I finished reading Milkman by Anna Burns last week. Gosh, we're halfway into 2019 and I only finished 2 books. I don't know if we'll get to 5 books this year :( Milkman is actually not very thick at all, but it wasn't an easy read for me. Not that the subject matter was difficult but the writing which was like a stream of consciousness didn't really draw me in. It's weird that I say that because I know my own stream of consciousness is not very interesting at all. The stream of consciousness of Milkman came from an 18-year old girl who had to deal with a older man taking an interest at her. To add to her problem, she lived in a place with cultural and political issue and this issue infiltrated the daily lives of the people living there. The man preying on her had a "position" in the community and since she didn't have any support system, her life sucked even more. It's not mentioned where the place was, in fact there's no name to identify the characters which perhaps makes it hard to read as well, at least for me. I find that the story can take place anywhere in the world because there are many places in the world with the same situation as hers so I think this is quite relatable. Since the author is from Northern Ireland, it's just accepted that the story took place there. What do I know about the history of Northern Ireland? Almost non-existent. I did watch The Wind That Shakes the Barley, but couldn't remember much about the movie except that the ending was sad.
Milkman won 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction but I can't say I enjoyed it much and I'm glad that's done. Taste is very subjective or perhaps I'm not smart enough to enjoy it? Anyway now I'm reading this year Pulitzer prize winner for fiction, The Overstory by Richard Powers. So far so good, I like the writing. Right now it seems to me the book is like a collection of short stories about people with trees as the running theme. I don't know if the people would somehow be connected to each other. The first story that I read ends at a tragic point, but I still find it very interesting. I haven't read a lot but already the book got me thinking about how it is true when we see a tree, we don't think about what's underneath. When we see a tree, we only see half of it. If we think of how deep and far the roots go, it's like another life down there. It is a bit sad that I don't know much about trees, it's like when the writer wrote about a chestnut tree, I have no image of what that tree looks like :( Also sad is that I don't know much about the American states, especially where they are located in relations to each other and the other thing about American story is that when they use inches and feet, I have no idea how long those are. It's kinda annoying having to pause and check this. In general I like how some writers can write in details about something, things like clock, fabrics, fishing, and so on and I really admire them for that but since I don't have much knowledge in them, it feels a bit sad not being able to form images on these topics. It's like when learning a new language, when you don't know many words, you may understand the the overall meaning, but you lose nuances. I guess I just like knowing something in great details and when I don't, it bothers me.
I ain't got nothing to prove
there's no lower I'd ever stoop to Newsflash! - Niki
The song is from Niki, an Indonesian singer. I stumbled into her when I was watching a YouTube video of Rich Brian, the Indonesian rapper who's doing really well overseas. Both people are talented and I'm particularly jealous of Rich Brian's accent when he's speaking English. His music is not really my kind of music, but his latest song, Kids, is really good. In fact it's perhaps his only song so far that I like. The video clip is also very good too and make one feels proud and hopeful about Indonesia. I for one got nostalgic seeing shots of Mall Taman Anggrek being that I live in West Jakarta and can point out which area my house is in that shot. Okay since I think the song and clip are cool, I'm gonna put it here and then we'll continue talking about the trip.Day 13 was the day we were leaving Peru. Nothing was planned for that day. In fact the plan was just to check out late and then take the free hotel shuttle to the airport, but then that morning I decided that I might as well use the time to go to Qorikancha. I asked Gioia if she wanted to go, but she didn't want to so I set off on my own. It's weird how certain things would make you feel something without you even realizing that you feel it. When I walked out of the hotel on my own, I suddenly realized this was what I feel when I traveled alone and set off on my own. It's the feeling of freedom, a sense of adventure that one gets when travelling alone. I don't normally notice that when I'm traveling alone, but right then after days spent with someone, it's all coming back to me and it felt good and I was thankful that God gave me that opportunity to feel what it's like to travel alone again.
Qorikancha is located halfway between the hotel I stayed in and Cusco old town center. There's a slight incline when walking there, not very steep especially when compared to the old town area. I arrived at what I thought was the entrance, but it wasn't, it was instead the entrance to the archaeological museum. I was given direction by the staff and off I went. I had to turn right and then walked up. The incline was steeper and I was gosh, darn it, but luckily before I was totally tired, I made it. I didn't know what to expect of Qorikancha and didn't have any knowledge of it at all. I did hear about it being the Sun Temple and now that I googled it, I learned that it was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. What I saw when I entered was this big cloister, which reminded me of Jerónimos Monastery that I visited last year but not as grand. The Spanish incorporated this and added a church. There's some section where you can still see part of the old temple and the stones.
It has a garden outside, but the ticket doesn't include access to this garden. I think it's included if you visit the archaeological museum. You do get a view of Cusco city, not of the old town but more of the houses on the hill.
Other things that you can see on the ground level are treasures belonging to the church which you cannot take picture of and also relic from the Inca time like this gold plate below, which I'm not sure if it's real or a replica. I forget what the plate is for, but it has imagery of man, stars, and so on.
The second floor was much quieter. Here there's an art exhibition with paintings, sculptures, and installation art. While Qorikancha itself wasn't particularly crowded, it was kinda nice to be alone on the second floor.
Before leaving, I walked around the cloister again a bit and went back to the temple section to take some pictures. For pictures from Qorikancha, you can go here.
I still had some time so instead of going straight back to the hotel, I went to the arts and craft market in front of the hotel. It was kinda quiet there. I hope the people can still make money. The items were of course colourful and interesting. As someone who wears dark colours in my day to day life, I actually really love colours a lot. Anyways, then I went back to the hotel. Met up with Gioia and before long we could board the free hotel shuttle to the airport. There's only another couple going with us. They're from Florida and since they're another Americans we met from Florida, I was thinking if people from Florida do travel a lot. The guy was Pakistani-American if I'm not mistaken. He's not a practicing Muslim anymore and didn't realize it was Ramadhan at that time which made me think that in this side / my of the world, it's not so easy to be an open non-practicing Muslim. People here be like, what do you mean?!?! And the word they use can be very hurtful. Many people like in Indonesia can be very militant in their refusal to extend even a little bit of understanding.
