It started raining in the middle of the night and we woke early to soggy everything. At least we could enjoy the hot springs again for a few hours before heading out. Ashley, knowing this, was up before the sun and ready to swim. She impatiently waited for 7:00. Scott got a text, we must be in range of a signal…Get on the Bus, one of his clients needed help with the database asap. He messed around with his phone trying to get a signal and fix the database. If he could get a signal maybe I could and fix our credit card (long story). I fiddled with my phone but it seemed useless. I have trouble under the best of phone signal circumstances.
Ashley headed off to check on the pools and came back with news that they were empty and being cleaned. They would not be refilled and swim ready until the afternoon so we all pitched in and packed up camp. Jeremy arranged for earlier transportation. We would drive for about an hour and then hike along the train tracks to Augas Calientes also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo where we would sleep in a bed in a hotel!
We sat on rocks and watched the river while the mini van driver tried to get all of the stuff loaded and leave room for the seven of us. I took a couple of pictures and noticed in my phone fiddling I had downloaded some emails, uh oh… that might be expensive was my passing thought. May as well see if anything was interesting since I was going to pay for it. I scrolled through the emails and a subject line caught my eye. Our friends and neighbors, who also happen to be doctors, had sent me an email with my bother’s name in the subject line. Our trip changed.
My brother was in the hospital with a serious lung infection, facing surgery and my friends were trying to track us down. First things first, I handed the phone to Scott so he could read the email and then I started crying. Mini breakdown accomplished, we started trying to call people. In the meantime, the van was loaded and we squished inside. We drove towards the train station where Royar and Evan would take the camping supplies and go back to Cusco.
We were stopped at this checkpoint and had to sign the register with our names and passport numbers.
There were eight of us packed into a minivan with all of our camping stuff and it was a hot, long, bumpy ride but I barely remember it. I was too busy worrying about my brother and wondering how things would work out. We arrived at the train depot.
The train depot is the end of the tracks. All of the trash and recycling come here to be sorted and loaded onto the train back to civilization. One can ride the train from here to Aguas Calientes or walk the tracks.
Trash and recycling at the end of the tracks.
We would hike along the train tracks for about three hours and end up in Aguas Calientes. The three hours of hiking were spent in a flurry of texts to my friend the doctor and then happily to my brother. I made up my mind to go home as soon as I could. I relayed the decision to my friend who was with my brother in the hospital and then they started putting the brakes on my plans. My brother wanted me to continue with my trip, and besides he was convinced I would be a nervous, hovering wreck and stress him out. My friend said surgery was not for sure. They sent me a picture of him smiling and looking very thin but very much alive.
I talked with Ashley and she thought going home was the right thing to do, as did I, but if I my presence was really going to cause more stress than I would stay the course with Scott and the kids.
Jeremy stopped to move this bright 80’s caterpillar fellow out of the path of hiking boots.
We hiked along the tracks. It was hot and then it rained. We saw the back side of Machu Picchu.
A few trains passed us.
Scott, Grant and Jeremy spent a long time observing a tarantula hawk wasp hunt down and paralyze a tarantula. The wasp lays an egg in the spider without killing it and then when the egg hatches the insect only eats the parts of spider that aren’t necessary for life in order to preserve its food for as long as possible.
We crossed quite of few of these slippery bridges.
This big guy lazily watched hikers tromp by in the midday heat. These tracks were not in use.
Scott’s dad had hiked through these very tunnels thirty years ago and Scott wanted to do the same and so we drug our poor guide through them against his better judgement. Don’t worry, there was room in the tunnel to get off of the tracks.
Through the last tunnel…
…the picture that Scott wanted…
…Scott and Ashley find “P y A” (Papa + Ashley), a note they always write back and forth to each other, near the tunnel .
We hike into the town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.
First stop, pizza, sodas, very large beers…
…and a kind restaurant owner who spoke in length to Scott about making a pizza oven. He even wrote down the “recipe” and the secret ingredient…human hair to bind the clay. Now maybe I will get my pizza oven!
Happy, tired hikers.
The best picture of Scott and Grant.
We walked another ten minutes through the main plaza of the town on the way to our hotel. It was a glimmering oasis after three nights in a sleeping bag, 50 kilometers of hiking and the emotions of the day. I laid down on the very soft and beautifully clean bed and breathed in the smell of bleach. I could have stayed on the foot of that bed until morning but I roused myself for a blissful shower and massage. The giant beer at lunch and oh yes, the wine that we drank (Jeremy brought it for the last night of camping and we didn’t drink it) at lunch, along with pure exhaustion kept me from worrying too much about my brother in the hospital at home and the impending decisions.