In October 1987, the Textiliste and I holidayed in Peru. It was eye opening, extraordinary and full of the usual daft moments that follow me when I go away. Last time out, here, we were in Cusco, before travelling by train to Manchu Pichu. This time we are at last underway to that extraordinary place that appeared out of nowhere in the early twentieth century. Happily the altitude sickness had mostly gone so I was in pretty good shape to experience whatever this place had to offer.
Because the Inca trail had in part collapsed we caught a train. No one told us anything about it so when the train stopped on its slow ascent and began to reverse we assumed a mechanical problem necessitating a return to Cusco. Disappointment was the overriding emotion, replaced ten minutes later by exhilaration as we stopped again and began to head towards our destination. Another ten minutes and we were reversing, followed by yet another change.
Finally it dawned on us that we had been climbing throughout these manoeuvres. It was a pushmepullyou train; to circumvent the mountain the engineers decided a long slow gradient wouldn’t cut it so we simply zigzagged up to the pass and then gradually descended to our destination. Is that safe? Sensible? Innovative? Who the heck knows? It got us there.
But ‘there’ was a drab little terminus with all the character of a delivery yard at junk shop. Another disappointment as I had assumed we would see the wondrous place of which we had heard on our way in. Anyway we were pointed up a sloping path and set off, carrying our bag for an overnight stay. We would see it now.
Nope, just a flat two story building and a milling crowd. Oh and the odd ubiquitous llama of course.
We went to bed, hoping for a sunny day and a better view.
The advantage we had, staying overnight was we were the first ones up and at the entrance.
We walked around the side of a mountain and there, nestling down below was the town with the utterly stunning, unfeasibly beautiful and wonderfully eccentric sugar-loaf mountain behind. It is all and more it is cracked up to be.
A guide took us round and explained how life worked, the kitchens and toilets, the sacrifice altar and the defences.
But in some ways the functionality of it all was irrelevant.
It was the imagination of the builders to use this topography to create their home that has stayed in my mind ever since.
Being puppies we climbed the sugar-loaf and between wafts of mist we captured other pictures. The climb was awkward, if I remember. Uneven stones like giant’s stairs meant we sometimes had to pull ourselves up. But we were all exhilarated but the place, its magical qualities.
Later we went for a walk back along the Inca trail, looking for the falls.
But soon we came to a wooden bridge which looked terrifying; nope, we’d go back and just absorb the continuous beauty of the place.
Too soon we headed back to pick up our bags and return to Cusco. One more night and a flight to Lima. From there we had an eccentric day to kill before setting off for the jungle. That’s for next time.