Anyway the flight from Cusco to Lima was uneventful. When we arrived in Lima to exit looked nicer than the international exit. The international and domestic area is actually connected, but one has to really exit the door from the domestic one and enter through another door. The queue to check in for our flight was crazy long. As we queued, a trio of 3 guys walked behind me and I kinda stared at them because they looked Indonesians and one of them was wearing blangkon, an Indonesian headgear. Eventually the guy with the blangkon said "Hi" first and we talked while waiting in the queue. They were on work assignment in Peru for the past 2 months and it was nice that their work finished just in time for them to celebrate the end of Ramadhan. We were on the same flight to Amsterdam and then their next flight to Jakarta was via Kuala Lumpur while I was going straight to Singapore. I wasn't that nice of me that I didn't make an effort to say good bye upon arriving in Amsterdam. I quickly got off the plane and didn't see them again.
Transit time in Amsterdam was actually enough to be spent in the city. However since I didn't have a visa (poor Indonesian passport!), I could only stay inside. Gioia decided that she didn't want to go out on her own either. So we just waited there. She was having a good time looking and buying things at the Rijksmuseum shop in the airport. Next to the shop they also exhibit some paintings which were nice, but also made me miss visiting an arts museum. For me, the priority was to get stroopwafel and I did get them. It was a dilemma of if I should just get 3 or 6 packs. Then I thought I should just have 3 because getting 6 and unwilling to share it with anybody is just obnoxious. That being said, I just finished my second pack yesterday and I feel sad that I didn't get 6. Darn it, I really like stroopwafel and I couldn't find it here especially the ones with the different filling :(
Arriving back in Singapore, as mentioned in the first post about this trip, my body was battered. That first week I was like out of it. Blood was still coming out when I blew my nose that I started to get worried. Luckily I did get better. However mentally I started to break down again. It's been more than 1 month now since the trip and I'm back to my depressed state, back to not being able to sleep. Anyway this is the last post about the trip *phew* I'm done :) Of course after 1 month, I don't remember things as vividly anymore and I guess impression changes? As always I'm thankful to God for His blessings. It's good to have someone to do this trip with. However having someone also meant there's someone who witnessed or on the receiving end of my temper tantrums and when I remember those I do feel embarrassed. I wonder when if ever I would mature or maybe at this age, I'm just set in my ways? Anyways thankful, I am thankful to God.
stretching toward the sky like I don't care
wishing you could see me standing there Sunflower - Shannon Purser
The song is from the Netflix movie, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, which when I watched it, I was like this is so not my demographic anymore. The song talks about how things would be if one was a rose, when in actuality one is a sunflower. By the years I have spent on this earth, I have come to the realization that I would be a proud sunflower if I were one, not wishing to be anything else. However I am not, I wrote about this some time ago when I likened someone as a sunflower and I'm as a thunderstorm cloud. Anyway I could see how teens or the teenage me could get all warm and fuzzy about this movie. The song was sung by Shannon Purser who played Sierra Burgess and she was also Barb in Stranger Things which I am currently watching now. Anyways, moving on to the trip. We're towards the end now.
Day 12 was supposed to be light, but sometime during the day I was feverish again :( That day we're visiting Maras and Moray. First stop was actually Chinchero again and that was unexpected because it's not in the itinerary. The day before I told Gioia that I read normally a visit there would take you to a weaving house, but luckily we didn't because it's not nice to be brought somewhere to buy souvenirs, but that day we actually were brought to a weaving house. There are many of these kind of houses in Chinchero and they're identified by the clay vase of flowers in front of the door. I'm not sure if people actually live in the house or it's just for work purposes only. Also house may not be the correct term to use. This "house" hosts more than 1 family and each family would display their weaving products. By the way the house had a llama or alpaca and a pen for guinea pigs which were not pet but food. When we arrived, we were given tea and one of the girl was explaining how the llama or alpaca's wool were processed and dyed. In Arequipa's Mundo Alpaca we saw what kind of plant was used to get the different colours, here the lady was giving a live demonstration. First we were shown the plant that they use to wash the wool to make it clean. Then how the thread were spooled and next how the thread were dyed. All were done using natural products, like parasites in cactus give out very bright red colour. On another particular plant, they combined it with mineral and a different colour came out, it was fascinating.
After the demonstration, we were given time to see the different products, all handmade and beautiful. I love the bright colours. It's kinda nice that the women had a place to work together though I do wonder if they work for a boss or if it's really something that they run independently as a group.
Then it was off to Moray. The drive there was pretty cool. The view was quite different than what we had seen so far. I guess we're just on a different side of the valley? I don't know.
Moray is cool because unlike the terraces in other places, the terraces in Moray are in circular form and there are 4 of them if I'm not mistaken. The guide showed us photo from up above that managed to capture all the terraces and they look very very cool. The different levels of the terrace experience different temperature and the Inca utilized this differences by planting specific plant suited to the temperature. We were given time to explore, but we didn't walk down to the bottom of the terrace. It was hot and here I started to feel a bit weird that I needed to sit in the shade.
After that we made our way to Maras, but before reaching there we stopped at a shop that sells salt products. Maras is famous for its salt mines. When I saw pictures of Maras I was very interested and since I had never been to a salt mine before, I was really excited about going there. At the shop, the guide gave us some explanation and time to shop. The shop sold interesting products like salt (as expected) and salt flavored chocolate. I didn't get anything though. Here I was really feeling not so good. I was feeling feverish, so I took ibuprofen. Really this trip was the hardest on me physically.
