We got up early and had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then arranged for our luggage to be stored. All of the hotels had been very good about keeping our luggage for us well beyond the check out hours. This made it a lot nicer for touring, as we did not have to pack our luggage around. We met Marco, who had taken care of the extra costs of returning to Machu Picchu for us. Even though we had to pay for the extra visit to the ruins, Marco was willing to take care of it for us. This was great for us, because the language barrier made such transactions very difficult. We walked to the bus station and once again took the twisting, hair-raising ride up the hill. Today, we walked directly to the top of the ruins to the Caretaker’s Hut and got the best possible view of the ruins. As we sat at the top and surveyed the majesty of the ruins, Marco gave a profound lecture on the Andean Chakana, also known as the Andean Cross. Although it is very complicated, a simple explanation is that it is a three-stepped cross representing the Southern Cross constellation, and it symbolizes the three tiers of Inca life, the lower world, this world and the higher world.
After this very interesting conversation, we hiked the old Inca trail to the Inca Drawbridge with Marco. The trail wound back from the heights of the ruins leading along the west flank of the mountain behind Machu Picchu. The trail grew narrower until it was cut into the side of a sheer precipice, and we were taking each step with great care. There was no room for fear of heights here! Eventually we came to the drawbridge, a huge stone buttress cut into the side of the mountain. It was an exciting one hour hike to and from the bridge with many exotic flowers, birds and beautiful rocks to admire along the way. Karen and I were very pleased that we had gotten the chance to hike a portion of the Inca Trail!
After we returned from the drawbridge, we again sat at our most beautiful location above the ruins. Two Mexican women approached Marco with questions about the trail, and we were surprised to find that we understood the Spanish conversation between the Mexican women and Marco. We realized at that point that if we were to spend a little time in a Spanish speaking country, we would acquire the language.
Marco shared some bitter Peruvian chocolate with us as we sat high above the ruins, and we had a profound discussion with him about the effect of music on stones, and whether that might have been the way that the Incas managed to move and place the stones. It was another magic moment in the tour.
All too quickly it was time to go, and as we made our way back down the ruins, we marveled at the way the water aqueducts carry water throughout the ruins. A llama challenged us on the way out, and we had to wait until he was ready to let us pass before we could proceed. As we passed through the exit, we saw Marco kiss the wall saying goodbye to the place he loved so much. It is very hard to say goodbye to such a beautiful and magical place.
We again raced down the hill with the Peruvian boy. This time Karen asked him in Spanish why he wasn’t in school. He gave her a pretty dirty look. A hard rain was falling in the streets of Auga Calientes when we got off the bus, but we ducked into a nearby diner and ate lunch. We then returned to the hotel, got our luggage and then returned to catch the train back to Ollantaytambo. When we got back to Ollantaytambo, we met our Adventure Life Van and took a different route back to Cusco, traveling on a higher road through rolling farmland and viewing the 23,000 foot peaks prominently displayed in the distance. Along the way, I a got a nasty surprise when we stopped at a high vista point to view the mountains, and noticed that the lady souvenir vendors were laughing at me and pointing at my rear end. I realized then that the lid had come off the suntan cream tube that I was carrying in my back pocket, creating quite a mess. It was another one of those minor, but unforgettable travel misfortunes. We were pretty tired when we got back to Cusco, and we were glad to check back in to El Balcon for some much needed rest. We managed to work up enough energy for supper that evening in the Plaza de Armas. Marco took us to the restaurant, but we insisted that he attend a family function for his daughter instead of having dinner with us. We managed to get through dinner without him, and then went across the street for some brief shopping, but we were back to our hotel room very early for some much needed rest.