Machu Picchu – Definitely A Wonder of the World !

For us the visit to Machu Picchu is a essential part of our travels, although we aren’t doing the famous 4-day Inca Trail as you need to book that some months in advance (and we hear it’s also very hard work!).  So, on a spare day in Cusco we research our options:  we are prepared for the high entrance fee to the world famous site, but are amazed at the exorbitant price of the return train journey.  So, we are persuaded with a cheaper option marketed to backpackers which involves a bus journey through the Sacred Valley (and you know how much we like bus journeys).  All sounds good and we set off in a minibus crammed in with several other travellers early one morning, unfortunately missing most of the fantastic scenery due to heavy cloud and then torrential rain.  However, we are pleased we haven’t taken the 30km downhill cycling option – those guys look exceedingly cold !   After lunch and a briefing in Spanish from the guide who wouldn’t slow down or simplify his speech for us (ps readers: we really didn’t like him) we arrive at Hidro, the last train station on the line, a large hydroelectric power installation.  There is an option to take the train forty minutes to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town just below Machu Picchu.  But, with the rest of the group, we stick to the backpackers’ plan and walk ten kilometres along the train tracks.
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Er, should we be here?
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For a while the scenery is good, it stops raining and only one train whizzes past us.  Who’s the fat bloke ?
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After this the sun sets and we need to get our head torches out for the last hour or so.  Finally we arrive at Aguas Calientes, find our all-inclusive hotel (hmm, yes as you may have guessed it was far from luxurious), have dinner and are given our tickets and instructions for the next day.  Time for a beer and early to bed for us.
Next morning we are up at 5am and on one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu, taking about 30 minutes up a pretty steep winding road reminiscent of an alpine resort.  Some of our group decide to walk up and they all look pretty exhausted when they arrive.  We have a short time to wait until the ticket office opens at 6am, but we are quickly through the formalities.  This must be the only place in the world where every single visitor going through the turnstiles has their original passport with them (yes, original, they insist upon it, although we don’t know why, what easy pickings for any thieves!).  We have a few minutes to look around before we join our tour.  Machu Picchu has just celebrated 100 years since it was found by American Hiram Bingham in 1911, or rather, shown to him by locals, who of course knew it was there.  We are told that only about three generations of Quechua lived here before it was abandoned, and the entry routes destroyed, to stop the Spanish invaders finding it: the spent years trying.  The architecture is truly remarkable and we spend five enjoyable hours mooching about.  It’s pretty cold and cloudy first thing, hence we have all our layers on in this photo.
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Some other guys can better withstand the cold.
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We only have 8 people in our tour group and our guide is enthusiastic so we really enjoy it.  The scale of the site and the terraces is overwhelming.  The terraces were made for farming, with successive layers of rock, gravel and soil.  The soil was carried from Cusco along the Inca Trail.  We also learn that there was only one Inca: this is what their king was called.  The people he ruled over were simply Quechua.
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We start to warm up a couple of hours later as the sun starts to shine and we start our walk up the famous Inca Trail to the Sun Gate, the entry point for all the real trekkers.
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As we retrace our steps towards the main complex the sun is out and the temperature hot.  Here’s our version of the famous Machu Picchu vista, beloved of a thousand travel adverts.
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We leave at about 11.30am, over the moon with our visit and our early start to avoid the hordes of visitors who are just arriving.  Our return journey starts at 1.30pm with the train ride from Aguas Calientes to Hidro.  We’re happy not to be walking this long section again.
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Our return bus journey is much more scenic in the sunshine, with views of the steep sided ravines and the snowy mountains.  Whichever way you do it it’s a long day, but so worth it!   We get off the bus earlier than others at a small village called Ollantaytambo where we spend the night.  Lucky decision, as the next day we hear that anyone travelling here by late bus transfer had a convoluted journey due to road works.  The next morning we have a lie in then walk around the cobbled streets in the tiny town.  Not much to hold us, so we walk down to the train terminal and share a bus ride back to Cusco with another couple of travellers.  Fantastic scenery on the way.
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Back in Cusco we relax a bit and take in some good coffee.  Off to Puno, on Lake Titicaca, next, before we head off to Bolivia.

2 comments to Machu Picchu – Definitely A Wonder of the World !

  • Jim

    Nothing to hold you at ollantaytbo???
    There is an awesome trail for biking, cracking riding getting you up to an ancient Incan site, still I suppose the lack of bikes had something to do with that?
    Enjoy titty kaka!

  • Sue

    Am reading your blog avidly now – have finally got agreement for unpaid leave next year, so am heading to South America. Sadly not doing it in the same fashion as you (not enough time). Any handy hints would be very welcome!!! Places to avoid etc. Keep the story coming & take care
    Sue Xx

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