Burning Like Bacon on Machu Picchu

Huayna Picchu behind the Machu Picchu ruins.
Huayna Picchu behind the Machu Picchu ruins.

“What is that pain? Do you smell bacon?” I thought to myself as I stood atop Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the world. It was high noon and I was in short pants. With bare feet. Standing at the oculus of the Incan empire. Getting fried like a piece of bacon on a grease fire.

Inside the Vistadome.
Inside the Vistadome.

Aside from the bacon sensation, I tried to focus on the spirituality of Machu Picchu. Without doubt, it’s beautiful. A bucket list place, done. Even in the harsh flattening light of mid-day and crawling with 2,000 tourists (or whatever the daily quota is these days), Machu Picchu is still awesome. Just like the bus ride up from Aguas Calientes was awesome. Even after endless ruins and crenellations razoring one valley after another, it was still impressive. Go there if you can. Maybe do the early morning tour.

The river way down below. Not great if you are afraid of heights.
The river way down below. Not great if you are afraid of heights.

So now I’ve seen it. The number one destination in South America. Yes, it was worth it. They even have an “accessible” (handicap) path for those in wheelchairs! I loved it. Me encanta!

Walking down.
Walking down.

It’s amazing to stand there on Machu Picchu, breathless from altitude and wonder. Imagine the sweat it took to build it.

Our guide, out in the mid-day sun.
Our guide, out in the mid-day sun.

And I’m whinging about a few painful sunburns.

They cleaned all the windows on the Vistadome train before we set off.
They cleaned all the windows on the Vistadome train before we set off.

Colonia, Uruguay – A Perfect Little Town

Colonia has classic cars for those who like to spot.
Colonia has classic cars for those who like to spot.

The United Nations got there first. It’s a World Heritage site. But, Colonia, unlike, say Cartagena, may not seem so obviously a world heritage site. It is quiet in Colonia. Even sleepy. The contrast is great if you take the Buquebus ferry from the loud metropolis of Buenos Aires.

It's quiet here.
It’s quiet here.

When you get off the ferry (which takes about an hour), it’s a twenty minute or so walk (depending on how much luggage you are carrying) to the old center of the town of Colonia. The international passport control for leaving Argentina and entering Uruguay are both done in Buenos Aires so it’s easy to just walk off the ferry and be on your way. Likewise, when you leave Colonia, the passport control to depart Uruguay and enter Argentina is literally at the same window. The two officials stand one foot from each other. It’s a little surreal in that bureaucratic way.

Glimpses into a real life?
Glimpses into a real life?

I really liked Colonia. A lot. I liked how civil and nice everyone and everything seemed to be. I understand that many folks from Buenos Aires take a day trip to Colonia when they need a really quiet day. I stayed overnight and I’m glad I did. I wandered around enjoying the fort, watching the local’s try to catch fish, the hand made ice cream, the seafood, and all that. But, mostly I enjoyed walking down cobble stone streets. There were so many and each one had a secret wine tavern or hidden artist’s studio or some other treasure for the photographically inclined.

I found this by wandering around but I'm sure it's in Lonely Planet.
I found this by wandering around but I’m sure it’s in Lonely Planet.

An example of how unusual (to me) Colonia felt to me was what happened when I tried to cross the street. I was on my way to find the post office and I was following verbal directions so I stopped at an intersection. I got distracted by a kiosk in a park. Then I noticed something very odd. The few soft sounds of traffic had died down. I looked around at the intersection. All, wait, ALL, the cars and bikes had stopped. Waiting for me, the pedestrian, to make my move. Wow. I was flabbergasted. I did cross the street so that I didn’t cause a rush hour.

Okay, maybe you did buy that car new...
Okay, maybe you did buy that car new…

Another reason to visit Colonia is for the restaurant down by the sea wall where the waves lap up like silver applause (I’ll have to blog about it another time once I’ve dug up the card).

The river like a sea of silver.
The river like a sea of silver.

Next time I’ll rent a golf cart so I can explore more of the city. And feel the wind in my hair.

Looks fun!
Looks fun!

Plus, I want to stay at the lemon grower’s bed and breakfast. Also, I need to go back to that restaurant. AHA! I remember now. It was called Charco. I had one of the saddest eating experiences there. But more about that some other time.

Artsy house sign.
Artsy house sign.