Our days in Peru began with the cab, truck, bus, and train we had to take to reach the heights of Machu Picchu. From the city of Cusco, once capital of the Inca Empire, and now little more than a few monuments of a magestic past and a sad people that sell their lives to tourists, we headed to Aguas Calientes, the city from which you ascend by either foot or bus to Machu Picchu. This is a city wrapped in mystery and greatness built, quite literally, on top of the sky. Nestled on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, rising over 8000 feet above the sea, built solely with rock on top of rock on top of cloud, with temples to the sun and moon and earth, with houses, theaters, and roads, and with thin paths that ascend, descend, and criss-cross interminable chains of mountains -- this was Machu Picchu.
After spending a day breathing in some of the purest air I have ever tasted, we prepared to head back by train. Upon reaching the Aguas Calientes train station at 5:45AM, we were informed that, due to heavy rains, approximately 6 kilometers of railways were under either water or rocks. Hence, there was no leaving Augas Calientes by train, and since no roads reach it, not by vehicle either. Walking back five or six hours to the nearest town with access to roads was suggested, yet no one knew exactly in which direction. The train station people then announced to the 700 or so tourists trapped in Aguas Calientes, that there would be no train for four days, and that about 150 people would be able to leave the town by helicopter. Only one helicopter was found in all of Peru to come rescue us, and then began the frantic battle to decide who got on, and who stayed behind.
We managed to get into the sixth group of people they organized to leave by helicopter, and since I made the list with the names of the people in our group, we were numbers one and two, and therefore sure to get on if they could actually take 6 groups (the helicopter could take between 22 and 25 people -- nobody was really sure which it was). At around 5PM that same day, after hopes for departing were vanishing and the sun was leaving us, we were informed that one last flight would be made -- and sure enough, Amir and I were first on that list. And so we ran to board a helicopter in the middle of Inca land, which took us on a thirty minute flight through the Andes all the way back to Cusco, giving us the chance to admire from the sky the centuries? old towns and ruins that yet remain in Peru, and leaving behind an angry mob of about 500 tourists.
Lima was not as exciting, nor as clean. Perhaps the most note-worthy -- and telling -- event was a ceremony in the middle of downtown. It consisted of a midnight procession of a few hundred people, marching to the beats of loud and melancholy trumpets, with two groups of around thirty small, dark, Peruvian men carrying on their hunched backs two large, heavy platforms, one with the Virgen de Dolores and the other with Jesus, all decorated in gold and silver, with pale faces and purple robes, shining from their heights upon the darker people below. And in the midst of this, I saw a boy, of about 6 years of age, wandering aimlessly throughout, with his dark eyes reflecting the shine of the Virgin, with no shoes on his feet and barely any clothes on his back. And he wandered away, lost in the crowd. This was the beginning of Holy Week.
After five days in Lima, we headed out by plane, and our flight to Venzuela had a five hour stop in Bogota, Colombia -- a calm, relaxed city that is the cross of a colonial town and an industrialized city. My next news will be from Caracas, Venezuela, home of four Miss Universes, five Miss Worlds, and Hugo Chavez.