We leave Arequipa at 5:15 am for a 12 hour journey to Cusco, then to Aguas Calientes and ultimately the pinnacle for many, Machu Picchu.
Our route backtracks us a bit to Colca Canyon, the trip we did a couple of days prior. We stop at the volcano viewing point which is at ~16,000 feet above sea level. I have been at 10 – 11,000 foot heights before, but this kicked my butt. Yeah, some of the folks on our trips had headaches, but I had the whole nine yards of altitude sickness symptoms. It was a bit scary. We had consumed all the things to prevent it, such as taking diomox, chewing on coca leaves, drinking coca tea, staying hydrated…and more coca. Good thing I won’t have to take a drug test. Anyway, I am hoping to be better acclimated in Cusco. Cusco, in particular, is over 12,000 feet above sea level!
We make a couple of stops along the way for views, lunch and bathrooms. One stop is a beautiful mountain lake. It is cloudy but the scene is nice with mountains as the backdrop.
We arrive around 5:45 pm in Cusco. PeruHop, the hop on-off bus service is great! They had already arranged a taxi, no charge from the bus station to the JW Marriott, our home for the evening! The Marriott is absolutely beautiful here! We are ready to move into this humble abode. And the rooms have oxygen pumped into them.
We venture out for dinner at Baco for excellent Peruvian food. Wow these folks know how to cook!
I have a BBQ chicken, tender, moist seasoned with a yellow pepper and Tracey had beef with mushrooms, all delicioso!
It’s 8:30 am and we are on our way to Aguas Calientes via Peru Rail. The ride is 92 km over 3 1/2 hours, the slow train. But the ride is beautiful. The train has windows on the sides and ceiling. We did not do the first class train but one class down was even wonderful. We are served drinks, sandwiches and a desert. I am not sure I need to be in first class with champagne and a buffet along the way. I would be forced to punch another hole in my leather belt, lol.
We arrive in Aguas Calientes around noon, the town that sits at the base of Machu Picchu. The jagged mountain peaks tower and surround the city with a fast moving river running through town, the Willkanuta River or Urubamba River. Both names are used.
We are met just as we get off the train by our guide for the afternoon, Luz. She takes us to our hotel where we lighten up our small backpacks so we only take primarily our camera equipment up to Machu Picchu. The train has an 11 pound limit per person for luggage, so we only have our small packs with a couple of changes of clothing.
We hop on the bus to ascend to the World Wonder! It is only about a 20 minute ride that corkscrews up the mountainside to the starting point of the trail that leads to the top and best viewing point of Machu Picchu overall. We see a few walkers up the road but we would not recommend it unless you like dust and steep climbs!
The lines to get on the bus and into the area are short. Some friends gave us some great advice to visit during the afternoon to avoid lines and people. The area closes at 5:30 pm and the place starts to empty at 3 pm. The lighting is still excellent. It is pretty much us and the llamas!
The chance of rain is set at 80 percent for the day, but we have great lighting, sun and clouds. The temps are perfect and Machu Picchu delivers. It is absolutely amazing, a surreal feeling. It is definitely one of the most interesting, beautiful, awesome places we have visited. We were in Angkor Wat earlier this year and both are on the same “amazement plane”.
We descend into the rooms of Machu Picchu, through sleeping rooms, alters, astronomy rooms, and “compasses” made of stone. The “temple of the sun” was designed so that during the winter and summer equinox, the sun shines directly through a particular window and on a rock situated on the temple. The engineering and technology that went into the architecture, agriculture and irrigation, etc.,. is beyond impressive.
We hang out in the area until about 4:30 pm sitting, viewing, relaxing and soaking it all in as long as we can. It is an experience you don’t want to forget. A large group of school kids, maybe 30, from Cusco surround us and ask for a picture with them. They are excited to be around foreigners- all smiley and giggling, proud to be saying a few words in English. When I told them my name was Michael, it got an extra charge out of them. Not sure why. Maybe they thought I was a saint-lol! The people we have met so far have been very warm.
We return back to our hotel and download our pics. We could spend the evening just enjoying the pics. It is a great place to for amateur photographers because it is pretty hard not to get a good picture here.
For dinner we head out to Indio Feliz at the recommendation of our hotel host Diego. The meal of freshly baked bread, Peruvian creole soup, pepper chicken, and a spicy local river salmon and trout is amazing. The local craft beer is not bad either as we try an IPA and pale ale.
Day 2 Machu Picchu
Many people do Machu Picchu in a day. It makes for a long one. We opt for two nights. It also gives one a chance for another view if the weather is not good.
It turns out yesterday was fine. Today it is pouring all day. We spend a good part of the morning and early afternoon at a wonderful French Bakery, La Boulangeire de Paris drinking coffee, eating quiche and carrot cake. That, along with the river, city, mountain view and WIFI are perfection! It is a good “camp day” as Tracey’s father likes to say.
After a bit more of an afternoon siesta (lol we need it after that rough morning at the bakery), we head to dinner at the Tree House. We earn our dinner by ascending 30 or 40 stairs which is a workout at this altitude!
The food is delicious. For an app we have the pumpkin soup with fresh bread. Tracey has a grilled chicken and I have an alpaca steak with a light blue cheese cheese sauce. I know “light” and ” blue cheese” do not make sense but it was delicious and not too heavy. Our service has been great across Peru and is here, as well!
We could not have asked for more out of our Machu Picchu visit. It is a memory we will always cherish.