Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Celebration on High

We'd deliberately planned an overnight visit in the tiny town of Aguas Calientes so that we'd have the opportunity to spend a second day at Machu Picchu. After all, it's taken 50 some odd years to make it to Peru for a first visit. There may not be a second opportunity.

Unfortunately, Boo wasn't feeling any better from yesterday's malaise. But being the trooper he is though, he persevered to make the trek up the mountain and he further agreed to hike the trail up to Intipunku - or the Sun Gate. Intipunku is the end point of the Inca Trail and is the little dip in the ridge of the accompanying picture.

The Inca Trail comes of the back side of those mountains and is considered by many to be one of the top treks in the world. It is 43 km (26 miles) in length and travels through mountain scenery, subtropical jungle and cloud forest. Most people take three to five days to hike it and we just didn't have the time - not to mention the fact that you have to book your space on the trail well in advance as the government has had to limit access due to concerns about deterioration from its over-use. However, by hiking to the Sun Gate, we were able to experience a piece of the stunning paths of paving stones laid out by the Incas centuries ago.

Needless to say, the panoramic view that overlooks Machu Picchu is a thrill that won't easily be forgotten. Nor will the vertigo that hit me at times even on that little part of the trail that we hiked. It's difficult to convey the steepness of the surrounding mountains with a few photos - but six feet of paving stones between you and the great beyond isn't always the most comforting of sensations.

Finishing the hike certainly called for a bit of a celebration and I thought that a bottle of Peruvian bubble would be an appropriate toast for the occasion.

612. N.V. Tabernero Especial Demi-Sec (Peru)

In retrospect, taking a chance on a sparkling wine from Peru - a country that isn't exactly renowned for its wine production - might have been a tad ambitious. The optimist in me wanted to give it a whirl though - besides the bottle had already been purchased.

By now, Boo had grown a tad tired of Peruvian wines. He wasn't as magnanimous as me regarding the two wines we sampled in Lima and last night's wine truly was one of those "Let's just not go there again" moments. I'm sorry to say that this sparkler didn't live up to the effervescence of our Machu Picchu moment. Despite his current lack of get up and go, Boo was quick to say "I told you so" however.

Tabernero is one the primary producers in Peru. Its website points out that the winery was established in 1897 and accounts for 85% of Peru's wine exports. It also advises that the Peruvian wine industry was set back in the 1960's when the military government of the day expropriated all the lands of Peruvians that were involved in the agricultural sector. The winery feels that those actions laid "waste to all the effort made and experience gained over the last 70 years." It wasn't until the late 70's that the owners were able to try and re-establish themselves.

The Especial unfortunately, for us, just wasn't that special. Despite the promised pedigree and an interesting blend of Chenin blanc, Alexandria Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc, the wine was far sweeter than expected - even for a demi-sec. There was no counter-balancing acidity and the sugars just masked any fruit that might have been there. Even nibbling on a bit of cheese and food didn't really help. Unfortunately, I can't even say that there was any bubble to the bubbly.

At that point, we kinda decided that we were going to call it a day when it comes to Peruvian wines. Boo was also going to call it a day on Machu Picchu. He just wasn't feeling well enough to carry on any further. He urged me to keep on touring and snapping photos though. I just needed to take care since the effect of the alcohol doesn't depend on the tastiness of the wine. There were still some stairs to climb and plenty of opportunity to tumble down the mountainside.

I suppose a marvelous French sparkler - or other cellar worthy bottle - would have been a nice touch to the moment, but there's no way that the Tabernero diminished the fact that I'd finally made it to Machu Picchu!

Our visit there will simply remain, for me, an opportunity to witness the wonder and ingenuity of civilizations past. We may never fully understand the reasoning for or the methodology behind the building of the Lost City, but we can certainly revel in its majesty.

And, I'll toast to that any day.

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