Then it's off to Maras. It was crazy hot and it was quite a walk to reach the salt mines. Isn't it a curiosity to have salt mines in the mountains? The water does come from the mountain and it was salty, we tasted it. Then the mines, well mine is not the correct word, I should be using salt ponds. Well the salt ponds are in the terraces and the water is channeled to these ponds. There are so many ponds and they are in different stages of salt crystallization. Gioia said if you look closely, you can see crystal forming. I tried, but couldn't see it and also I didn't have time to really see because there were so many tourists. It was really busy with tourists than workers. You can walk some part of the perimeter but you can't go deep into the ponds. These are actual working salt ponds. From each pond, if I recall correctly, around 3 types of salt can be harvested, from your common table salt to the ones you use to bath in. It was quite something seeing this. We agreed this was hard work. You need the sun to get the salt, but seeing the workers walking up and down the terrace carrying the salt, that's tough.
After that we're done for the day. It was a long day that day. We decided to be dropped off near Plaza de Armas. There was like a cultural performance or competition thing going on in the Plaza.
We didn't watch much, instead we went inside the Cathedral. I forgot how much the ticket price was. You could buy a combined ticket which included other churches, but we didn't feel like walking to explore the other churches so we just settled for the Cathedral only. You couldn't take picture so I don't have any picture from the inside. What I recall was that the Cathedral was pretty expansive. Then we decided to call it the day. I spent the evening watching When Harry Met Sally... on TV. For pictures from that day, please go here.
so I close my eyes and realize
that I'm alive deep inside Strange American Dream - Rayland Baxter
During breakfast on day 11 I said, life would have been so different if we stayed in this hotel all along. It was nice to finally get my own room. I finally managed to get some sleep, but because I hadn't been getting proper rest my body was breaking down more and more and the problem I had in Arequipa was happening in Cusco at a scarier level. The good news was that the next 2 days would be lighter. I like to do difficult things first and I often schedule light easier things towards the end on my trip. That day we're doing the first of our Sacred Valley tour which would cover Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero. The day tour for that day and the next didn't include entry tickets. They needed to be bought separately. There are different tourist tickets available for 2 days, 10 days, etc and we bought the 2-day one which covered places that we visited that day and the next. Hence why the visit to Sacred Valley was planned to be back to back. The pick up time was getting better at 07:30 am something. We're kinda always the first to be picked up. I guess because the hotel is not really at the old town center. First stop was Pisac archaeological site. The sites that we visited in Pisac and Ollantaytambo are quite the same to the one in Machu Picchu. These were human settlements. So you would see terraces which they use to cultivate their food, mostly potatoes and you would also see the ruins of the habitations. When we arrived there weren't many people yet and it's kinda cool that way.
Again the pictures are not good, I don't know what's wrong with me, but here you can see the settlements. They're located on a higher elevation. I guess to make it easier to see people coming in.
The site has a lot of terraces. An interesting thing about this terrace to me is that from afar I didn't think they were tall but up close the height of each level is like one metre or so. I don't know why only then it hit me when I already saw similar terraces the day before in Machu Picchu.
The settlements in Pisac faces a big mountain and the view of this mountain with the valley below was quite something.
As usual I don't recall anymore what the guide explained. He gave us some time to explore the ruins. There's a lot of steps if you really want to get all the way to the top. I can't recall if I really explored everything. Also by this time, there were more tourists coming in. After this site, we went to Pisac the town. There's nothing much here actually. After a visit to a silver shop, we walked around the craft and souvenirs market. I was so so tempted to get the ludo board game because the pieces were cute, but I didn't :( instead I just took photos.
Then we went for lunch. It was buffet lunch and it wasn't bad. The restaurant catered to a lot of tourists that they had a band playing. After that we made our way to Ollantaytambo archaeological site. I kinda already saw what the site looked like when we passed by the day before to take the train and I thought man, we're travelling back and forth to this town. It's actually not very near from Cusco, it takes almost a 2-hour drive to get there. This site is kinda divided into 2 sections. The part that we visited is accessible by steps and steps. There were so many of them and it took a lot of effort. Climbing up these steps were harder than all the things we did thus far. This section of the settlement also faces a mountain. In the mountain, you can see some ruins. I recalled the guide telling us that some of the ruins were for food storage. I thought they chose it to be high up to make it difficult to be stolen, but like in Machu Picchu, they chose a place with good ventilation to preserve the harvest. I don't know if one can visit the site in the mountain, but I think it will take a lot more effort to get there.
After the guide finished his explanation, again we're given time to explore on our own. I tried my best, but I didn't get all the way up. Here's a section of the sites that we could explore.
Last visit of the day was Chinchero. The town was small and quiet when we're there. We visited the Colonial church. Below is the arch gate to enter the church compound.
There was a service inside the church and we couldn't take picture. I recalled that the ceiling was beautiful. Nearby the church there was another section of terraces, similar to what we've seen so far. The sun was setting and it was getting colder. The view of the hills were pretty nice.
Then it's back to Cusco. We didn't get back too late, but we're also too lazy to walk around that we decided to just eat in the hotel. One of the dish we ordered was guinea pig. It's out of curiosity and the cold-hearted us didn't have any hesitation at all in eating it :D Our hotel didn't do it in the traditional way which was to roast it whole. It was confit and we weren't served whole. I don't know if it's because it's confit, it tasted to us like ducks. Oh, I also ordered lucuma milkshake following the waiter's recommendation. I didn't know what lucuma is and wasn't sure if I heard him correctly, I googled it and he confirmed it was correct. The drink was nice and I like it. It's kinda nice to try local fruits. I know my mom would be interested, she loves fruits. Too bad we couldn't get those fruits this side of the world. Overall the day was less hectic which was good and very welcomed. For pictures from that day, please go here.
