The Last Bits of Peru: Machu Picchu

October 13, 2010

Our last big adventure of our trip was Machu Picchu, and oh, what an adventure it was. Over the course of our trip we had talked to various people about how they got to Machu Picchu and the best way to do it for the least amount of money. First things first, while everyone goes to Cusco to get to Machu Picchu they are NOT close to each other at all. More like they are an eight hour bus ride apart! We also did not consider the fact that there was going to be a bus strike during the time that we wanted to go and that complicated things a little bit. Thankfully, Paul, the guy who owned our hostel, helped us figure out how to get there, at a decent price, and in a decent time. The first part of our trip was a 7 hour van ride to a town called Santa Teresa (which is supposedly has some really nice hot springs, but we didn’t get to check them out). You would think by this point in the trip we’d be used to long bus/van rides, but this particular one involved winding mountain roads and lots of dust that I never thought we’d make it through. When we were almost to where we were supposed to be we were stopped by the townspeople who were striking. All of the drivers who were trying to get through had to negotiate with them and eventually they let us through. When we arrived in Santa Teresa we had to find a way to get to they hydroelectric station, where we were supposed to walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. The man driving our van was apparently trying to charge us too much, so we thought we’d find a taxi who would take us there for less money. Lo and behold, there was only one taxi (with five seats in it) that we squeezed all NINE of us plus the driver into. Then we were off for another hour long ride through the winding mountain paths, well, after stopping on the side of the road to fill the car up with water from the river because it overheated. After some intense moments of feeling like we were going to drive off the side of this mountain, or get submerged under water we finally made it to the hydroelectric. We sat for a bit and ate some lunch, which consisted of peanut butter sandwiches and water, and then started our walk along the train tracks. This was probably the most pleasant part of the whole journey. It took us about three hours to walk the train tracks, but we didn’t really mind because there is a nice river that flows along the train tracks, which kept us cool, and it was just so peaceful. Upon arriving in Aguas Calientes we bought our entrance tickets for Machu Picchu and then found a place to eat dinner. We decided that we didn’t want to get a hostel for the night because we were told that we need to be at the gate to Machu Picchu between 2-3AM to start hiking up to the top. So, instead of waiting until 2, we decided we would just start that climb after dinner and then sleep after we got to the top. (Side note: the whole point of this long/early morning journey was so that we could climb Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain next to Machhu Picchu and see the sunrise–only the first 200 people get to do it). So we get to the gate around 11PM– a journey that we thought was going to take a few hours only ended up taking about half an hour– and the guy tells us that he doesn’t start letting people in until about 445AM and to come back around 330AM. We slept on the side of the road, which was quite fun, and then woke up at 330 and got in line at the gate. True to his word, the man opened the gate at 445 and let everyone through to start hiking up to the entrance to Machu Picchu. Never have I climbed so many stairs in my life! But, we made it and were in the group that got to go up to Huayna Picchu for sunrise!
Huayna Picchu is two mountains–one very large one, and one not so large one–since it was already 7AM and we were told the sunrises around 730AM, we decided to climb the not so large one and what a great decision that was. We get to the top of it and have this incredible view and see the sunrise over the mountains and we were the only six people up there for the entire three hours we were allowed to be up there! It was so incredibly peaceful and wonderful and I can’t even explain, but it definitely made the entire crazy journey to get there worth it.
There’s a bunch of llamas just roaming around the ruins, which is really awesome. You’re not really supposed to go near them–the security guards will whistle at you–but we did get some epic views of them. And at one point, we saw a couple of them chasing each other and one of them jumped over this guy who way laying on the ground, we thought he got trampled by the llama, but turns out he was okay!
After coming down from the top of Huayna Picchu, we met up with the rest of the group and got some lunch at the ridiculously over priced cafe. We then went back in the ruins and walked around some more. A few of us found a spot in the sunshine and napped for a bit and then continued exploring. Such a wonderful, wonderful experience!
For the journey back, Nico, Sam, Matt and I decided to take a train, while the rest of the group decided they were going to go back the way we came. Our train & taxi ride back to the hostel took a whole four hours! You have no idea how happy this made us!

After Machu Picchu we stayed in Cusco for a couple more days and then took a 20 hour bus ride to Lima. This was most definitely the most miserable bus ride of the entire trip, but we made it. After showering and settling in at the hostel, we went to dinner and then found a movie theatre in town so that we could go see Inception. So good! After the movie we went back to the hostel and stayed up talking until Sarah and I had to leave to catch our flight back to the states. We left on the 4th of August and the rest of the group didn’t leave until the 10th, so they hung out in Lima for the rest of the time and went paragliding and did other awesome stuff that I’m jealous of!

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