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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some kind of wonderful...

The llamas at Machu Picchu are, without a doubt, quite picturesque. They are also harried beings, if I am not mistaken.  Over on the terraces there were children daring each other to run at the llamas, smack a hand down on the beautiful long thick fur of their backs and then run away, shrieking.

Now, if I were a llama, I would get really tired of this. I saw no spitting, but no one would have blamed them had it come to that.

Llamas seem like gentle, social creatures. Personally, I wanted to be Girl Who Hangs With Llamas, so I waited until the rotten children finally went to go torture their parents and each other instead of the herbivores, and with Mike looking on, (and if he was concealing the fact that he was laughing at me, he did so well) I slowly crept up to a mother and her little one, talking quietly as I went. I would be the llama whisperer.

As it turned out, you can approach a 350 lb creature and her baby if you do so nicely. Apparently llamas are also forgiving. I patted the mama for awhile, then quietly sat near her baby. Everyone was OK with this arrangement.


a much more-llama-friendly way to interact with a Camilid

There may be something cuter than this baby llama in Machu Picchu,  but I sure didn't see it.


Doesn't she have the sweetest Judi Dench eyes?



It was pleasant there, resting in the terraces, snapping the odd photo and eating sweet crackers.


Mike even offered to pose for this action shot:


nifty stone stairs

which made me entirely mellow and happy in the sun. It was also getting a bit warm; the UV exposure there is one of the highest levels in the world, not so good for pasty-skinned tourists.

Yay for sunscreen. High marks from me, as a skin pigment challenged sort of girl.

We gave  ourselves extra time to catch the bus down and to visit the necessary, as there are no toilets in Machu Picchu...and we'd been hydrating. This is not a complaint, nor am I advocating that they should build restrooms in the ruins, not at all. That would be...wrong.

I added to my photo collection of people charging to use toilets:


I know, I know. I simply find the practice...curious.

Then we got to do something that had never occurred to me as something you could do. I've always treated my passport as something near-sacred, to be marked by officials only, so this was a real revelation. In honor of the 100 year anniversary, we were actually permitted to stamp our passports with a special design! Check it out:


I don't care who you are, that's cool.

There was an enormous queue for the buses where the road down  the mountains, begins, and fellows stacking the concert equipment, boxes and boxes of it, into waiting trucks. Other workers were stretched out on the boxes, arms thrown over their eyes to get some rest. We waited, quietly baking in the sun, and discovered that the trip down was less harrowing, what with gravity being on our side this time.

When gravity is on your side, you are like the hitter, not the hit-ee in a fight, so other buses coming up the hill will generally get out of your way. Not always, mind you, but in this case anyway, mostly.

Inevitably there will be a handicrafts market where tourists gather, and the one at Aguas Calientes, the village at the bottom of the mountain, was quite nice to walk through...out of the sun and all that. It being winter, I wonder what it's like to come here in the summer...or the rainy season?

Just before the train depot were a couple of local children playing quietly, having tucked themselves into the bottom niche of a two-tiered shrine:



I am sure their parents approve on all fronts.

The ride back was, surprisingly, a jolly affair.


We sat with our Chilean friend, JT, and across the aisle from his parents, who spoke little English, but are obviously very nice people. (JT is gratifyingly fluent.) I was just in the process of admiring his camera equipment, hiding my point-and-shoot under the table, when another gentleman with a National Geographic photographic gear bag quietly asked if he could sit with us. We agreed.

He put HIS camera on the table and I swear JT started to drool (I know I did) and also might have started to hide his camera under the table. I understood how he felt.


LOOK at that bad boy. I mean the camera.

We ordered some wine and talked with Maarten, a professional documentary photographer from Iceland. Great accent. The Chileans were very excited; it turned out he had done a piece on one of their favorite artists. JT in particular was thrilled -it's his life's ambition to become a travel photographer; perhaps Maarten could help him with contacts. He was starry-eyed, brimming with dreams and hopefulness.

I asked Maarten for his best travel tip, which was an interesting one: supposedly, to be less attractive to mosquitoes, eliminate sugar from your diet before and while you're in the jungle, and take B vitamins.

Eliminating sugar and taking vitamins is undoubtedly a good idea, but personally, I'm sticking with the proven methods of light-colored clothing and repellent with DEET and lemon eucalyptus oil.

I know, such a cynic. We were staying away from the malarial areas of Peru, to be sure, but even so. Malaria bad. Even regular old mosquito bites are not my idea of a good time.

Yay for bug spray.

Maarten even let us watch a rough compilation of his Machu Picchu work on his laptop.


terraced farmland, hillsides along the tracks

Lots of laughter, sharing stories and another bottle of wine, the day darkening into night and the Peruvian countryside rushing past became shadows.



Our train car was treated to a a traditional dance up and down the isle, performed by a ghoulishly masked, rainbow-garbed demon followed by a catalogue fashion show, the clothing very much for sale, running to hundreds of dollars per piece and modeled by our service staff who did their best while looking somewhat embarrassed. All clapped and cheered, why not?

We invested in another bottle of wine. The hours went by beautifully.

At the station, we said somewhat regretful good-byes and were dutifully collected by our driver who dropped us in the town square to find a late dinner. I was grateful April and Royce had lent us puffy winter coats; it was chilly up in the mountains. Peru was playing Mexico in a televised soccer game to full-throated roars from the viewers. It was nothing short of a miracle that the cooks and servers stopped watching long enough to bring us drinks and food.



Like the (llama) hat? Attractive and toasty.

Peru triumphed in the end, 1-0. We called our Mexican compadre in Lima to taunt him a little. It was that sort of evening.

Then we went to get cash, and a dreadful thing happened...

2 comments:

  1. What?! You leave us with a cliff-hanger? You cruel, cruel woman! :)

    I'm taking note of your lemon eucalyptus oil tip. I am a mosquito magnet.

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  2. The nice thing about the lemon euc oil is that you can put it in your hair as well as on your skin, and it repels bugs including headlice (!)...something I do not want to deal with on vacation...or ever...!

    As for the cliff-hanger...I know. I do that once in a while. Have to keep it interesting, you know. :)

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