When visiting Peru, you HAVE to go to Machu Picchu. It’s just what you do. I don’t think any of our family or friends would have forgiven us if we didn’t go. I mean, it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We had to go! We had no idea what we were in for….
First, we had no idea it would be so expensive to go to Machu Picchu. Many people pay upward of $400 (that’s USD) to take the train there from Cusco, pay the admission fee, and stay in a decent hotel . We didn’t have that kind of money to burn, so we paid $100 each to take a van which picked us up at 7:30 am and drove for seven hours up, around and down these crazy mountain roads. (The train would have taken about 2 hours). It was hot but the driver wouldn’t let us open the windows because of the breeze from the speeding vehicle. This was problematic for one Chilean woman because she wasn’t doing so well. Fortunately she had a plastic bag on hand, or else things could have gotten VERY unpleasant. I had to use the bathroom about 2 hours in but it was not to be. At about the 5 hour mark, as everything was starting to take on a yellow tinge, we stopped for lunch.
There was this stand alone patio area in what could generously be called a town, where there was a buffet setup. A little further down were the bathrooms. I made a bee line for them and all was right with the world again. We ate a simple meal of soup, some kind of stew over rice, and some other stuff I don’t remember anymore, and it was back on the van to continue our journey. Traffic signs are treated as a suggestion, rather than the law and somehow every driver has the right of way. This mentality caused several occasions where our van had to reverse out of a narrow passage because two more vans were coming the other way. Ah… Peruvian driving….
Beyond that the most interesting thing about the drive was the way the landscape changed around us. We were in the mountains the whole time, but we went from a sparse, almost barren landscape with low grasses, to pine trees in the clouds, down to rainforest where there were plants growing on the plants.
When we finally stopped, we were at a train station which hosted a tiny line that took people to Aguas Calientes the small town just outside Machu Picchu. The train ride was not part of package and we didn’t want to shell out $25 each, so we walked to town. They said it would take 2 hours. With our bags it was more like 3.
It was about 7:20 pm when we reached the Plaza de Armas and we were led to our hostel on what felt like the outskirts of town. We were informed that dinner would be at 8pm as we were handed the key to our private room. We asked about the hot springs, the “aguas calientes” after with the town was named. Apparently those closed at 8 pm, were a 20 minute walk away and it was already 7:40 pm, so that was not happening.
We slept on separate beds and awoke at 5am to take a bus up to Machu Picchu. Many people in our group walked up, but Marin had twisted her ankle on all the gravel the day before and though it was feeling a little better, we weren’t taking any chances. We reached the entrance, waited in line, showed our tickets and were finally inside. The view was breathtaking! It seriously made the whole ordeal getting there worthwhile. We had opted to go without a guide, so this ancient civilization was our playground.
Check back in for the rest of the story and the rest of the photos.