The first buses didn’t head up the mountain until 5:30AM and because breakfast wasn’t available until 4:45AM, we decided we would sleep in until 4:15. The breakfast wasn’t bad compared to other Peruvian hostels – it even included bananas. We rushed through breakfast wanting to be the first in line for the buses.
Side Note: You can walk up the mountain and save 7USD, but the walk is straight up hill for over 10 kms. Additionally, walking up early won’t get you into the site – it doesn’t open until 6:00AM anyways.
We were so excited for Machu Picchu that we didn’t mind the early hour and were hoping to catch sunrise over the city. However, because the park won’t let you into the site until 6:00, everyone missed the sunrise – well we did see it over the grand city of Aguas Calientes. Rumi got agitated with all of the “line-cutters” that made their way in packs to the front of the line because they had a single friend holding their place (literally one person was holding the line for their six friends). Normally, we wouldn’t let the child-like behavior of these inconsiderate adults
Machu PicchuMachu PicchuMachu Picchu
bother us, but we were worried that we wouldn’t be two of the first 200 people to enter the park (if you are one of the first 200, you get a time slot to climb Wayna Picchu).
Right after 5:30 about 15 buses roll in to collect the hundreds of people waiting in line; not exactly a “hidden” treasure anymore! Speaking of tourists – nowhere else in South America had we seen so many tourists. There were entire groups from North America, Japan, Europe, etc. We didn’t see anything like it anywhere in South America and Central America thus far. Regardless, the 20 min trip up into the jungle coming upon a lost city is fantastic even with a bunch of tourists.
We ended up being in the first 100 people so we got a choice of either climbing Wayna Picchu at 7 or 10:00AM. We opted for the 7:00 group because we wanted to go back to Cusco in the same day.
As soon as we entered the site, we head straight for the panoramic view facing Machu Picchu with Wayna Picchu (the giant mountain that hovers over the city) in the background. We rushed as
Llama #2 Charging At Rumi!Llama #2 Charging At Rumi!Llama #2 Charging At Rumi!
fast as we could to get a great view before hordes of people entered the city below.
For me, the beginning was the best. We basically had Machu Picchu to ourselves (with the exception of some llamas) for a short while and got some great pictures. We thought that the postcards we saw with llamas and Machu Picchu were “photo-shopped” but there were many llamas all over the grounds of Machu Picchu. Very cool.
We opted to not get a tour guide like we have done for past tours. I had mixed feelings because I was afraid we were going to miss important information, but after overhearing some of the guides talking about “this may have been this…and this was probably this…etc,” I’m glad we didn’t. We can guess what this lost city was all about from reading books and making our own opinions!
As aforementioned, historians do not know exactly what Machu Picchu was to the Incans. When people analyze the ruins, they say that a certain structure may have been a temple. Others will say that the same structure was a torture room. There are significant areas to Machu Picchu that were obviously designed for
Poser ;)Poser ;)Poser 😉
a specific purpose. One theory about the entire city is that it was an Incan retreat for their super wealthy. I personally would hope this is not true. With the many outposts providing early warning along the hike up to Machu Picchu, I would imagine the city was the governing center of the Incan empire or a great defensive outpost. Considering the Spanish never found the site or anybody else for that matter until the beginning of the 20th century, maybe seclusion was its purpose; maybe the Incans wanted their greatest city to be preserved and not destroyed. Additionally, with their education in astronomy, maybe it was a site high up in the mountains to observe the universe better. I know there are much more educated hypotheses about the UNESCO site, but it was amazing being physically there to gather our own opinions.
Around 7:30AM, we headed to the backside of Machu Picchu and another queue for Wayna Picchu. They require you to sign in and sign out to keep accountability. We waited for about 20 min and then started our ascent. Not for everyone, the time required to ascend is stated at about 90 min or more. It
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starts off on nice easy trails and eventually becomes steep, jagged, and rocky. We were excited to reach the summit and we were enjoying the plethora of oxygen (Machu Picchu is high in altitude, but we were used to Bolivia so it was like sea level to us!) so we ended up ascending the mountain in around 40 min. We passed many young people with faces of exhaustion before coming upon an older Chinese-American couple from New Jersey who was steadily climbing in high spirit. Their guide asked them how old they were because he was amazed at how well they were climbing – they replied “80.” They were extremely nice and we ended up making friends.
As you near the top, you begin to see stone stairs (basically ladders they are so steep) and wonderful observatory towers. At one point everyone had to crawl through a cave to continue the journey. Everything was built for a much smaller people – it was tough for me to ascend and even harder to descend. Rumi and her smaller feet had no problem going down and she made fun of me for going slow (I was perfectly content with our 80-year
At The Top Of Huayna PicchuAt The Top Of Huayna PicchuAt The Top Of Huayna Picchu
old friends from Jersey). The first part of the descent was spider-man style walking down a slanted cliff – very cool. We took a short break, ate some bananas, took some pictures, and started down. We got down in probably half the time it took to get up because Rumi was basically running down the mountain and I was trying to catch up!
We decided to on the backside of Machu Picchu before heading back to bus. While we were walking we passed the Incans form of a drainage system – and it was still working well! They had basically carved gutters into their roofs and had corresponding drainage ditches running to the bottom of the mountain – Incredible.
Before heading out we had one more encounter with the resident llamas. Rumi finally gathered up the courage to get close to them. However, I think they smelled her fear and began running around her. All of a sudden we were stuck in a small Machu Picchuian room with the only exits/entrances blocked with more before-hidden llamas appearing and joining the running party. Fortunately I got a picture of Rumi’s face! Lol.
The last stop before heading out
Well Hello There!Well Hello There!Well Hello There!
of the historical site was getting a Machu Picchu passport stamp. Then we caught the first bus heading down the mountain. We decided to grab a quick lunch, gathered our bags, and headed to our train.
Our train going back to Cusco was higher priced and full of older people on their packaged tour ride. They were very nice but complained constantly about not having the “river” side of the train car. Apparently some of them in their group got the river side both times and they were complaining that it wasn’t fair. The poor tour guide was trying to ask other passengers if it would be possible to switch seats. We thought the whole scene was slightly childish, but the lady was unnecessarily rude and that made us mad. We volunteered our river-side seats so an older couple could sit there. The whole group was thankful. I still thought the whole ordeal was kind of funny and I didn’t mind moving at all.
Peru rail almost has a monopoly on getting to Aguas Calienties – Machu Picchu, because the only road route takes an entire day from Cusco. The train is the quickest route straight to the
Machu Picchu TicketsMachu Picchu TicketsMachu Picchu Tickets
Justin’s was full price while Rumi got it for half price (student discount!)
town, but it’s very expensive. Our nicer train was expensive, but included some unforeseen amenities. The first and most welcomed was a small food basket with a drink. Afterwards our servers disappeared and a man dressed in a Peruvian costume with a llama puppet walked around trying to entertain everyone. It was very cheesy – meant for kids, but the older tourist crowd actually liked it.
We both thought the costumed man and his llama puppet was very strange on a train ride. Well… it got stranger….
Techno music started to play and our train attendants started walking up and down the center aisle modeling modern clothing made from alpaca. Very strange! It lasted a majority of the train ride and the poor man and woman must have worn 10 different outfits each. Afterwards, they tried to sell the clothing, but it was very pricey so no one bought it. We definitely got a kick out of it and would recommend it to anybody wanting a “random” experience. The train ended in the same place we started from – Ollantaytambo.