I wanna rise and shine, I want you to be mine
I wanna wake up in the morning with you in the frontline
I wanna rise and shine, I just want you to be fine I Wanna - Valaire
I remember saying during breakfast on day 10, today is an important day. We're going to Machu Picchu that day. One of the first thing many people said upon finding out that I was going or went to Peru was Machu Picchu. I'm gonna admit that the main reason I had for going to Peru was Machu Picchu so that day was an important day. I chose to do this by taking a day tour. Many people may actually choose to stay in the town of Aguas Calientes to make the trip to Machu Picchu easier especially if they plan to do some hiking. Also if you're landing straight in Cusco from wherever you are, going to Aguas Calientes may be a good idea since it's of a lower altitude than Cusco. If you have problem with altitude, you may experience less discomfort there. I chose not to go Aguas Calientes because lugging our luggages was not appealing and I was also not going to hike any of the mountains.
So how did our day trip go? Well it's a long day. We're picked up at 06:00 am something again. We're the first to be picked up and off we went to pick other people. There were a total of 3 other couples, 2 couples were from America and another couple spoke Spanish. The staff who picked us up gave us a package which contained our train tickets, tickets for the bus in Aguas Calientes, and tickets for Machu Picchu and then he explained how the day's going to work. The staff didn't come along with us, we're just left with the driver who's going to take us to Ollantaytambo where the train station is. What I remembered from that drive was somewhere along the line we passed by towns which were shrouded in fog. It was kinda cool. Then also somewhere along the line we stopped for a while because rocks were falling down from a mountain. I thought it was kinda like an accident thing and the driver was just being cautious and he's waiting until there's no more rock falling, but apparently some works were being done and they're removing the rocks from up there so we had to wait for that. At this point, I didn't know how much further we were to the train station, but I was still calm because our train timing was for 08:53 AM and it's some time away, but apparently the Indian American couple had an earlier train. That must be nerve wrecking for them. When we finally arrived, I told them they better rush. I don't think they, or at least the girl, welcomed the suggestion.
I don't know why it didn't occur to me that we're going to stay together as one group for this entire trip that me and Gioia just walked ourselves to the train station without consulting the other people. The train station was packed with people. We tried to find a place to wait and a staff pointed to the direction of the waiting area. The waiting area had this small cafe where they sold big brownies and cakes. I managed to find a seat next to a lady who was applying make-up and I thought she was Korean but turned out she was Japanese. Then a tall handsome blonde guy walked in and I did check him out a bit, but then my attention turned to one of the sleepy stray dog under the chair. The dog was kinda big and a guy gave some of his sandwich to the big dog. I don't know if he couldn't finish it or he was being kind. If I recalled correctly there's a little dog that came in, but by then the big dog had finished the sandwich. The whole thing was just kinda cute.
Anyways, then we got on the train. The seats are for a group of 4 people with a small table in between. I thought we had the forward facing seats but it turned out it wasn't so. As we waited, the tall handsome guy came with his friend who's cute too and they sat in front of us. Then I realized that we were picked up together that morning. I talked to the other guy a bit. They're from Florida and they seemed like fun but I don't know, I wasn't chatty, I guess I was shy. Anyway the train we took was the Vistadome train which had these big windows for you to see the view, but we're sitting on the right hand side and on the right hand side it's just the mountain wall. As for the view, since we had taken the PeruRail Tititaca train I thought this train ride was so so. There's another cheaper train called the Expedition train that you can take and I think that perhaps that train is good enough. The Vistadome train has snacks served in a fancier way, but I don't think it mattered much.
When we arrived in the Aguas Calientes station, there was a staff waiting for us and then it registered to me that all of us picked up together except the Spanish speaking one were staying as a group. The staff brought us to the bus stop for the bus which would take us to Machu Picchu. At this point I wasn't feeling well. I was feeling feverish. In the bus Gioia felt my forehead and she thought that I was fine like perhaps my body was hotter to just adjust with the change in temperature which was getting warmer. I didn't think so though, I felt cold and I could feel that my shoulder was kinda aching. So I took ibuprofen in that bus. So that's how it went, around 25 - 30 minutes that it took for the bus to go all the way up to Machu Picchu entrance, my body was processing ibuprofen to help me with fever. I told you this trip was physically demanding. The bus ride was winding, if not for the motion sickness pill taken after breakfast, I would have surely been having motion sickness. It was an interesting ride because as you went higher and higher you could see the top of the mountains more and more.
When we arrived at the entrance it was so crowded. We arrived at 11 AM something and already there was quite a queue forming for people who wanted to take the bus down. These people must be the people who hiked up to see the sunrise and by 11 they had visited the citadel. The American lady who we met during the Colca Canyon trip talked about this and she said by the time she explored the citadel, she was quite tired from the hike. So maybe put this into consideration if you are planning to hike, but I guess if you decide to hike you must have been fit already :D So anyway in front of the entrance if was just so crowded, but we managed to find our guide and then we went to the overpriced toilet but we didn't have any other option. It was so crowded that the guide just picked along a father daughter who weren't originally in our group to come with us because they couldn't find their own guide. You may have heard that there's a timed entry and time limit on entering Machu Picchu. I can tell you that this wasn't observed for us. Our tickets said 07:00 AM but we entered at around 11:30 AM. I don't know if it's because we had a guide or because it's not peak season yet. Though it's perhaps not peak season, there were a lot of people. This place was the most crowded place of all the places we visited so far. Gioia likened it to Universal Studio; I guess perhaps it's quite true. It's like a theme park level crowd. Another point to note, though Machu Picchu is up high in the mountains, the weather felt like it's in the tropics. In Aguas Calientes, people were selling mosquito repellent. Gioia actually brought one to Peru, but she didn't bring it to Machu Picchu. It's alright though because there was no mosquito that day. How did I know? I'm a magnet for mosquito and I wasn't bitten at all that day.
