We again departed via overnight Cruz del Sur headed for Cusco. It was about 14 hours and quite bumpy. Needless to say, by the time we made it to Cusco… we were exhausted.
We dropped our large backpacks off at the hotel we would be staying at after Machu Picchu. The PeruRail trains that were taking us there had very strict luggage requirements, so we only packed small bags for our three day journey.
We explored around Cusco a bit that morning after getting some coffee. I would say Cusco reminded me of smaller towns of Spain. We mostly just took pictures and wandered since we only had a few hours.
Earlier this year (and after we booked plane tickets), this region had two days of very heavy rains which caused intense mudslides. This caused the only transportation up to Machu Picchu (not counting the four day hike) to be severely damaged. Instead of PeruRail trains leaving from Cusco… They were instead leaving from a small town called Ollaytambo, about an hour and a half drive from Cusco. We hired a taxi to take us (for a mere 30 USD for both of us….). Our driver only spoke Spanish, and I would say he was half tour guide and half driver. He spent the whole ride explaining the Sacred Valley to us, talking about certain ruins, life after the mudslide, etc. He also was nice enough to stop at a few places along the way so we could get a glimspe at the view or ruins. We were quite proud that we really understood what he was saying. While my speaking skills were quite rusty… times like these where I could practice speaking were great. It seemed to get easier and easier as the trip went on.
We did finally arrive at Ollaytambo, ate a quick lunch, and then board a PeruRail bus to take us to the start of the rail lines. It was there is Piscacucho we boarded the train. The trains had windows not only on the sides, but on the ceiling as well… so you really felt surrounded by the mountains. Plus, it was a bit cloudy that day, which was beautiful. (I did though spend some time hoping for sun the next day….) The train was great for exchanging stories with other travelers and relaxing before the big day.
We got off at Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu. We stayed in this OUTSTANDING little hotel on the outskirts called RupaWasi. They are an eco lodge, made of reclaimed lumber with a focus on conservation – plus beautifully designed rooms, cozy beds, hot water, balconies. I seriously cannot recommend this place enough. We paid for a package here… rooms plus tickets to Machu Picchu, bus tickets, a boxed lunch, a meal in their delicious restaurant, and a private guide for Machu Picchu. This way we just showed up and there was no worry about Machu Picchu being sold out or anything on the day we needed to go.
That night we got all ready for the next big day ahead and took advantage of the hot showers. I (D) though was starting not to feel so great. While I will spare the gross details… it was a long night and I was in a panic that my day at Machu Picchu would be ruined by this sickness.
We woke up the next morning at 430 am. We made it down to the dining room for some quick breakfast (well, b ate. i was able to hold down a half glass of orange juice though!) We then made it to the center of town to stand in line with the other tourists … waiting for the first bus of the day to Machu Picchu. We met our guide there and boarded a bus up a very VERY crazy road up the mountain.
I have to say, getting up that early was rough. And riding that bus while sick was rough-er.
But we arrived and started walking into the site… and all the sudden the path takes you through two stone buildings… and there you are. Really, there we were in the middle of Machu Picchu. It seems impossible to even imagine. I just remember looking at it, thinking “whoa this is the most beautiful place ever.” I felt like I was on top of the world and everywhere I turned something more beautiful emerged.
We started walking around with our guide and got to one of the center areas of the complex. We stood there as the sun rose its last smidgen over the mountain tops in the distance. The mountain had been holding those rays back. Instantly the stone walls had an orange glow almost. It was so quiet. Everyone seemed to have stopped talking and was just looking in awe.
I cannot even describe how great Machu Picchu was. I could post 200 pictures we took in just a few hours. None though seem to do it justice. Words seem to be lost, but just know this was unquestionably the most beautiful place I had ever been.
I cannot recommend it enough.