Walking through the Clouds in Machu Picchu

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Oh ladies, it is really bad that it’s raining so much in Machu Picchu today! Normally, from here you have a fantastic view of the sacred peaks! Our guide seemed to be even sorrier than us that it was raining cats and dogs that day. But don’t worry, ladies, you have to trust me, he kept saying. You have to trust me, my ladies, and let me show you secret places in Machu Picchu!

 

Dressed as two little strawberries, we followed our guide… And behind us hundreds of tourists were following us. They all had their own guide. Probably each and every guide promised their customers the same kind of “secret spots” within the most famous icon of the Inca civilization.

 

As we all trekked from one viewpoint to another, walking slowly under the rain, I was wondering if the Incas had their slaves hike this very same path centuries before. I imagined hundreds and thousands of men carrying heavy blocks of stones up to the 2430 meter high mountain. Some were putting together the polished stones, so perfectly cut that they fit together tightly without mortar. While others were building the terraces…

 

 

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I looked down and saw two llamas grazing on one of the terraces. The downpour didn’t seem to disturb them. Nor did the dozens of tourists taking pictures of them.

 

Look at the two Hollywood stars down there! Kerstin turned around: did you say something? Wearing that red rain poncho, she also looked like a strawberry. I said look at the two llamas down there. How famous do you think they are now? I felt that Kerstin wanted to say something, but suddenly closed her mouth, smiled and moved on.

 

I turned around and came face to face with an angry woman. Can you keep walking Ma’m?! I didn’t like the way she shouted at me with her shrill voice. Sorry! I apologized, I’m just trying to enjoy the views and take in the history of this place… What I really meant to say was: Shut up you ***! Why do you even come here if you don’t appreciate the history or these breathtaking views?! But of course I stayed calm and polite.

 

This is NOT a viewpoint Ma’m! I couldn’t believe she kept yelling. For a second I pictured her falling off the edge and rolling down the terraces towards the two llamas… That’s when I suddenly heard an “Aahh!” behind me. I turned around, and everyone in front of me did too. Stop pushing me! Oh – now she was yelling at her boyfriend behind her. I’m not pushing you honey, he tried to explain, just holding you… Well, just don’t! she shouted again.

 

Down there, the two llamas seemed to look at us. Maybe trying to figure out who just stole their stardom for a minute.

 

 

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When we arrived at a huge stone, which looked like a ritual stone, our guide made us stop. Look my dear ladies, this is Intihuatana stone. A very interesting piece here in Machu Picchu. It was used by the great Inca people as a clock for astronomy, or also a calendar. Now my dear ladies, let me tell you about Intihuatana. Do you want to know about Intihuatana ? Do you want to know who Inti was, my ladies?

 

Next to me, Kerstin seemed to be a little bit irritated by our guide’s way of talking to us. So I heard myself say : Inti means sun in Quecha. So Inti was the Incan sun god. Aahh you know that, my lady! You’re veeery good my lady! Very good ! Now, he was seriously exagerating I thought. She’s an archaeologist, Kerstin said. Our guide looked lost. So I apologized to him and smiled.

 

To be honest, I don’t like to tell people that I’m an archaeologist when we travel. Especially when visiting an archaeological site. There are many, many things I do not know about, and I like to learn and keep learning, may it be about archaeology and history, or other things. But whenever a guide finds out that I’m an archaeologist, he’d suppose that I know more than he does. And tends to feel uncomfortable. Which of course makes me feel uncomfortable…

 

So you know everything about Machu Picchu, my lady? I threw Kerstin a mean look. You see? That is the problem. Now our guide thinks that I’m an Inca guru or something! No, no! I replied to our guide. I worked on Ancient Greek sculptures, which has nothing to do with Inca civilization. We just happened to know about Inti because Mrs Odilia Marin, our guide in Cusco and in the Sacred Valley explained that to us.

