We stopped at a couple of ruins along the way, saw another in the distance, and enjoyed the incredible scenery, as well as a lovely boxed lunch provided by the tour company. This was pretty much the first day that I had more than soup for all three meals; nothing wrong with the food, it just took that long for my system to adjust to things. By around 2:30, we made it to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu and had our first sight of the famous city.
And then the rain started again. A steady drizzle that turned into a gentle downpour, then into a pretty awesome demonstration of how well the drainage still worked in Machu Picchu. Those Incas sure knew how to build! The last of our guided tour happened in a bit of a rush as dozens of sodden tourists quickly made their way to a couple of shelters near the exit. Jorge finished up his presentation under the thatched roof, then bid us a wonderful day, leaving us to our own devices.
As the train back to Ollantaytambo didn't leave until 6:30 that evening, and it hadn't yet reached 8 am, we decided to wait out the rain for a bit, then just dove back in, seeing as we were already wet. Somehow, our timing worked out, as the downpour eased back to a steady drizzle, then just overcast skies. Leaving us a very pleasant day to explore the ruins.
As we approached the bridge (you can look, but you can't cross), and I saw the huge plank spanning the space, I thought, 'neat, but so what?' And then I took a closer look and the whole architectural marvel of it just about blew my mind. The plank is not the interesting part; the sheer volume of stones put in place over 500 years ago, along a vertical cliff face in the middle of nowhere without the use of scaffold or mortar, and still mostly intact--that's just damned impressive. You do truly have to see it to get the full impact, and pictures don't do it justice, but I've included one here anyway. Just amazing.
Eventually, we made our way back down to Aguas Callientes (walking rather than getting a bus), had some food, and caught our train. We knew that we would share the bus back with Cuzco with some other Salkantay trekkers, and had a moment of worry having to listen to a rowdy group on the train (and getting rowdier and more obnoxious with every beer they tossed back) with Salkantay packs (we really wanted to apologise for the most obnoxious, as he loudly claimed Canada as his home). Luckily, our bus had the other worried train passengers, leaving the party bus to annoy a different driver. Our group pretty much slept back to Cuzco, much to everyone's relief.
We spent another couple of nights in Cuzco, but really only one day, as the bus didn't arrive until after 10:30 pm, and the flight back to Lima left at 8:30 am. We checked out a market with everything you could possibly need, from knitwear and souvenirs to fruit and raw chicken, and most things in between. Then off to Lima.
We met an entrepreneur named Juan that Mike had made a connection with for lunch at a fabulous (and slightly schmoozy) restaurant called La Mer, where we had cebiche (or ceviche, if you want to Americanized spelling), the must-have Peruvian seafood dish. Mike and Juan talked about UAVs and how Mike and Aeryon might help Juan with various humanitarian efforts he has a hand in. Juan ordered a wonderful selection of dishes for us (including octopus--delish!) so I don't know what all we had, but every bite was fantastic. Dipped our toes in the ocean, just to say we did. Despite the surfers, it was too cold to swim, though the hang gliders had some impressive updrafts.
Had some causa for supper--again, a Peruvian dish. Basically a mashed potato sandwich with whatever filling they have on offer. I had mine filled with avocado and tuna. Peru has something like 3000 different kinds of potato, and maybe half that for different kinds of corn. Whatever variety of potato bracketed my causa, it seemed nice enough.
Our driver arrived around 1:30 am to take us to the airpoirt for our 5 am flight home, saying that night traffic is pretty bad, given all the early flights. That said, we had smooth sailing (or driving) and made it to the airport with lots of time to spare. Some turbulence on the flight, but we made it home all safe and sound.
Besides the fantastic scenery, Peru has some great food and wonderful people. If you've ever thought of going, I highly recommend it!