Saturday, January 10, 2009

South America - Day 2

I have not slept since 6 in the morning on Friday, when I went to sleep at 3am the night before. So far the adventure to South America is very interesting. Our first destination is Machu Pichu, The Lost City of the Incas, built more then 500 years ago and now one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Our flight to Atlanta was at 1pm after which we transferred to our flight to Lima, Peru. We arrived to Lima at around midnight. My travel partner for this trip is Vladimir and he was held up by Peruvian customs because of an Interpol alert. Fortunately, the guy they were looking for had the same name but no other informaiton matched and they finally let him go. I already jotted down Vladimir's passport number and was getting ready to call the American Embassy in Peru.

Our next flight was at 5:40am so I convinced Vladimir to forget about our hostel reservation and sleep in the airport. After sleeping for about 2 hours we found out that our flight was delayed by 5 hours, which means that we would not make the train to Machu Pichu and our flight back to Lima the next morning. We were lucky and were switched to another airline and at 8am were on our way to Cusco, the nearest city to Machu Pichu that has an airport.

My first impression was that Cusco is very poor as the street were not well kept and houses had much unrepaired damage. However, once we got closer to the center the city became more beautiful, which made sense. Tourism is the most important thing in Cusco and all the tourists live in the center. Outside of the city centers poverty prevails despite Peru's much progress as fastest growing economy in South America due to mineral exports, food exports, trade, and private investment.

We had to take a taxi for over an hour through the Huatanay Valley to catch our train. The taxi ride only cost $ that to a yellow cab. While driving we saw some of the most amazing landscapes; there was perfectly manicured farmland nestled in the valley between the mountains, animals such Cows, Lamas, and Pigs roaming freely in the fields, snow caps on the higher mountains, and everything else that you would expect from such a place.

Once we reached the train station we just missed the train and had to wait for the next one, which was a luxury train and cost over $50 for the 90 minute ride to Aguas Calientes, city on the bottom of the Machu Pichu mountain. Once there we took a bus to the top at a cost of $14. We did not have much cash since we expected to rely on credit cards and bank cards but strangely almost no one accepted them. At the entrance to the Machu Pichu site we had to buy tickets at a price of $40 each. We scraped together every penny we had and were lucky because after we paid for the tickets we were left with only 1 Sol, about 33 cents US. Hence, eating, drinking, and using the restroom were out of the question for us until we can find an ATM. It was scarry to think that we traveled for over 24 hours and almost not get in.

Machi Pichu is one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen, I can only compare it to the great Wall of China. Its a real city located at 8000 feet above sea level. It's clean, well maintained, and extremely peaceful. There are over 140 structures made from stone.

After walking around for a few hours we started making our way back to Cusco, the location of our Hostel - about a 4 hour trip. At around 10pm, about 32 hours into our trip Vladimir's body totally gave up and he fell asleep in his clothes as soon as we got to our hostel. I am debating if I should take a shower since the shower is outside and it is not very warm here.

Tomorrow, we will go to Lima for a day and then will take the red eye flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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