Machu Picchu, Peru
Woke up at 5:30 and had a scrumptious breakfast courtesy of Hotel Pakaritampu’s Breakfast Buffet…fresh homemade yogurts in 3 different flavors, quinoa cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, delicious fresh fruit, fruit juices, coffee, tea – you know, just a simple little something ;-) Then walked 1/4 mile up the road to the Ollantaytambo train station to board the Vistadome train up to Aguas Calientes. When I noticed the train was not full, and realized this was a non-stop train, I asked the conductor if I could take the front row seat. Without hesitating, he said of course, and had a gentleman clean the window for me so I could have an unobstructed view of the breathtaking scenery I was about to experience…took many photos and a few videos – none of which capture just how spectacular the ride actually was, but will hopefully give you a sense.
You can’t help but feel that you are entering a magical place, from the second you land in Cusco – no matter which method of transportation you choose – the road to Machu Picchu is full of excitement, awe-inspiring scenery, generous, warm-hearted people, and an undeniably powerful energy. All part of the climax that awaits upon arriving at Machu Picchu. My jaw was open the entire train ride to Aguas Calientes ;-)
Once I arrived, I walked around the base part of town – then figured out where I had to go to take the bus up the mountain to Machu Picchu. I hadn’t done much research about this specific part of the journey, so since I was still secretly wishing I had done the Inca Trail, I innocently asked one of the locals how long it would take to walk up there. She looked at me a little crazy and said it would take 2 hours, but her face said “girl you’s a fool!!”, so I decided to take the bus ;-). For $10, not a bad choice, given that we passed several poor souls who had not made my same decision and were miserably hiking up a 45 degree winding mountain on a fairly warm day. Once we arrived, I decided I wanted to hike to Huayna Picchu – and that I would try to find a guide to take me so I didn’t kill myself. The first gentleman I asked told me he would do it for 120 soles (about $40) – not bad, but then I saw a kind looking woman and when I asked her she said 100 soles. I decided that was a good deal, and then she asked me if I minded if one of her guide friends came along with us – so I ended up getting 2 for 1!
We walked through Machu Picchu on the way to Huayna Picchu, at which point I was kind of in shock. It didn’t really hit me that I was actually there. It was a picture-perfect day – it had rained all day the day before, so everything was bright green, lush, and the sky was clear with the most incredible white clouds I have ever seen. I had come prepared for cold weather, but thankfully had packed a T-shirt in my bag – if not I would have been miserable on the fairly intense hike up Huayna Picchu. I had to remind myself that the altitude was a factor – but creepy to feel so out of breath so quickly! Then again, the hike is at times a completely vertical ascent, so I am very thankful I decided to do it in the first part of the day! That and the fact that they only allow 400 people each day, and I was already #198 at 10:00 AM!
My guides were so wonderful – they told me the history of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and much, much more. They showed me all the great “Kodak Moment” spots and are responsible for some incredible pictures. At the top – I just stood there and was speechless for a bit as I soaked it all in.