 

Ah, yes Mrs Odilia, he said. She’s old but very famous here. I looked at Kerstin: what does he mean by “old but famous”?! She isn’t that old, I argued. But yes, she’s quite famous apparently. She’s also an archaeologist and did several excavations in Machu Picchu, as well as in other archaeological sites…

 

Our guide simply nodded and moved forward, leading us to another “viewpoint” where we were allowed to halt without making any tourist angry. He kept adding “my ladies” in every sentence. And always tried to show us more “secret places” around every corner. The problem was that his supposedly hidden gems weren’t that secret, since once we left, the next guide lead his group to that exact same “secret” spot.

 

 

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Moreover, whenever we stopped, and after saying “you see, my ladies… this is another wonderful secret place I want to show you, my ladies”, he left us alone without much historical explanation. And went to “make a little call” on his cell phone. When he returned, he asked us if we enjoyed the view.

 

Here, my ladies, let me tell you this secret: why the doors and windows of the Inca people are all in the “special” form. See, like this… he drew with his index finger something like a square in the air. But we understood that he meant to draw a trapezoidal shape. Do you know why, my ladies? Do you want to know this big, big secret?

 

The trapezoidal shape of the doors and windows, narrowing from bottom to top, is actually a stabilizing feature in Incan architecture that avoids the whole structure to crumble so easily during a seism. This time it was Kerstin explaining. Our guide stood there agape. And I felt sorry for him.

 

About two hours after our arrival, he rushed us to the exit of Machu Picchu. Perhaps, we should have said that we didn’t know about the Incan trapezoidal wall apertures… The line for the bus to go back to Aguas Calientes is very long, he explained. So you better leave now, or you will miss your train back to the Sacred Valley. To avoid another long queue, he took our passports and asked his lady friend to quickly stamp them with the famous Machu Picchu image.

 

When we were waiting in the one-hour-long-line for the bus, our guide was already gone, leading another couple of travellers from one “secret” place to another. I really hoped for him that they didn’t have Mrs. Odilia as a guide in the Sacred Valley.

 

When we were finally sitting in the train to head back to Ollantaytambo, we both agreed that despite the heavy rain, the crowds and the weird travel guide we had, we were glad to have walked through the clouds in Machu Picchu.

 

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Walking through the clouds in Machu Picchu, Peru © Travelwithmk.com

 

Walking through the clouds in Machu Picchu, Peru © Travelwithmk.com

Follow Mei:

Traveler - Storyteller

Mei is a 30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. Besides traveling, she loves eating sushi and stinky cheese (although not at the same time), as well as listening to Kerstin's funny stories while driving on long road trips. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

24 Responses

  1. Jane Dempster-Smith
    | Reply

    It is such a beautiful place. Back in 2013 we trekked the 3 nights 4 days to get there. The weather was perfect, but as we got to the Sun Gate it was covered in mist. It is a place not to be rushed and to be enjoyed as you have said. Hopefully that woman had a better afternoon.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Since the restrictions in July 2017, it’s unfortunately not possible to take time and enjoy much in Machu Picchu. Although, I wonder if you can stay inside longer if you go with a trekking group…

  2. Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions
    | Reply

    I love your writing style, it feels like I’m really there in the moment experiencing it too! That is too bad the weather wasn’t very good, but the pics of the clouds still look great, and the llamas on the terrace are adorable!

  3. sunsetsandrollercoasters
    | Reply

    Such a gorgeous spot despite the weather. I can’t believe that woman was so rude to you! I feel for your guide. I often read a lot about our destinations and have at times asked questions that make guides stumble. I can imagine how awkward it was for you both.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yep, when visiting very touristy spots we often see or hear angry and rude people around us. To avoid getting a high blood pressure, we prefer to keep our mouth shut. 🙂 Regarding tour guides, I think that the good ones don’t matter when someone ask questions to which they can’t answer; if they’re passionate they will discuss about it with you and turn your questions into a great conversation. 🙂

  4. Lara Dunning
    | Reply

    I totally get your archaeology comment. I have a degree in Anthropology and for my Masters focused on American Indian studies. People always seemed to think I new everything about every single tribe, not really understanding there are hundreds of tribes and different customs. Glad to hear you still enjoyed your experience despite the tour and the weather. Not sure if I would have handled it as well.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh, which American Indian tribe(s) was your research about? We’d love to read some of your articles before our next visit in the US. 🙂

