The only way to get to Machu Picchu is either by train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente and then up the mountain by bus or foot, or by hiking the 4 day Inca Trail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu which has to be planed far in advance. At the time we inquired about the Inca trail, the permissions were sold out until the end of October…
Excited about finally seeing one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” we first took a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then the PeruRail VistaDome train to Aguas Caliente. After spending the night in the village of the hot waters (“Aguas Caliente”), we got up very early the next day to take one of the first buses at 5.45 am up the mountain to the famous Machu Picchu site.
Even though we have seen the ruins dozens of times on postcards or documentaries it was overwhelming to stand there in the middle of them and see the Inca ruins surrounded by the mountains plunging into the first sunlight of the day! The Incas did choose the perfect place for this city!
The city sits in a saddle between the two mountains Wayna Picchu (young mountain) and Machu Picchu (old mountain). It has its own water supply from springs that cannot be blocked, and enough land to grow food for more people than ever lived there. The terraces reduced soil erosion, protected against landslides and at the same time steepened the slopes which invaders would have to ascend. Both entrances, through the sun gate and across the Inca bridge, to Machu Picchu could be blocked easily and the site could be readily defended.
Luckily early in the morning there weren’t as many tourist as later on in the day 🙂
After exploring the site on our own and taking the first pictures, we joined a guided tour through the ruins:
Machu Picchu (2’430m) was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca empire. Most archaeologists believe that it was built as a residence for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a result of the Spanish conquest. Located only about 80 kilometers from Cusco, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not manage to plunder or destroy it. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and only few local people knew of its existence.
It was “re-discovered” and brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is probably the most familiar icon of Inca civilization.
The site is roughly divided into an urban sector and an agricultural sector, as well as the upper town and the lower town. The temples were built in the upper part of the site, in order to be closer to the gods, the lower part of the site comprised the warehouses and manufactories.
In the background you can see the famous landmark Wayna Picchu. It is possible to hike up, but there is only a limited number of people allowed per day. As for the entire site the tickets to hike up Wayna Picchu have to be ordered well in advance and were also out that day…
In the opposite direction to Wayna Picchu you can see the peak of the Machu Picchu mountain. There is also a limitation for this mountain, but we managed to get tickets for this one 🙂
We started to climb “la montana” at about 11 am. Coming from the cool weather we had in Cusco, we underestimated the heat and the sun in this lower elevation…
We had to take endlessly seeming steps mostly in the sun to gain elevation:
But on the way up we were rewarded with the first spectacular views down to the site and beautiful flowers:
The last steps seemed to lead directly into the sky 🙂
But then after around 1.5 hours we finally made it to the top 🙂
We enjoyed a short brake and the breathtaking view down on Machu Picchu, which seemed so small from up here:
On the whole Machu Picchu site there are no shops or places you can get any water or food. We thought it would be a goldmine, if they would sell cold drinks up on that mountain! When we arrived our water was nearly gone and we had the same steep way down ahead of us…
But as the way down is normally faster, we enjoyed some more flowers and even a lizard that crossed our path:
In the afternoon we also walked to the Inca bridge, one of the two former entrances to Machu Picchu. It is part of a stone path, of which part is carved into the rock. A 6 m gap was left in this section of the trail over a 580 m drop, that could be bridged with two tree trunks and was otherwise impossible to cross.
We took many more pictures and just enjoyed exploring the ancient ruins and imagining how the Incas lived here nearly 500 years ago.
This llama just walked by in the right moment 🙂 During our guided tour we learned that llamas normally don’t live in the low altitude of Machu Picchu. But after shooting a movie at the site of Machu Picchu the film crew just left the llamas behind and that is why some are still walking around today and mowing the lawn 🙂
In the evening we left Machu Picchu and took the bus down to Aguas Caliente:
With our train leaving back to Ollantaytambo at 9.30 pm we had plenty of time to enjoy dinner in the village. We started with a healthy avocado/papaya salad:
Andy chose a tasty pepper chicken with different vegetables and potatoes:
And Tini had a delicate trout with the same side dishes:
Walking up Machu Picchu mountain that day we surely earned our desserts 🙂 and shared an apple pie and chocolate mousse:
After dinner we had a little walk around the village and watched many more of the locals and tourists going after their business. Very punctual we arrived at the train station and started waiting for the train. But no train showed up and there was no kind of information on why or when it would arrive. The Peruvians waiting with us started getting angry and inpatient and as they got more and more excited, clapped their hands and yelled, but they also couldn’t change anything.
After an hour of waiting in the hall the train finally arrived and all people hurried to get on board. We were a bit worried, if we would manage to catch our bus in Ollantaytambo, that would bring us back to Cusco that night. But we were distracted by a funny conversation with a Brazilian couple sitting opposite to us. We didn’t speak any Portuguese, they didn’t speak any English and we all spoke little Spanish. But we managed to have a wide-range conversation about family, our countries, our work and what we should visit in Brasil 🙂
We arrived at the train station in Ollantaytambo at about 11.30 pm and we also managed to catch our bus to Cusco, were we finally arrived at 2.00 am in the middle of the night. What a day!