Today is an opt-out day for those who can't, or won't, carry on. This inevitably included Marceo with his sprained ankle and John the Irishman, whose inability to walk slowly, even at altitude had him throwing up all last night. The large German and the other Brazilians also opted out. There were to be driven to a train station where we would meet them for lunch and they would then get the train to Aguas Calientes; the tourist town at the bottom of Machu Picchu.
Us heroes that were left trotted off through the village and began the days trek with a river crossing... in a cage!
A thick steel line lay suspended between the two sides of the river and a cage hung beneath it. The case was loosely secured at both sides enabling you to pull yourself one way or another. Well that or you get someone to give you a big shove and another to pull you across! Just don't mind the raging torrent below! The crossing definitely made for lots of screaming girly action. Brilliant!
Further along we cross over a fierce waterfall. This waterfall used to pound over the trail, but as they want to turn the trail into a road they dug a big hole through the rock so now it goes under the trail! Woah! Quite an impressive feat considering the scale of the operation and Peruvian engineering (e.g. llamas and donkeys!).
Further down the line we enter the National Park, sign ourselves in and walk to the train station for lunch. The lazy others were already waiting for us with some nice cold, ice cold Inca Colas! Oh boy, my favourite!
Setting off from there we come across a stone plinth and if you stand on it you're able to get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu - our destination! From there we essentially follow the train line all the way to Aguas Calientes. This took many many hours for it was quite some way. Not only was it far, but the ground was surprisingly difficult to walk. The gravel track was extremely broken up by railway sleepers - too uneven to casually walk over. So you walk on the sleepers, but their spacing was too close to step on each one and too far apart to step on every other one! This then just left my favourite option, to walk the line! Yep, walk on the railway line itself! I found balance was basically a matter of finding the optimum distance ahead to focus on.
I walked most of it with Patrick, John's mate and a fellow Irish man. We walked a bit with Patricia too.
The main problems of walking along a train track are... TRAINS! Yep, this track certainly wasn't deserted! Every now and again you'd hear a loud horn blow and you'd jump out the way of a steaming bulldozer! So all this wasn't too much of a problem in its self until we came to a bridge over a ravine and a river below. Where only the sleepers prevented you from falling into the savage river below. And should a train come at the same time... well there wasn't anywhere to go except down! (I had visions of a scene from the film The Lost Boys!) I did the usual Apache Indian trick of sticking my ear to the rail to see if I could hear it coming (?). I then had to coax Patrick over the bridge with me - he wasn't overly keen! Only after crossing did we notice the pedestrian bridge nearby!
We rolled into Aguas Calientes for about 17:00, after observing how hideous it was from the train track. Set below the majestic green mountains was the technicolor tourist town monstrosity! It just looked nasty!
In town I was sent to a hotel to pick up my main bag before trekking to a different location where I was staying. (This was supposed to have been arranged previously by X-Treme treks, but err, they'd forgotten about me!) To my surprise, I was staying in my own luxury room in a hotel, complete with hot showers!
It was obvious most people in town had arrived by train, mainly Americans in white pristine washed and pressed clothes. I was quite happy to tramp amongst them, looking haggard and hard, humping my pack in a fireman's lift, having not showered for days!
A group dinner in the evening presented an opportunity for many beers, culminating in some late night cocktail drinks with the guides. I was disappointed that I would only get to spend a few hours in my posh room before getting up at 4:00 am to begin my final accent of Machu Picchu...
Posted by Steve Eynon