Anyways, so our group had 8 people. When you enter Machu Picchu, there are some steps to take and after the first round of steps you arrive at a clearing where could see the citadel with the mountain Huayna Picchu behind it, pretty much the standard Machu Picchu picture that you see a lot when you google for it. I learned that Machu Picchu itself is actually a mountain or the old mountain. The pictures that you see of Machu Picchu when you google for it is actually taken from the position of the mountain or in between the mountain and the citadel looking into direction of the citadel. Something like the picture below, but I wasn't on the Machu Picchu mountain. The Machu Picchu mountain was behind me.
The mountain behind the citadel is Huayna Picchu or the young mountain. What's not visible in that picture was to the right there's another interesting looking mountain which is called Putucusi. This mountain is smaller and I think so cute. I have to say the location of the citadel is quite something, amazing views all around and even more so because mountains are sacred for the Incas. There are a few hiking options for those who are interested. You can go hike Machu Picchu where there is a Sun Gate. Our guide told us we could leave him and do that if we're interested and later come back the same way. None of us did that. I think people who did the multi-day hike arrived at the Sun gate to watch the sunrise illuminate the citadel and then they go explore the citadel. Hence why when we arrived, there were already people leaving. You can also do a hike of Huayna Picchu but tickets for this are limited so you need to plan well. For sure I wouldn't be handle a hike of Huayna Picchu :D
Anyways after that first clearing, there were some more steps to take. The steps weren't easy and it was hot. My body was finally adjusting that I could take out my heavy coat. People probably thought I was weird wearing a heavy coat when it's hot but seriously I was still feeling a bit cold in the beginning. During this round of steps, I was kinda worried a bit for the father daughter, they seemed to be struggling more so than us. The steps are narrow so you couldn't really stop much because you would be blocking people and there were a lot of people. Thankfully they made it. I was just afraid there would be people who would get heart attack due to the heat and the steps and especially if they're not fit. By the way, inside I didn't really see any staff so I wonder if they have a plan in place for such cases. There were also many older tourists so I had my concern. Anyways, just look out for people when you're there. Our guide seemed to be watching out for the father daughter too and it was nice of him. Gioia also said she thought the guide was nice for giving us time to pause and breathe instead of marching straight up ahead. Picture below shows you part of the Machu Picchu mountain and the number of tourists. The little house on the left is the guard house, like a check point before people entered the town.
My pictures are not very good, aren't they? Yeah I'm kinda disappointed myself. Anyways after that many steps going in, the rest of the way was quite easy. There were still steps, but it's not very demanding though the heat could still be a problem for some people. At one point I was worried about my sugar level, so I snacked on biscuit. I have forgotten most of what the guide told us, but if I'm not mistaken there were actually not many people living there. The citadel was not very big itself. I think though the location was great, it's not very convenient to reach. I mean it took us 25 minutes or so with a bus. Imagine walking up on your own. I could be wrong, do do your own research to learn more. Here are some pictures from the citadel.
Aside from that earlier part where the guide said we could leave the group and explore on our own, there were also other points where he made the offer, but all of us stayed with him. It's one-directional so we stayed together all the way until the exit. As we're about to exit, I did feel like I wished I could stay longer. I don't know what God's plan for me is but I kinda think that I would never get to Machu Picchu again. To strike off something on a life list is important and at the end I felt like it's somewhat sad that I couldn't just stay awhile, absorb, and imprint this into memory. There were just so many people though that I snapped out of that feeling. I wanted to get away from these people. The exit was again chaotic. Gioia queued up to get her passport stamped. I didn't do that, again on account of my pitiful Indonesian passport and not wanting to make things complicated by adding unofficial things on it. Queue for the bus back down was long. Our guide inserted me and Gioia in the middle of the queue so that we could stick together as a group and someone was upset at him. Our guide was nice. Once we reached back in Aguas Calientes, we just dispersed on our own. I told Gioia if we could have a nice late lunch. She said of course. By the way overall, I think we spent around 3 hours. I had trout, it was good, and I managed to finish my lunch. Then we had so much time to kill. We entered a market that just sold souvenirs. The things were varied, colourful, and cute, but we didn't get anything, just took photos to fill in the time.
After that we sat by the plaza. It was getting colder as the sun was setting. I was back to feeling not 100% and since it was getting colder I couldn't get ice cream even though I wanted to. We decided to go to the train station before it got really dark and waited there. We could have gotten an earlier train, but I think we're booked on the last train at 06:10 PM so we had to wait. If you're doing this on your own and confident with the timing and all, I guess you can try booking the train at a better timing. Anyways the station was crowded and it was getting colder. I could feel I was getting impatient. Finally it's time to board our train and we were seated with the guys again :D We had a bit more conversation. The blondie said something that I often say and I was like, tell me about it. I wonder if it made us immature for feeling that way or if he felt that way because I often feel perhaps I was being immature. Anyways didn't ask him that. I did find out he's like 7 years younger than me. That's the thing with my life these days. Often time I see people and think they're my age group and then I have to remind myself that no you're old now and sure enough most of these people I meet are younger than me.
Anyways the guys were tired so they took naps. I was impatient again on the train ride because we stopped for a few times, I think to let another train pass or something like that. It was dark I couldn't see much. I also didn't eat the lemon cake we got because I wasn't hungry. In this train ride back to Ollantaytambo, there was a performance. Truly if you work for PeruRail, it's like you have to be able to do many things. The staff have to serve customers, do cultural performance, and model cloths that they sell on board. This performance involved a guy in a mask. When he first appeared, I was startled, but I appreciated his enthusiasm :D When we arrived at Ollantaytambo, I was relieved especially when we found our driver, but no we couldn't go just yet :( We had to wait for the Indian American couple who was on a later train than us, argh!!! I think it was another 10-15 minutes wait then off we went on this pitch black road. I was thinking, I guess in Indonesia surely there will be roads like that too which would be pitch black. I mean it's not necessary to put lights on when there weren't many people passing at night, but still the whole thing was a bit of a shock to the system and I was glad the driver was skillful. I then realized that outside the night sky was amazing. There were so many stars. The last time I saw sky like that was in New Zealand but even so I thought this sky in Peru was even more beautiful. You know how when you google night sky picture and the pictures that appear often would have the bright milky way? It was there in that sky that night! It's really too bad I couldn't get out of the car to see it better. It was most glorious.
