“What train number are you?”
“We are 74, please let us get on!”
“No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that. You need to wait here.”
“No no no! Do you see that old man you just let through? That is our grandfather! We need to be on that train with him! See, he is just climbing into the train car now! Please he is our grandfather. Por favor!”
That is how Jack managed to get us on the train coming from home Machu Picchu after 2 landslides delayed 5 trains and hundreds of people were fighting to get on the only train leaving that night. In this pandimonium, Jack weasled us into the first class train car, on a train that was not ours, to make sure we got back to Cusco in time. We had hiked over 1500 verticle feet that day, eaten 1 ½ rice cakes, and been awake for 19 hours – we were in game mode and nothing was stopping us from getting on that train.
32 Hours before the landslides and train pandamonium, Ryan and Jack were headed to the our designated location to meet our van that would take us over the mountains to the train to Machu Picchu. We had been out dancing late into the night with many of the volunteers and local Peruvians, so things were a bit hazy in the morning, but we managed to get settled into the van only to realize the style of trip we were going to be having when the driver pulled out of the parking spot, crushed the car in front of us, and just pulled away without flinching. Yep, we were in for another adventure.
2 Hours later we had arrived at the busy train station after our winding ride through the mountains. The van driver made it quite clear, early on, that he did indeed have a death wish because we were passing trucks on hair-pin turns with little, to no regard for personal well being. Ryan made his opinions clear when he immediately stepped out of the van upon arrival and lost his lunch, while Jack did all that he could to return to his normal skin color from the green that he had turned. We then boarded the train and enjoyed a wonderful train ride from the arid high mountains down the Sacred Valley into the jungle mountains. We arrived at the train station below Machu Picchu and began our hunt for what we were told would be a representative from the hostel with a sign with our name on it. Obviously, this person never showed up so we went on the hunt for our hostel. After some phone calls and confusion, we found our hostel who had us reserved under “Riau Beame”. [Ryan had found his official travel alias] So we checked in to find our stunning room: no windows, one lightbulb hanging down from the ceiling, and mold all over the walls. Joy.
To recap the next few hours, our guide showed up 3 hours late to give us instructions for Machu Picchu the next day, we walked through a monsterous downpour, and attempted to sleep while the kitchen on the floor below us was having a shouting competition. We were so far past frustation that we just laughed at everything and did our best to go with the flow.
The 4:45am alarms go off and we are sneaking out of the hostel at 5am to make it to the bus stop to get our bus up to Machu Picchu. We can’t help but laugh at the fact that we have no idea if the money we paid in Cusco for the hostel actually made it into the right hands. We knew one thing, Riau Beame wasn’t going to give over any more cash or any identification for that matter. So we are racing up the mountainside in the dark in the busses only to find that our tardy tourguide from the night before does not show at 6am at the gate, where he said he would be. We decide that we are just going to do Machu Picchu on our own.
We start the hike towards the sun gate and by 7:30am we are starting to look over our shoulders, back towards Machu Picchu, to see the clouds lifting off of one of the 7 wonders of the world. We were absolutely speechless as we sat, high up in the mountains, as we watched the clouds rise and fall over the mountains, enveloping Machu Picchu and then releasing her from its grasps to show its true beauty. It was one of those moments where we didn’t have to say anything, but rather just sit back and enjoy. We had finally made it.
After 6 hours up on Machu Picchu, we had hiked to the Sun Gate, explored all of the ruins, taken countless pictures, bribed officials, and climbed the mountain overlooking the whole Machu Picchu complex. This Hyana Picchu mountain was a thousand feet above the ruins and meant that we were literally climbing hand
over feet up ladders carved into the rock. Slipping on rocks under small waterfalls, hanging onto saftey lines, and hanging legs over 400 ft cliffs were all part of the glorious experience. We even saw a chinchilla!
We finally made our way back down from Hyana Picchu, to Machu Picchu, and to the train station via the Inca Trail. Upon arrival we find out that we could have stayed an extra 4 hours up in the mountains because the torrential rains from the night before have released 2 landslides upon the train tracks and no trains are getting in or out of town. We are trapped essentially. This gave us an opportunity to make some friends, a couple from Australia and an older gentleman from London who would later become our “grandfather.” We talk politics, bad jokes, and about previous and future adventures. Finally it is announced in the now packed train station that there is one train coming and to “please form an orderly line with ticket ready.” Yeah, right. If we had learned anything from Peru, it was to be ready for anything and that “orderly” was usually not the main mode of operation. They start announcing ticket numbers for people to board the train and after 45 minutes it is starting to look grim for us. We have a plane to catch the next day in Cusco and we are not going to sit in this little town any longer than we need. This is the moment when 16 years of friendship and 10 years of Jack playing defense for Ryan in goal in lacrosse comes in handy. We know what each other is going to do just by the simple grunts, head shakes, and eye movements. The battle to get on this train has begun. We make our way through the crowd to the door where the Australian couple has made their way through 5 minutes earlier and the London gentleman just sweet talked his way through. The ticket lady asks us for our train number and we don’t have the right one. She denies us from the platform. Obviously she didn’t get the memo about us getting on the train. Time is slipping away to get on the train and Jack yells out “No no no! Do you see that old man you just let through? That is our grandfather! We need to be on that train with him! See, he is just climbing into the train car now! Please he is our grandfather. Por favor!”
30 Seconds later we are settling down into the first train car, explaining our story to the London gentleman and the Australian couple, and accepting the applaus from the delighted other passengers of the train. They found our story very funny, and impressive, because we are pretty much some of the last people to board the train. 4 hours later we are sitting in Norton’s Pub in the main square of Cusco, putting back a single Cusquenia beer, and doing all we can to keep from falling asleep on the bar. When the cabbie tries to scalp us for our short taxi to the hostel, we don’t even put up a fight. We are home. We have made it back to our beds. We closed another chapter in the Grand Adventure.
Current Location: Cusco, Peru