Machu Picchu - A magical place

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
172, Tanda Pata, Cusco, Peru

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Machu Picchu - 25th & 26th September 2010

Well this is the part of the trip to Peru that I had been looking forward to the most. When I first started seriously thinking of taking a year off to travel I listed the countries and places I wanted to visit.Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China were the two at the top. Well I can now tick off the first one, hopefully China will be my final destination.....

So the morning of 25th September started relatively early. Was told to get to the office of Liz's Explorers just off Plaza de Armas for 6.30am but should have known that would mean being picked up at 7....and yes on the dot of 7am the guide arrived to show us to the bus that would take us to the local station Poroy which is about 20 minutes outside of Cusco for our journey onto MP.

There was another girl who was travelling alone, Josie a German girl, so once we got to Poroy we queued up together she was staying at the same hostal as me in Aguas Calinetes. We didn't sit together but I waited for her the other end.

The journey up to Aguas Calinetes the town nearest to MP took about 4 hours. The train left Poroy station dead on time at 7.45am all very efficient. It should have taken 3 hours but we had to stop quite a few times at stations along the way and as other trains came the opposite way. It was an interesting ride if not a tad bumpy at times and quiet slow, forget Eurostar this is Peru we are taking about. But seriously the tracks take you through a very mountainous and beautiful landscape and we also had to zig zag backwards and forwards to change directions which was quite novel. We were give a light snack which included a drink, so all in all it was a good journey.
We then got to the station in Aguas Calientes around midday. This is the town at the foothills of MP and is basically there for the tourists. Josie and I got taken to the hotel...there was a guy holding out a sign with our names...mine was Samata Philpupps!!!! Guessed it was me...On our way we passed by a market selling all the normal stuff you see in all the shops around Cusco. Colourful ponchos, scarfs, hats, dolls etc. Our hotel rooms were pleasant but opposite what the locals called the was a concrete field with a few seats, but basically they were playing music from noon to way past it was pretty noisy.

So we had all day to spend in Aguas and as I said not an awful lot to do so we went and got some food. I decided I was going to try the local speciality of Cuy or guinea pig as we know it. As I never had one for a pet I had no problem ordering but when it arrived on my plate I wished that perhaps I hadn't. It was a sight to be seen. On the menu it was priced at 60 sol....this is about 15 pounds which is very expensive for Peru. I didn't want to pay that much so the guy at the restaurant said he'd do me a deal for 45 sol....Well when it arrived I nearly choked! I'd never seen anything like it before in my life. It was like a road kill, literally it was flatten and fried to within half an inch of its life. It came intact with head and claws....needless to say I didn't eat that part. In fact it was really difficult to eat full stop. I had to pull at the fried skin with my hands to get to the meat. There wasn't much of it was kind of like duck. Anyway I managed to eat what I could but vowed never to eat it again. I'd say go for it once just to say you've done it but this definitely won't be put on my list of favourite foods!

After that once in a lifetime experience I was still pretty hungry! anyway I decided to go and try out the hot springs that are promoted at AC. It is 10 sols to go into. I had brought my swimming costume, Josie hadn't so didn't come but you can actually hire costumes and towels. There 4 or 5 small pools and the water was lovely and warm. It was busy and I only used two of the pools, the last one was really hot and I turned into a total prune, but felt nice and clean and relaxed.

At around 7pm the guide who would be doing the MP tour for us came to the hotel. She said that it we wanted to climb up Wayna Picchu, I had been recommended this by several people, that we would have to queue up to get one of the first buses up to MP and that meant getting there for about 3.30am!  This is because only 400 people a day are allowed to climb it so you have to amongst the first to MP in the morning to stand a chance.

So Josie and I went for a bite to eat and then had a very early night as my alarm was set for 2.45am. The hotel was great and set up breakfast for us so we had coffee and fruit just after 3 and then headed to the bus station. We got there around 3.30 and we weren't the first. There was a good 20 or so people in front of us, but we were sure of ticket for WP. So as the dawn appeared so the queue got longer and longer. There was nearly a fight as 3 French women jumped the queue. Basically their friend had got there early like us. She was a few people behind me and Josie. But then around 5ish she left and her friends joined the queue. That didn't go down well with the people behind who had queued like us since the early hours. To cut long short the other woman rejoined the queue and her friends were sent to the back!