We reached Cusco at around 10 pm. Went to our old hotel to check if our luggages had been moved as promised. They were but they weren't in our new rooms so we had to wait for that *sigh* but overall it's great to be getting my own room. For pictures from Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes, you can go here. A last thought to end this. Machu Picchu would most probably be top of everyone's mind when going to Peru. It's undoubtedly the main motivation for me going there. However after exploring Peru up to that point, I realized it's not the top most wonderful thing I did there. For me that would be going to Palccoyo. It's funny how some things that have been on your mind for so long can be overtaken by other things that you have never even thought of. Isn't it great when life can surprise you in a wonderful way?
I could be a warrior, yes I am a warrior
there's no need to worry love
look around it's glorious
close your eyes and taste the sun
you know where to find me Warrior - Chloe x Halle
Day 9 started with me being cranky. Like a child, I get cranky if I'm tired and the night before I barely slept and I felt a bit rushed to get ready and have breakfast that morning. I'm so not a morning person. That day we're going to hike Palccoyo mountain. From Cusco you can take a day trip to hike the Vinicunca rainbow mountain. That day trip would start with a 03:00 AM something pick up and the hike up a mountain at a high altitude will take you around 2 hours. I'm positively sure I cannot do that and I don't want to do that also let me stress again I'm not a morning person. I made an exception for that day trip to Colca Canyon because though the pick up was super early, at least one didn't have to hike up a mountain. So anyway if you don't think you can do Vinicunca mountain, you can go to Palccoyo mountain or what they call the alternative rainbow mountain. The pick up time is later, though at 06:00 AM, I still felt it was early. The walk up is also not so steep and it takes you around 40 minutes to go through all the three viewpoints. I have never been to Vinicunca so I cannot comment on the colours. Many people wrote that photos from there are usually enhanced so the colours look more vivid. Actually same goes for pictures from Palccoyo that I put here and the Flickr album. I cannot comment if Vinicunca is more beautiful than Palccoyo or the other way around, but what I can say is that for me this trip to Palccoyo was extraordinary and it gave me so much feelings :)
So anyways, we were picked up quite promptly. First stop was for toilet break and a bread shop if you wanted to get bread for breakfast. We didn't get any because we already had breakfast and I had written in previous posts of how I was getting tired of the bread. I don't know the name of the place we stopped in, but in that place every few metres or so there's quite a number of bread shops that sold home made bread. Then we stopped at a small village called Checacupe where there is a traditional rope bridge. In fact what is interesting is that there are 3 parallel bridges. You have the modern one where cars go through, then you have the rope one, and here in the picture below, you can see behind a stone one behind the rope bridge. You need to pay to walk through the rope bridge and I didn't do that. By the way look at the girl on the right, really the thing people do to take photo are just downright stupid sometime. Dying when taking a selfie or a photo is one of the stupidest thing you can do.
Aside for looking at the bridges, there's not much things to do, so I just stood around. It was then when I heard Indonesian being spoken by one of the lady in our group. I didn't guess that there's an Indonesian in our group though that morning I did see an Asian group but I thought they could be Korean because the guy looked Korean and then the girl in that group was speaking in Chinese at that village when she's making (I think YouTube) video, so I wasn't sure what they were, but then the lady was speaking 1-2 words of Indonesian. It was faint, but it was enough to make me turn and said, Tante, tante orang Indonesia yah? Tante is an Indonesian, Dutch, and French word for aunt and it's a word Indonesian sometime use to call an older lady. What proceeded was something quite funny. The tante looked at the guy who I later found out was his son, then I looked at the son, then back me and the tante locked eyes. We confirmed that I'm Indonesian too and she got excited and started spreading her arms. We were separated by this outdoor seating space and so we had to go around it to hug. I'm gonna admit that it's overly dramatic that we hugged like long lost relative and this is not common for Indonesians meeting overseas but the tante was excited and it turned out that hug was like a gift from God. I needed it even though I didn't know I needed it. During the hug it was like I telepathically told the tante things had been hard with me getting my booking cancelled and I felt like the tante was telling me it's okay and come here let me hug you even though I'm pretty sure it's all in my head since she didn't know what's been happening to me. Throughout all this, Gioia was laughing with the son because yeah it was overly dramatic. She told me later on finally she saw what I meant about Indonesians being best friends and all when we meet each other outside Indonesia. She said that changed my mood completely. That was true. I talked a lot with the tante and learned a lot about her family. So she was there with her son and the Chinese girl was the son's girlfriend. The son and her 2 other children live in Canada now, but she still lives in Jakarta. She's very very nice and really it really did change my mood. To have an ally, to feel loved (again an overly dramatic choice of word), to have that familial feeling, it's a real blessing from God. I know that not all Indonesians will be friendly like this. Even me may not be that friendly, but I do have to say that in general Indonesians will be and I hope we will continue to be that way. This friendliness is a good trait of ours I think. Like I don't know if people from other countries are like this too, for sure there are many who aren't. I hope Indonesians especially the younger one will not be snobbish and continue to be friendly and look out for each other. Really it's just a wonderful feeling to have an ally and to know someone will help you if something bad should happen. I hope I will remember to be mindful and not be snobbish :D
Moving on, after this village we made our way to the start of Palccoyo mountain hike. When I got out of the car, it was cold and I was breathless. A thought came that perhaps this would be much harder than I thought it would be. I had my worry about the altitude and if I could make it so I took one of my coca candy. Again I don't know if it helped, but at least there's something to distract the mind. The guide was giving a general explanation of the hike and we just started walking without waiting for him and the rest of the group. I also left the tante here, I know it was bad of me for not waiting for her, but hey even her son just walked on and left her and his girlfriend :D I was just worried that I would be slow, so I better got going, that's what in my head. I even left Gioia behind, but at some point she overtook me. I stopped a few times during the walk just to pause and check myself if I was okay. Then I took picture during these stops. The trail was not very hard, but it's at altitude so your breathing may be a bit laborious and it's also cold and windy. Here's what some parts of the trail looked like.
