Musings on the Vistadome from Machu Picchu to Cusco

16h30. I’m leaving Machu Picchu and heading back to Cusco.

Noisy compartment. Voices. Talking, talking. Americans droning on behind me. Spanish floating to me from the front. A few minutes ago it was quiet. Heads back, mouths open, glasses askew … all dozing. Worn out from altitude, hiking, eating, shopping. Worn out from just taking it all in, I suppose. Ready to doze all the way back to Cusco, maybe.


Then came the ‘servings’. A trolley is pushed from one end of the coach to the other, slowly dispensing little blue plastic containers of sponge cake and biscuits, tea, coffee, coke, inca cola, water. Everyone wakes up. Looks about, a little bit glazed, a bit flushed. Chatting. The carriage is abuzz. Slowly the side to side rhythm of the train lulls everyone back to stillness. The sugar high has spiked and is dropping. Only the Americans keep it up. The Japanese fellow next to Ranj is bent over double, his head right down next to his thighs, resting on the armrest. Sleeping.

The trolley is wheeled back. Paola and her partner, whose name I can’t see, are back to clear the plastic containers. Paola is petite, pert, wearing drop earrings, pearls of some sort, blue eyeshadow and black eyeliner. She looks fierce and stressed, but smiles when I catch her eye and smile at her.

Baby crying. Has been crying for ages. Can’t figure if the cries are coming from in front or from behind. the cries seem to bounce of the coach walls. Softly now.

The man next to me is reading. American man with a nice smile and rich voice. Calm. The countryside slides by. there are windows in the ceiling so that when you sit with your head back against the headrest, you can watch the mountain peaks, and the mist and the clouds encircling them. I’m sad yet glad to leave. Sad because I would have liked to have done more while I was there. Opportunity wasted. Glad, because it’s time to move on.

Tourists. Touring. Hundreds of thousands of people flooding into an area. Looking. Consuming. Leaving their mark in some way, and then retreating. Waves of people, in and out, in and out. Each the same as the other, yet different. Each arriving with his or her own dreams, wishes, anticipation. Each person has had to think about coming to Peru. The idea born from something – a suggestion, a dream, a calling, curiosity, a pilgrimage. Any number of reasons. Then the planning had to start: when to go, with whom, what will it cost, can I afford it, is it the right thing to do? Papers: passports, tickets, vaccinations. Packing. Planning. And then the travel: bus, train, plane, boat, car. All that effort. Then shepherded in to the village. They descend, the tourists, buy funny hats, buy llama slippers, painted bowls. Bus up to the ruins. Take a tour. Bus back down. Back on the train. Off to the next item on the itinerary. Why?

Hundreds of thousands of people, all flocking to the same destinations the world over. Taking pictures, buying curios, looking, peering through binoculars. Each person takes a piece home; each person leaves a piece behind. Enriched? Bored? Disappointed?

How baffling, how inspiring, how humbling that all these people each day arrive to marvel at ruins of buildings built 3 000 years ago. What will we leave, us people of today? Hm. Hope we don’t leave anything. But then again, I hope we don’t have to leave anything. That we’ll fix our mess, preserve what we have, continue to exist, but wisely.

Little tubby English couple sitting opposite me have nodded off. Very sweet. Fond. Sitting close to each other, so that their bodies touch. He is slightly red-faced, balding – just whisps of grey at the sides, cropped short. Thin-rimmed, thick-lensed glasses sitting uselessly on his nose, waiting for when he opens his eyes again. Jaw slack, mouth slightly open, downturned, little guttural gasps of breath coming from the back of his throat. White knitted top stretching over his belly. His black jacket unzipped and sitting a bit skew. His hands poke from the sleeves and clasp over his belly. His head inclines towards his wife.

She sits more upright. Face more composed. Full lips closed, a little tense. The thickness under her chin wells to the left. She wearing a short-sleeved, navy knitted top with a stripe, half white, half red, running across the top. Her full arms are at her sides and her surprisingly thin fingers are laced together over her post-menopausal tummy. Grey hair not coiffed, but neat, like someone who keeps a comb in her pocket (and probably always has a tissue in one too). Her elbo rests on his forearm.

They’re close. Comfortable. Fond. Years of growing together and liking each other. Together on a train from Machu Picchu to Cusco in the night.


~ by ReluctantRunner on May 12, 2008.

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