Only having little paws, we decided to take the train up to the sweet little town of Agua Calientes, and then on to Machu Picchu (MP, as everyone calls it). The tour operator at our hotel in Cusco had organised the Vistadome train tickets, entry tickets, and guide for us – we’d booked and hotel ourselves online – and our stay was split over two days, as we had asked for tickets for entry to the hike up to Wayana Picchu. We highly recommend booking well before you get here, as tickets are limited and demand high – there are only two hikes allowed a day up WP, with a 100 allotted places on each.
Our train journey started in what our compartment-companions described as “true Latin American style.” You get given tickets, where everyone in your party is split up and allocated seats in different areas of the compartment, and then through a jolly process of negotiation, you re-arrange yourselves so that you are once again reunited with your own travelling group. The journey up the little track is full of lovely vistas, lunch, and the buzz from the excited travellers makes for a lively trip – especially when you spot the weary travellers on foot doing the Inca trail – hats off to all of them. On the way back, you are even treated to a “roo-roo-roo” show of dancing Incan lions and a fashion parade. From Agua Calientes, you can hop on one of the frequent buses that will take you up to the gate of the MP – which is so hidden, you just can’t see it until you are right in it – it’s no wonder it remained hidden for so long. A lovely chap from Ecuador who was on the bus with us gave us some balsa wood – I think he said it was balsa wood – which was sacred to the Incas – well, again, I think that’s what he said – our Spanish is rather limited, but as he smiled a lot and insisted we took it with us, so we did.
Machu Picchu is every bit as magical as everyone says it is. And more. We went there in the afternoon, when the number of tourists reduces slightly, and you can enjoy its majestic beauty in relative peace – it is truly awe-inspiring and worth spending time pottering around the ruins and taking in the mysterious town and views.
Our guide gave us as much information as he could – much of it remains shrouded in mystery – and some of our highlights included the moon gazing pools – the clever Incas decided not to get a crick in their necks by looking up at the heavens, and made clear, reflective pools instead, so looking down, allowed you to see up to the milky way above; and the Incan resting stone, nicely demonstrated by our guide, Benito.
We stayed at a great little hotel in Agua Calientes, where the towels are laid out for you in lovely swan shapes, the booming Urubamba River runs right outside the window (make sure you request a river room – but beware, it is noisy), and they will give you a packed lunch instead of breakfast if you, like us, want to make an early start.
Thus, well equipped, we set off on one of the first buses back to the MP park and once in it, across the site to the gates of Wayana Picchu or Huyana Picchu – depending if you are being Spanish or English – (Why? Tipsy said it’s because it’s higher than Wayana), but anyway, it’s the mountain from the top of which you get those amazing shots of MP below. You need your passport and to sign in and out – just in case anyone gets lost. We had a guide with us again – not really necessary – but very interesting, as he told us of some of the ancient Incan rites that they performed along the route, such as, of tucking cocoa leaves into little nooks and crannies on the way up, to rid yourself of negativity and bring good luck (and as Tipsy pointed out, it probably helped any llamas who needed a change from the other lush vegetation on offer).
There are lots of steps to get to the top. Lots and lots and lots. It’s quite a strenuous climb, but there is a path, and you can take it at your own pace. Before you get to the summit, you have to enter an Incan tunnel and up through a rope ladder to the top – thus enacting your second birth and experiencing the cleansing that climbing to the top has offered you. The views are spectacular and well worth it.
After all that walking and stunningness, we were pretty hungry – so it was a good thing that Tipsy had the foresight to book a ticket that included a buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel located in MP itself (very nice). We even got to see a lovely rainbow, and, after all, what more could have topped off such an amazing trip?
Just to let you know, we’re not being sponsored by anyone to write this blog post. We’ve only put in the clickable links so that’s it’s easier for you to find things. We’re nice like that ?