This colourful mountain is the mountain near the parking lot. So you can actually see some colourful mountain nearby even without walking too far.
From one side of the trail, you can see this open plain with red earth. The colours were striking and there's some llama and alpaca or perhaps both or perhaps sheep grazing.
On the other side of the trail, you could see the Stone Forest high up. It looked really interesting, but I didn't climb up there because by the time I arrived at the start of that trail, I realized I wouldn't be able to do it and also I didn't think I would have enough time. Now that I think about it, I wished I could have done it because when I see the pictures now, it looks so cool. From some angle, the stones looked like spikes of a dragon.
Some of the trail to the 3rd viewpoint was quite steep and treacherous and I have to say that Gioia was more graceful in tackling it. For me, there were times where I just crouched down and extended my leg out - I just couldn't do it standing up. Anyways upon reaching the third viewpoint, I was just so blown away I wanted to cry. I know this would sound ungrateful but from all my travels, these days I don't get blown away much anymore. Yes I saw beautiful things, but I hadn't been shaken for a long time as I was that moment. The view was extraordinary that it's like God was telling me there are still things to see on planet Earth. Also for God to be giving me that, I was just so humbled in gratitude really. His blessing was beyond, beyond what I could imagine. I thought about my life journey that brought me there at that moment. Growing up we're not rich so a lot of things felt out of reach and to reach something that the young me couldn't even start to hope for, I was just feeling a lot of things. I don't think I can explain well what I felt, I don't have the words. I felt so much emotion that I wanted to cry, but I didn't. I forgot if I said a prayer, but really what I felt then and now is just gratitude. God brought me somewhere that I couldn't even imagine and that blessing is just beyond words. I know that I still complain a lot about my day to day life, but perhaps I should just remember that God would still show me unbelievable sights and give me indescribable feeling? If only that understanding can overcome my negativity. Anyways so what did I see? Towards the last viewpoint, the trail opened up to show this beautiful Ausangate snowy mountain range. It was so unexpected. Then there's also another section of a rainbow mountain. It was just too beautiful.
Here is also where the trail to Stone Forest starts. As you can see below, it's a winding path up. My heart rate was actually okay at that time, but walking with less oxygen was really not easy. I just didn't want to get into trouble forcing myself up.
I think no one from our group went to the Stone Forest. Maybe if we had more time we could do it. I think it took me and Gioia around 50 minutes to reach the third viewpoint. Gioia went back first. It's not just the altitude we're dealing with, there's also the cold air and the wind. By the way, the tante didn't make it all the way but it's alright because you don't have to go all the way to see nice views. So if you're in Cusco and planning to see rainbow mountains and don't want to suffer too much, I suggest you go for this one. I also heard Vinicunca is very crowded. While there were more people in Palccoyo than expected, it's not super crowded.
After the mountain, we then made our way for lunch. The van stopped a few times when the guide and driver saw the local kids and they gave them some snack. Some ladies in our groups also gave them snacks that they had with them. One time the guide received some potatoes from the local farmers who were eating their lunch and I was given one. I was hungry and that potato tasted good. I think they cooked it by burying it inside hot soil. For lunch we had a buffet lunch but the options weren't great and I didn't have a lot of appetite. I wasn't feeling well at this time. It's not the altitude. I felt like I was coming down with flu. The throat felt funny. In Cusco I was again having the same problem as the one I had in Arequipa and now I had another issue :( I was feeling worse by the time we're back Cusco. During dinner I couldn't finish my quinoa soup (because it wasn't so good) and I had to leave Gioia and went back to the room first. My body was breaking down :( Rest was really crucial and I wasn't having enough of it :( Still I kept pushing my body and I only have God to thank that I was still standing.
ride with me one way to go
we go big we go bold
go bold Bold - The Highfields
Day 8 was spent on a train. By luck I found out about PeruRail Tititaca train. It runs between Puno and Cusco. It doesn't run everyday though because (I think) there's only 1 track, so the train needs to take turn running in each direction. I had to adjust our schedule to take this train. The train ticket price varies depending on the period you're travelling in. We took it on May 27th and it cost us 245 USD per person. Yeah it's not cheap. I'm quite lucky that Gioia didn't need to economize on this trip. The train ride takes about 10 hours 30 minutes and for that price we get a welcome drink, 3-course lunch (which was really good), tea break which included savory and sweet items (I didn't care much for the savory sandwiches), and 2 performances with snack. The morning performance featured culture from Puno and the afternoon performance featured culture from Cusco.
The train departs at 07:30 AM and we're told to be there half an hour before. I arranged for a taxi to get us to the train station the day before and it arrived quite promptly. The train station is actually quite near and you can walk there from our hotel, but with our luggage it's just not possible. When we arrived at the train station, we checked in and they took care of our luggages. Before long the staff which looked like butlers took us to our seats. Here's what the train looked like from the outside. By the way there would be a lot of pictures in this post and I used a lot of filters for some of them.
Inside it's like the Murder on the Orient Express train. In fact that's how I sold it to Gioia :D Me and Gioia had the 2-seater table. There's a table between us because of the meal. Not long before we arrived we had the welcome drink. I just stuck to tea. You could order breakfast, but we already had breakfast at the hotel. They also asked us what we wanted for lunch and I chose bacon wrapped beef. Anyways it seemed there were 2 compartments for passengers but we only used 1 because in total I think there's only 25 people or so. Our compartment was not even full. There were a lot of french speaking people, some Spanish, a few Americans, 1 toddler, and 2 Asians (me and Gioia). Well the toddler's mom was half Vietnamese, so maybe we can count her in. The fact that the Asians were just us made me wonder if many people just don't know about this train. Like, where are the rich Chinese? Also Japanese would definitely like this. For the meal I wondered if they just re-heated packed lunch like what airplane would do, but when we got down I saw there's a compartment for the kitchen and it looked professional like a proper kitchen.