  5. Laura Pedlar
    | Reply

    I enjoyed reading your post with all the little quirks, if people aren’t interested in the history, perhaps they’d be happier just looking at the llamas! 😂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha! Yes, although I’m not sure if that lady behind us was even interested in llamas… 😀

  6. Drew Hannush
    | Reply

    It’s amazing how some people can just be miserable in such a beautiful place. I feel sorry for that woman’s companion. Should have left her at home. I laugh because I’m nervous about telling people I know a lot about history, but I never miss an opportunity to ask deeper questions of a guide.

  7. Michael Hodgson
    | Reply

    I love love the narrative and the way you describe the “two strawberries” making the trek with your guide (who sounds priceless) and that positively silly woman (who I might have found a way to disappear if I were in your shoes). Well done!!!

  8. TheGreatAmbini
    | Reply

    I love the way you have embraced the fact it was cloudy the day you went. It still looks amazing and stunning despite the weather. This is the sort of thing that would happen to me but you have such a great sense of humour about it!

  9. The Travel Bunny
    | Reply

    I love the way the story was written, it was a very entertaining read. Sorry about the crazy lady experience, the strange guide, and the rain. Besides that, it seemed like a fun day. 🙂

  10. lilysgeektravel
    | Reply

    I’m glad you were both able to enjoy it despite the rain and the guide. We were lucky, we stayed overnight in Agua Caliente and went up early with a very patient guide who got us up to a particular viewpoint so that when the morning clouds parted, the entire settlement was laid out before us, it was truly magical. We went in 2017, before the restrictions, but considering how many people go each day, i’m glad they’re restricting the tour groups to help maintain the area.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yep, the quality of a visit depends a lot of your guide. Because of the restrictions, every one needs to be accompanied by a guide now. So I suppose that they had to hire many many new guides, and we probably got one of those who was not used to work there. But anyway, it was still magical. 🙂

  11. trimmtravels
    | Reply

    Ha! I wondered how it was touring Machu Picchu with guides now. I was there in May 2017 just before the restrictions were placed on July 1, 2017. We were free to roam and come when we wanted and stay as long as we wanted (minus our start time to climb HP). We actually bought a 1/2 ticket on one day to go late in the afternoon (hardly anyone there) and the next day was a full day with a little rain. That lady behind you had some nerve didn’t she? Good grief…you were strong to keep your mouth shut. I might have had to say something under my breath when I found out she wasn’t a guide! The queue is long for the bus back to Aguas Calientes for sure and the llamas and alpacas don’t care who is around. One pretty much mowed my friend over as they were both climbing some steps! Glad you enjoyed it anyway!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh, you did good to have visited before July 2017! It must have been nice to spend half a day in this fantastic archaeological site on your own! Who knows, maybe someday they’ll change the restrictions again. Although I doubt it, since there are more and more tourists in Peru (which is good for the country of course). I hope we’ll never see that lady ever again in this world! Because next time I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut! haha…

  12. Susanne Jungbluth
    | Reply

    Of course you want to discover the Machu Picchu without clouds and bright sunshine. But let’s face it, are not the clouds making it a mystical place? I definitely like it and being angry about it does not make such a unique visit very nice.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Dear Susanne, we were not angry about anything: not about the weather, nor the guide, not even at that crazy angry woman behind us… I’m just telling the story of our time in Machu Picchu, and supposed that people who read between the lines understand that. 😉

  13. SherianneKay
    | Reply

    THIS is why I avoid tours at all costs. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the my ladies, especially after getting yelled at by a stranger. And once again I would be the crazy rude American. On another note, it is just as beautiful in the rain

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha… well unfortunately since July 2017, you’re not allowed to get inside Machu Picchu without a guide. Otherwise we would have explored it on our own. 🙂

  14. Ryan K Biddulph
    | Reply

    Wow so awesome. I visited Cusco but got sick before my MP trip. I shall return LOL!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh no! That’s too bad! Did you get to visit the Sacred Valley at least?

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