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The journal formerly known as ...Latin America

Machu Picchu

PERU | Thursday, 9 December 2010 | Views [1440] | Comments [3]

Brett left off at Trujillo, so I’m going to start with the next city on our path, Lima. It sits right on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean making it feel like we were back in California. There is a path built all along the side of the cliff surrounded by gardens with colorful, blooming flowers. The weather was cool and the sun was shining every day. There is an outdoor shopping mall built into the cliffs that has views of the ocean from almost every store and as you shop you can see people right above you paragliding through the sky. It was a cool city with a lot to offer, but we were excited to leave because we knew our next stop was Cusco and Machu Picchu. We went on a 22 hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco and like the rest of our long rides, we were really glad to finally make it into Cusco! No matter how nice the bus is, 22 hours is a really long time to be on a bus that is winding through the Andes mountains, especially for Brett because he’d gotten a little food poisoning just a few hours before we got on the bus!

Cusco was just as pretty as I thought it was going to be. To me the city looks like a glowing orange bowl as it sits in a valley with most of the building in an adobe orange color. Our hostel, Piccola Locanda, sat up on the side of the bowl and from our window you could see everything. The city even sparkles at night when you can see all the lights. Cusco is set up for all the tourists it receives with little girls dressed in the traditional outfits with baby llamas that you can take pictures with and craft markets by the dozen. It was Thanksgiving when we arrived, so the first thing we did was find a place to have our Thanksgiving feast. We looked around a little and it didn’t seem like turkey was a popular dish, so we settled for the next best thing and had alpaca kebabs, fried stuffed peppers and talked about all the things that we are thankful for. Just before I forget, we also got to eat a guinea pig (cuy) while we were there! It was so sad to see the poor thing’s white teeth sticking out of his charred head. It was not my favorite meat, but definitely interesting.

Before we could leave Cusco we had to figure out how we were going to see Machu Picchu and there are so many different ways that you can do it that it was hard for us to decide exactly what we would do. We heard of day trips that go up from Cusco and then back the next night, but that just seemed like it would be rushed and exhausting. It seemed like our best option was to spend a night in Aguas Calientes (the town just down the road from Machu Picchu) so we could wake up early the next day and to see the ruins. It was really important to us to get there early, because only the first 400 people at the park can get their tickets stamped to climb up Wayna Picchu.

Unless you want to go by car or hike to Aguas Calientes then you have to take the train. We were both really excited about this, because it was the first train ride of our trip. We rode on the Vista Dome train that has windows on the sides of the ceiling so you can see all the mountain peaks around you. It was a wonderful experience. The trains are really nice with big leather chairs and they serve drinks and tasty snacks during the ride.

Before we arrived to Aguas Calientes we weren’t really expecting much due to what we read from our Lonely Planet travel guide, but it was actually a pretty nice town to hang out in for a while. There was a big arts and crafts market, a river running right through town and lots of restaurants and bars to choose from. One downside was that the salespeople were really aggressive and seriously every time we passed a restaurant, we were hassled to go in and eat. Brett’s new theory is that if we ask the salespeople a question then it will distract them from giving their pitch and so far it has worked! I just hope we don’t run out of questions… ;)

We checked into our hostel and the guy working there suggested that we leave by 4am in the morning, because we were planning to hike to the ruins from town. After getting our tickets and dinner, we went back to our hostel to call it an early night before our big day. It was probably the excitement, but I couldn’t sleep at all and of course Brett was passed out beside me. For those of you who don’t know, Brett is hardly ever tired, but every night he falls asleep like 2 minutes after he lies down. It’s just not fair, so I woke him up. J After that we sat around in bed reading magazines and watching TV until late.

Finally the day had come even though it was still dark outside. We had some bread and instant coffee and we were out the door. Instant coffee is something I’ve really had to get used to on this trip. It’s everywhere. Before I never would have thought it possible to substitute my delicious Café Verona Starbucks blend for anything, but things change! Anyway, back to the hike.  The stars were still shining as we hiked beside the rushing river until we came to a bridge about 30 minutes away. On the other side of the bridge, our path turned into stone stairways that led straight up the mountain. After climbing for about an hour, we made it to the entrance! We were a lot sweatier than the majority of people who had chosen to take the bus. I didn’t realize that we were going to be doing an hour’s worth of Stairmaster exercise, but it was definitely a good way to get the day started.

This is as close as Brett would get to the smiling llama. Lol.

We got our stamps for Wayna Picchu and walked into the park just as the sun was starting to come up over the mountains. It was just as spectacular as all the pictures and people made it sound, even more so with the shadows cast by all the stones from the newly risen sun. In the early morning it was so peaceful and the masses of people hadn’t started to fill the place yet. Machu Picchu is place where tiredness fades and you are re-energized from the energy all around. As we walked, we came upon some llamas out on the stairs. It was fun to have them around, because they were so friendly and were in holiday spirit with the red and green pom-poms hanging from their ears. I thought they were so cute that we returned to pet them 3 times that day.

We signed up for the 7am Wayna Picchu climbing time slot. When we got to the trail entrance there were a lot of people lined up and waiting to climb. The way up was steep, but there were spectacular views around every corner and when we got to the top we could see everything. A birds-eye view of the ruins. We were planning on doing the hike all the way around to the caves at the backside of the mountain as well, but they were doing work that day so the trail was closed. By the time we made it down it was time for lunch!

After lunch we took a hike out to the Sun Gate, which is about an hour away from the main area of ruins. This was a more gradual ascent, but we were about at the same height of Waynapicchu when arrived and we were much further away so here we got an even wider view of the ruins and surroundings. It was all so gorgeous! You’re just going to have to look at the pictures to see what I’m talking about. We also went to see this bridge that the Incans built by carving a ledge into a rock wall on the side. Somebody told us that the park used to let people walk out onto the bridge, but they blocked it off after someone fell off.

We left the hostel at 4am and didn’t leave Machu Picchu until 3pm, so after the bridge we were ready to go! We even opted for the bus back to town so we didn’t have to walk down the thousands of stairs that we had to walk up that morning. Machu Picchu amazes me in that it was built in only an 80 year period and then after all that work the Incans just disappeared. They must have had a really good reason for leaving, because I can imagine that it was pretty hard to leave such a magical place.

Tags: aguas calientes, alpaca, cusco, cuyo, inca bridge, lima, macchu picchu, piccola locanda, sun gate, wayna picchu



Great blog Sophia, you describe it so well! You guys continue to amaze me with all your adventures. It cracks me up that Brett won't get close to a Llama but will jump of bridges....We continue to send positive thoughts and prayers your way for safe travels and wonderful experiences! Love, mom Isis

  Gay Dec 10, 2010 2:55 AM


nice work sophia!
and great travel choices! south america is definitely the realm i desire to travel. continue having fun. i look forward to more of your blogs and photos!!!!


  kristi Dec 10, 2010 4:22 AM


I was kinda hoping that you were able to commune with the mystic Inca's and gain some revelationary knowledge of the cosmos....great narative Sophia...highlight of my day...txs...

  Fellipe Dec 10, 2010 7:05 AM

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