.