As we departed Puno, I remember feeling how thankful I was that I was doing this. It's definitely nice to not be in a bus anymore :) The first view that we saw was of Lake Tititaca. I couldn't really see the floating islands we visited the day before. The islands must be further in. The lake is very big and in fact it's shared with Bolivia too.
The last 2 compartments of the train are the bar and the observatory compartment. You have a nice seating area with open window in the observatory compartment. Leaving Puno, we entered the town Juliaca. There's a security staff here standing in the observatory compartment, I guess since it's still a town area, he just needed to make sure no one would jump in. Somewhere along the line I didn't see him again, I wondered if he got off or was somewhere else in the train. Anyways in Juliaca, we passed by a market. The people were putting their things on the track and as the train passed along, they're covering their things. It was kinda uncomfortable there for me because it felt most snobbish being on that fancy train and looking down at these people :| The kids would wave at us though and I did my best to wave back, not that it actually made things better.
Around 1 hour or so of passing Juliaca, we had our first performance of the day. It was song and dance. A lady was dancing and I admired how enthusiastic she was. At some point she asked the people to participate. Of course I didn't, but Gioia did. After that I spent some time in the observatory compartment to take pictures. The landscape was big open plain with mountains, cows, and beautiful blue sky. Sometime at one point I saw a flamingo by a watering hole, but just one and it was kinda tiny. It's pink. I alerted Gioia and she saw it too. I wonder why it was alone among other birds. Truly I'm thankful that I did this.
The train made one stop at a place called La Raya. I googled this, it could be the name of the snowy mountain overlooking the stop. There were locals selling souvenirs. It's like in a middle of nowhere. I think the locals just came for the tourists coming with the train and after we left, they would pack up and go home :) There's a small church too in this place. I like that middle of nowhere feeling being there.
There are so many good views and so much time to spend on-board that I took a lot of pictures. I also tested out the effects that my Canon has. The first 2 pictures below are the toy camera effect and the third picture is the miniature effect.
By the way this is a picture of the dancer from the afternoon performance. I have to say that people were perhaps not as energetic for this compared to the morning one, but the dancer as you can see here was still enthusiastic - very admirable. In this afternoon session, we were given a demonstration of how the national cocktail, pisco sour, is made. Apparently there's egg white involved.
The landscape changed as we went along. Somewhere along the line, the open plain changed to a mountainous area. There were little villages and farms. This picture of a river is among the last pictures I took.
When we arrived in Cusco, the sun has set. Cusco seemed crowded, even more so than Lima to me. Our hotel was nearby the train station so we walked there. I was a bit worried of getting lost because I wasn't sure in which direction the station exit was and also because it's already dark, but luckily we didn't get lost. Something bad happened though. When I was on the train, I received a text from booking.com that the hotel couldn't process my credit card and I was supposed to update it. It didn't tell me by when I needed to do it so I thought since we're on our way, we could just do it when we arrived. Also the train didn't have wifi and as mentioned before when I was in the mountainous area, I often didn't have phone signal. I did get a bad feeling when I received that message but I still didn't do anything. There's so many what ifs that played in my head about this. What happened was when we arrived, the hotel just gave away our rooms and cancelled my booking and they didn't have any room left. What the fuck?!?! Of all the places I've been, this has never happened to me before. I was pissed, beyond pissed, wanted to cry and I have to say that Gioia handled this better than me. The usual me got stuck into this ordeal and couldn't really snap. I wonder if it's because she's there that I stubbornly didn't want to snap out of it. Like if it's just me alone, obviously I had to take charge. One of the manager of the hotel was perhaps feeling bad that he's trying to get us other accommodation. You know every time I travel, the anxious me always think that something bad might happen and yet God has been kind to me. That moment there when I was quite broken I thought that perhaps my luck had finally ran out, but as Gioia pointed out at least the manager was helping us, which also meant God had our backs. However still I wasn't graceful in gratitude. The manager got us a room in the hotel next door, but it's a room which meant me and Gioia had to share. That fact that I had somewhere to sleep wasn't suffice to lift my spirit just because I had to share a room. I know I'm being an ungrateful ass. Can I explain why I'm complaining even though I will still sound like an ass? All this time traveling alone, I'm used to having a room often with a big bed for myself. There's a freedom to it. When you share a room, that means you have to work out things like shower and toilet situation which means people may have to wait or wake up earlier. I know this is like a minor thing but I just want to do all this in my own time and take whatever time I need. This thinking of mine made me think how I'll be when I have to share a room with my husband in the future and I know that's overly optimistic of me thinking I'll have a husband.
So anyway the manager then took us to the hotel next door and sorted out things with the manager there. We're going to stay there for 2 nights and then back to our original hotel. Then the manager called the 2 tour operators who were supposed to pick us up for the day tours we're taking the next 2 days. Another shitty thing happened. The tour operator who was supposed to pick us for the tour the next day again unilaterally cancelled on us. What's with these people? Their reasoning was that they called the hotel, the hotel said our booking was cancelled, so they assumed we're not coming. Fuck!!! I was like, no you cannot cancel on us. We're supposed to go to Palccoyo nmountain the next day. The guy was like asking if we just arrived in Cusco because I do hear that some tour operator wouldn't take you hiking if you haven't acclimatized. I told him we came from Puno. He then said he had no choice but to put us in another group and it's cheaper so they would refund us 100 USD. The refund process took days but it did came before we left Peru. In conclusion, things were sorted out but darn it was such a shitty ending to a good day :| For pictures from the PeruRail train ride, please go here.