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The sacred city of Machu Picchu … It was the second time I’d been there. The first time was more than 20 years ago, and it felt different then. The reason was that I had accomplished the 4-day Inca Trail with some friends from my boy scout group.
The journey was beautiful: the landscapes, the local inhabitants we met, the culture, everything. But it was an exhausting journey, and on the 4th day I have to admit that I did not enjoy visiting the city as much as I did this time. In addition, I was an adolescent and my memories from that trip are of the adventure, the mountains, the trail, etc. This time we enjoyed every second of the journey and every detail.
It is impossible not to be fascinated by this rich culture and the amazing inheritance of Inca Civilization.
Our journey started in Ollantaytambo. After visiting part of the Sacred Valley, we had to wake up (as usual on this trip …) very early in the morning. Our train to Aguas Calientes (also called Machu Picchu pueblo, or vice-versa) would depart at 5:35am, so we had to be awake at 4:30.
We didn’t even bother to find a taxi as they would charge us at least US$10 for a short trip. We could’ve also tried a small moto taxi, which costs about S/ 2-3. This is the most absurd difference we have faced in Peru so far! But there wasn’t a moto taxi available, so we walked with our luggage and I carried Noah in my arms. Thank God he was, also as usual on this trip, very patient and not moody, despite the early hour. We walked for 10-15 minutes and got to the station.
As we had already purchased the (very expensive!) train ticket, we had no issues passing through security.
We had no other option than to go by train. We left it to the last minute, in the hope we would find alternatives in Cusco. Luckily we were informed by a Chilean lady who we met in Cusco that Peru Rail had an offer of 2 tickets for the price of 1. So, instead of paying almost US$330 (Noah’s ticket was half price), we only paid about US$190. That’s a considerable saving in our budget. Thanks Peru Rail for the offer (???).
As it was early morning we barely enjoyed the views because it was still dark, but the little we saw was nice.
Arriving in Aguas Calientes we were greeted by a host from the Inkaterra Machu Picchu hotel, where we would spend the night. She told us that they would take care of the luggage for us and take it straight to the hotel while we were on our tour of Machu Picchu. This was good for us as we didn’t have to find a locker (Peru Rail offers a locker for their customers at the station in Aguas Calientes).
The next thing was to buy the ticket for the bus that would take us up the mountain. Visitors need to purchase the tickets at one of the Consettur offices in Cusco or Machu Picchu or online. There’s no other agent selling these tickets and it costs US$12 per adult one way.
The journey by bus is not long, taking about 20-25 minutes, but it was enough time for Noah to fall sleep again.
As Ruth also had a ticket for Huayna Picchu which was valid between 7 and 8am she entered the ruins before us and I took a seat in the lobby of the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge hotel, at the entrance to Machu Picchu, where we would later have some lunch and go on an invited tour.
While Noah was sleeping I happened to meet our host at the hotel, Mrs. Giuliana Palomino. We had a quick chat, and as soon as Noah woke up we started our journey around Machu Picchu.
It might sound silly, but I was really feeling emotional about coming back to that fascinating place after some decades. In the intervening years I had always wanted to come back and learn a bit more about this city full of mystery and history. The time had finally come, but I also had to ensure that Noah was enjoying the visit.
As we didn’t have a guide it was easy to go from one place to another the way we wanted … or in reality the way Noah wanted. I think he was enjoying himself as he led me around to various places. We got to see some llamas and alpacas in the ruins, and Noah stopped to spend time playing with them.
After a while Noah got tired and, as it was a bit hot, he asked me to carry him on my shoulders. I couldn’t say no, and then it was my opportunity to take the lead on the tour 🙂
I tried to make him interested in the places we visited, but he preferred the adventure of going around the rocks and animals.
Without anyone guiding us I tried to stay close to groups with guides every time there was an interesting place, just to hear a bit more about that site and have an interesting experience. We visited many parts of the citadel, both the urban area and the agricultural part, which consists of terraces.
After moving through almost the whole city, and about 3 hours after Ruth had left for Huayna Picchu, we decided to wait for her at the entrance to the Huayna Picchu trail, which is located opposite the main entrance to Machu Picchu. There was a small hut where we were able to protect ourselves from the sun and wait for Ruth. Noah was also playing with his cars, so everything was fine for us.After about 30 minutes we met Ruth again and she told me about her experience up there. She met 2 people from Canada who walked along with her and I met them later.
The hiking was a bit exhausting but very rewarding, considering the pictures she took at the top of the mountain.
When I went to Machu Picchu the first time I did not go to Huayna Picchu, and to be honest I can’t remember the reason why, but it was probably because our group (of about 20 boy scouts) had just hiked for 4 days along the Inca trail and we were very tired. Of course I wanted to visit Huayna Picchu, but sometimes we need to split up to take care of Noah and I would prefer to climb other mountains on our world trip.
We were running out of time as we had an appointment at the Belmond for lunch, so we decided to walk back to the entrance to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Of course, as we had to walk the whole length of the city to get to the other side, we took lots of pics.
It was a very rewarding morning and one not to be forgotten in a hurry. We left having learned a bit more about this fascinating city and civilization.
The rest of the day was promising, as we had a delicious lunch awaiting us right at the entrance to the ruins at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge.
Later that day we would spend the night at what is certainly the best hotel in Aguas Calientes: the well-known Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. We were looking forward to that!