Monday, October 24, 2016

Peru Trip, Day 9, Machu Picchu

Sunday, October 16, 2016

By this point in our journey Santos and I had gone two nights without much sleep. Around 5 am a couple of kids in the hallway woke us up from our sleep. Because the sun rises and sets so early, most people seem to wake up before 6 am around here. We had to meet our contacts by 6 am anyways, so we gathered ourselves together and went down the street to the restaurant owned by Pedro's family. Again, the last full meal we had was lunch the day before, which Santos had failed to retain through the whole car ride, so we were grateful for the tea (mate de muña) and rolls with avocado for breakfast. We spent a little bit of time attempting and failing to get tickets for the train from the nearby hydroelectric dam to Machu Picchu, so we had to take a taxi with some fellow believers from Machu Picchu to the dam.

We got to the dam just in time. In less than five minutes we bought our tickets, climbed aboard, and the train started moving. Compared to the car trip the day before, the train ride was bliss. We traveled in style along the Urubamba River. Although we had planned on taking the train back to Santa Teresa in the evening and setting out on the mountain road in the morning back to Cusco, Santos and I talked it over and decided to spend the night in Machu Picchu if at all possible and return to Cusco by train instead. The only problem was that we left our bags in the hostel at Santa Teresa.

Once we arrived at the train station in Machu Picchu, we talked it over with the local church leader Abraham about what we wanted to do, and he assured us someone could send us our bags before the day was out. With those assurances, we purchased our tickets. It was a lot cheaper to take an early train to Ollantaytambo and take a taxi the rest of the way to Cusco. If you remember, Santos and I felt fine for that part of the road trip. With that done, we had to travel to another building to purchase our tickets to enter Machu Picchu. Abraham, as a resident, already had his entry pass. From there we went to purchase our bus tickets to take us up the mountain to the ruins and then back down. The line seemed long, but it was nothing compared to the line to get on the bus. Abraham's wife and her friend held our spot in line for us (a common practice in this country) while we were buying all our tickets, so it was much shorter for us than it could have been. In all, we ended up standing in five lines that morning.

The half hour bus ride up the mountain gave us breathtaking views, but the best views of all were waiting for us at the top. Machu Picchu, that great Incan citadel and one of the seven wonders of the world, is truly amazing. I had visited it some 13 years ago back in 2003, but it hadn't changed much. Because of it's new status as a "wonder" the crowds are now much larger, and some areas we were free to explore are now roped off to prevent damage to the site, but it's still more than you can expect to explore in just one day.

After our excursion was done we discovered that we had spent too much time under the sun in the thin atmosphere. We both got bad burns. We were waiting in a similarly long line for the bus back down the mountain when it started raining lightly. Down at the bottom, and by now very hungry, we took Abraham out for lunch around 4 pm. We agreed to meet up again in the evening to attend a Bible study at the Christian school where Abraham teaches, and Santos agreed to teach through some of his material on 1 Corinthians.

We went to Hostal New Day, owned by one of the ladies who attends the Bible study, and rested a little bit before we would have to head back out again. When we woke up and came downstairs our bags were there. The brothers in Santa Teresa had gotten them to us. We went to the nearby plaza to take in a few more sights and I left Santos with his notes to explore the area some more.

The time finally came for the Bible study, and the hostel owner took us with her, meeting up with more people on the way to the school. We sang a number of songs with Abraham playing the guitar and Jenny, one of the women who had been with us in Santa Teresa but who lived in Machu Picchu, lead the singing. Then it was time for Santos to lead the Bible study. He taught from the word, and I could tell the people were listening. His message was encouraging but challenging as well, calling on us to live lives of holiness before God.

Afterwards we returned with the women to the hostel for a little bit of sleep before we had to wake up again at 4:30 am so we could make our train in the morning. As we were getting out our shorts and t-shirts for bed, the hostel knocked on our door to speak with us. She did two things that floored us. First, she gave us a love offering to bless us for our visit - 100 soles, or approximately $30 for each of us. Additionally, she told us our rent for the night was taken care of. We tried to politely decline her gift, but she insisted and it would have been rude to do anything other than to gratefully accept her gift, hug her, thank her, and pray with her. Humbled yet again by the sovereign hand of our God.

By now our trip was over. All that remained was a train, a taxi, and a few more flights, but even on our last day we would meet with new surprises.

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