We got one the 2nd bus around 5.30am. The bus journey up to MP takes about half an hour and again the views travelling up the mountain were amazing. You realise why the Spanish never found MP, it really is in the middle of no-where. The bus zig zagged all the way up to the main entrance. From WP you can see the road carved into the side of the mountain.

Once we arrived we registered for the 7am assent up to WP as we had a tour of MP at 11 so thought that would give us enough time. As it was so early we were lucky as we were able to get great panoramic views of MP with the cloud mist still hugging the mountain tops around us - truly magical and awesome, oh to have lived there in the Inca times...

We walked around for a while, Paddington had his picture taken a couple of times, he thought the views were amazing too and was pleased to be back in his spiritual home!  We then headed for the entrance to WP. The first 200 people are let up at 7am the next group at 10am. We ended up near the back and started our climb at 8.03am. Josie was 21 and a tall, long legged girl so it wasn't long before I got left behind!  There were a couple of Americans trailing me, and the girl in particular was struggling - stopping quite a lot, she was little like me and my excuse is that we found it hard because we have short legs and the steps were steep...oh maybe we were just unfit! Probably the latter. Anyway towards the end I climbed up with them.
It was tough (the Lonely Planet say it takes an hour and that's how long it took me) and because it was both steep and high altitude 2,400 mtrs it leaves most people breathless after a few steps but I made it to the top...right to the top. It was definitely worth it, especially as I have no desire to the Inca Trail so I had to feel like I'd done something. There were amazing views looking over to MP, and then I climbed through what looked like a cave and came out the other side onto some massive boulder rocks - this was the very top of WP.  Well if you had vertigo I think you would have dropped down dead...I don't suffer from the fear of heights but I was well aware if I slipped no-one was there to save me and I would have literally toppled over the edge. So I quickly made my descent back down....that was just as tricky as the steps down were very narrow and steep, no hand rails...I was basically clinging onto the side of the walls to make sure I didn't fall. I didn't see Josie again until I was nearly back at the entrance. I walked down WP by myself hardly seeing another soul. which was a bit disconcerting as if I'd slipped and hurt myself would have had to wait a while to see anyone to help me. Anyway thankfully I made it down safely. In all it took about 2 hours and I was bloody shattered at the end of it!

We were then given a tour of WP with a guide for a couple of hours which was interesting as it put everything into an historical context. But by the end of the end of that I was well and truly pooped. Thankfully the weather was lovely. It had absolutely chucked it down the night before, I prayed that it would stay dry and sunny for Sunday (I hadn't come all this way to get crap photos). So we chilled out for an hour or so lying on the grounds by the ruins, overlooking the fantastic landscape that surrounds MP. It was very relaxing and atmospheric. It was thirsty work at MP. I drank 4 litres of water that day and actually filled up two litre bottles from the natural water springs at MP for free.

Josie's train back to Cusco was a couple of hours before mine, but I decided to leave MP with her as 9 hours up there was enough for me. After waving her off at the station, I went back to the hotel to get my backpack and they let me use a room to change clothes. I then went and had a beer! I thought I had earned it. My train back was 7.30pm. Instead of going back to Poroy station we got off at Ollaytaytambo which only took 2 hours. I think I slept all the way. But we then had to get a bus back to Cusco which took around 1.5 hours so didn't get back till gone 11pm. I was bloody shattered. But it was a fantastic experience and MP is just wonderful a true wonder of the world. Everyone should try and get there once in their lifetime if they can. I recommend the 2 day trip to MP. Staying overnight at Aguas Calinetes means you can be one of the first up to MP, if you don't get the bus you can walk up there, but apparently there are over 1,000 steps up there.  I wouldn't do the one day trip as the people on my train which left early would not have got up to MP until around 1pm and they wouldn't have been able to climb WP.  I've heard the Inca Trail is an experience and worth it if you are into trekking, but its hard work if you are not that fit and I think most people are then worn out by the time they arrive at MP. I'm really happy with the way I did it. All in all a great, great place and I"m so glad that I have been able to get to see Machu Picchu up and close and personal.

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