Peru: Machu Picchu

Sunday morning we were up and on our way to Machu Picchu! Ever since my 8th grade geography class this has been a place on my bucket list. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century, which doesn’t actually seem that old to me considering the ancient Greeks and Roman were 2,000 years or more ago. The Incan empire itself only  lasted about 100 years (amazing how much they did in that 100 years). Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish and was only rediscovered to the Western World in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

From our hotel in the Sacred Valley, we hoped on a van that brought us to the train station at Ollantaytambo, where we boarded the Peru Rail Expedition train to begin out 1.5 hour journey to Aguas Caliente which is the town at the base of the climb to Machu Picchu. Once in town, we momentarily lost our guide and then boarded a bus to take us to the top.

As you can see, Machu Picchu is one happening place – tours in many different languages all over. While there were a lot of people and potentially frustrating for getting a good shot without someone wandering through, once past the entrance area it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have enough time to climb Huayna Picchu (the peak across) on this trip.

With fear that my scalp was going to burn for the 3rd tim on this trip I bought a Machu Picchu/Peru hat. And without planning, it matched my shirt for the day! For the “hiking” portion of our trip we opted to bring along our camelbacks, which was an excellent idea for always having clean water.

This place really is spectacular.

We ventured along one of the ancient Inca trails to this bridge. Not sure if you can see this perfectly, but beyond the bridge (which is probably no more than 18-24 inches across), the trail climbs up, up, up to stairs that continue up the mountain. These trails cling to the mountain side and are typically only wide enough for one person or a llama – talk about scary for those ancient Incas.

We continued our tour back into the Room of Three Windows. And to tour some surrounding structures. Portions of Machu Picchu are in continuous rebuild or repair to give visitors a better idea of what it might have looked like when inhabited 500 years ago.

As a little side note on the Incas and their Peruvian descendants – they have crazy good eyesight – they could make out distant rock formations with impressive detail, and they are fantastic, sure footed long distance runners (altitude is not a problem). Really the only reason they don’t win more Olympic races is that their legs, and therefore their strides, are shorter (comes with living in the mountains I guess rather than the savanna).

Once back down the hill, we stopped for lunch at Toto’s and some shopping in Aguas Caliente.

Walking by this stream that cuts through the center of town, it really did seem like some sort of fairy tale retreat. Like a place I could get lost in for a while, just cut myself off… other than the 4G cell service I got all around town. Foot bridges criss crossed high above while there is the ever present sound of rushing water. Rivers, mountains, all ever green – I could be happy here.

That afternoon we boarded our train back toward Cusco, 2 hours by train and then another 1 hour and 45 minutes by bus since that train was no longer running all the way to Cusco. We finally arrive tired and starving once again to our Eco Inn in Cusco for the last night before heading back to Lima.

Read more about Cusco here.

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