It started out as a phone call to catch up with a friend. He mentioned having a spare buddy pass (for airline travel) left for this year and asked me if I wanted to go anywhere, if I knew where I wanted to go.
This time it was an easy decision. My computer desktop background has been Machu Picchu since last year.
After traveling to Egypt, I've felt called to visit this ruin. I believe Egypt and Peru have a special connection. Both used mummification. Both created megalithic structures, so perfect down to the minutiae, that they still baffle architects of present day.
After many years of looking at photographs in archaeology and travel books, now I had a chance to go to Machu Picchu.
On Monday I bought ticket and was ready to go.
This was my first time in South America.
When I arrived in Peru, I landed in Lima. A short airport overlay until boarding a new plane to Cusco.
Cusco is the ancient capital of the Inca empire and the city itself is high in the hills.
In Cusco, we visited Sacsayhuaman, The Temple of the Moon, and Christo Blanco. I asked a local on top of the templo de la luna if I could photograph him.
The man on the mountain. Temple of the Moon, Cusco
I didn't anticipate the altitude being a problem, but after a full day of wandering the city and ruins, I became sick around dinner time. Luckily there was some cocoa tea available. It's a pleasant drink with an almost minty aroma. The taste is refreshing and comforting. The altitude really is intense if this is your first time being somewhere like this. Drinking the cocoa tea helps and by the next morning I was fine.
Early the next morning I set out for the Peru Rail train towards Auguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes, also known as the Hot Springs or Machu Picchu Pueblo, is the small town near the base of Machu Picchu mountain that appears to exist primarily for tourism. In town there is a collection of natural hot springs that you can pay a small fee to enter and relax in.
A short walk from the hostel to the Cusco city center, flagging a taxi down with a little negotiation in Spanish on a price to the train station, and we're off!
It was maybe a 15-20 minute ride from the city center to the train station.
The train was relaxing and they also supplied free cocoa tea and cookies onboard.
Out the window we could see the Peruvian countryside. Mountains with snow-capped peaks in the distance. Farmland and communities. Creeks and rivers.
When the train arrives in Aguas Calientes, you walk through a myriad of local gift shops, selling Machu-Picchu-inspired trinkets, to discover a stream running directly through this little town. Several bridges to the other side will take you towards many hostels and hotels, the city square, and a plethora of places to eat.
With lush, green mountains in 360 degree view, with the abundance of natural water flowing through the town, this felt like Hawaii or something. I've never been to Hawaii (yet) but as I sit here Aguas Calientes, I imagine this is what it might be like.
The food is amazing as well. The avocados here are so creamy. I highly recommend them. In Peru, you may find guinea pig as a meat item. I never tried it. There is a traditional plate served most places called lomo saltado that usually consists of steak, potatoes, onions, and peppers. You can't go wrong.😉 Most places offer a tasty alcoholic beverage called a Pisco, which is similar to a margarita. It's a Peruvian favorite. Even if you aren't a big drinker, you should try one!
The next day I got up at 3am to wait in line for the bus. To my surprise, there was already a line of 50 people or so. The busses don't start running until 5:30am, but many are eager to ditch sleep in exchange a sunrise at Machu Picchu.
The bus-ride up the mountain was unforgettable. It was one of those moments you've been waiting for and now it's here. As you ascend, you start noticing all the scenery around you. The bus climbs higher and higher as mountain peaks begin to show you their presence.
Since I was in line by 3:30am, I was able to make it onto an early bus and prepared to get close to the entry gate when arriving at the top of the trail.
The gate opened promptly at 6am, ushering in the waves of tourists.
Remember, to visit Machu Picchu you MUST bring your PASSPORT!
Once you enter the gate, a short walk brings you to stunning views. The entire place quite literally looks like a postcard.
You are free to explore Machu Picchu for several hours. There is much to see.
I hope you enjoyed this and if you did, please leave me a comment below!
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Step by step video via Instagram Story of the journey: