Saturday, April 10, 2004

News Flash
This article from the BBC says that a mudslide hit Machu Picchu. What's more, it hit the town of Aguas Calientes, where 6 people were killed. Aguas Calientes is where I spent the night before going to see Machu Picchu. It is a tiny town built on either side of the railroad tracks that run straight through the middle of it at the lowest part of the ground. The rest of the town is built on the two steep mountainsides facing one another. All along the railroad tracks, there is an outdoor bazaar of textile shops, as at every tourist attraction in Peru, and if I am not mistaken, it is where I bought my alpaca sweater.

We stayed at an international hostel there. All of the hostels in town send representatives down to the train tracks when the train is due in to hand out business cards and advertise their rates to attract customers. The guys in charge of this hostel were all the typical young cheerful backpackers, both Peruvian and either British or Australian, and they just seemed to do it because it was fun. The hostel was up a very steep street, with steep stairs going up to the door, and was itself a narrow building a couple of stories high, which was my overall impression of the architecture of all of Aguas Calientes. Our rooms had bunk beds and were very pleasant, which isn't always a given in youth hostels.

My favorite memory is from the next morning, when we got up for breakfast at about 5am, because we wanted to see dawn at Machu Picchu. Breakfast was served on the top floor, on the balcony-porch looking down at the rest of the town and out at the other mountains. The ceiling was decorated with a multitude of scarves and other textiles, tacked at their corners to make a kind of colorful tent atmosphere. We had oatmeal with fruit in it, and some of that fresh-baked bread that I frequently lamented the lack of in Japan, and still do even back in the US. The backpacker hosts were quite happy to be up that early, and I wished we had longer to stay there. I snapped a picture of the mist coming through the narrow opening between two of the other mountains, where the railroad tracks went, just before we left.

We didn't see dawn at Machu Picchu, because that mist stayed around all day and eventually turned into rain, but it didn't matter. I thank the people of Aguas Calientes for playing such a large part in my fond memories of Peru. My thoughts are with them.

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