Perú

I scribbled more phrases, the pages becoming chicken-scratch notes to anyone but us.  “I’m going to Lima,” I wrote, is, “Yo voy a Lima.” 

Next, the past tense.

Our lesson sprawled across two pages.  When there was no more room, I ripped  out the pages for her to keep. One page tore, leaving behind a piece containing a few sentences. She delicately extracted the missing piece.

“I studied English, but not too much,” she smiled.

Giving an impromptu English lesson in Cusco’s San Pedro Market was one of the moments I’ll always remember. She helped me with my Spanish, and we talked about what it’s like learning a language.

Apart from Cusco’s markets, the streets are full of people selling Chica Morada, a sweet drink made from purple corn, sunglasses, paintings, roasted cuy (guinea pig) and coca toffees. Then there are the drums thundering from the Plaza de Armas, where everyday seems to bring a new festival or gathering. Last night was Carnival de Cusco, with elaborate dancing and masks. The next morning, police lined the steps of the church as teachers staged a peaceful protest for higher wages.

Like most others here, we came for the new Seventh Wonder of the World: Machu Picchu. It started with a two-hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo, a town in Peru’s Sacred Valley. From there, we caught the train to Agua Calientes, the last town before Machu Picchu.

Making lunch at the train station.

Peru Rail, which of course isn’t owned by Peru, but by the Orient Express.

Agua Calientes, the last town before Machu Picchu.

The next day, Cami and I woke up at 4 am to begin the hike to the top. Flashlight in hand, we began the ascent at 5 am. Two hours later, we reached the top, where the fog and silence were overwhelming.

Sunrise

Every day, over 3,000 people visit Machu Picchu. As the morning continued, so did the flow of tourists. Big, noisy tour groups, pairs of backpackers, children, old, and young couples mixed in the Inca ruins.

No matter how many people arrived, you can always find a quiet spot in this stone labyrynth.