Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was somewhere I always thought I’d never have the chance to go and was the milestone of our trip, 3 months down and 3 to go! Trekking in the Colca Canyon helped me make the decision that I definitely didn’t want to do the Inca Trail. This is the 4 or 5 day hike on the old route to the ancient Inca city high in the mountains. It costs a lot and can be quite strenuous at times.

We were torn as to whether to do the Jungle Trek, which includes biking and rafting through the jungle before doing a short walk to enter the ruins or whether to do a DIY hike. In the end we decided to do it ourselves as it was a lot cheaper.

We did a 2 day and one night trip. We arranged transport and accommodation from a travel agent near the San Blas plaza in Cusco. The guy who worked there, Frank, was really nice and helpful and insisted that we called him Frank the Tank, even though he was really puny!

We were picked up bright and early on Saturday morning from Cusco and took the 6 hour trip to Hidroelectrica, stopping once for lunch at a small town Santa Teresa. The views from the bus were amazing but the roads were pretty hairy at times, and terrifying when we met a lorry coming the other way!

Hidroelectrica is a one street town of huts selling food and drinks. The main draw is the train to Aguas Calientes, the little town at the foot of the mountain which Machu Picchu perches on top of.
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
We took the 8km walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. The walk was amazing to start with, we were in good company with a couple called Tim and Elishka and it all seemed pretty easy. Unfortunately, as the afternoon wore on, the grey clouds rolled in and it started to pour down with rain, I had forgotten we were in the middle of the rainforest. The rain came down unrelentlessly and when we arrived at Aguas Calientes my waterproof coat had been pushed to its limits and was now soaked.
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
We had a couple of hours to get some dinner and see the town before we went to bed. It was a 3:45am start in the morning and I was hoping that my clothes would dry as I didn’t have anything else to wear the next day.

Sunday morning, in damp clothes, we grabbed some breakfast then headed to the entrance for the hike to the top of the mountain. It was pitch black and stupidly I hadn’t packed my torch. Despite being pretty early, we were in no way first in the queue and had to wait until they opened the gate. Hundreds of people poured up the mountainside, desperate to be at the top to see the sunrise.
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
I found this pretty challenging. The steps were made of stone, were wet and slippery and really uneven. The rain carried on falling and the darkness added another hurdle. I have to say, I didn’t find this part much fun, as you can see from the photo that Nick took half way up. I do not envy the Incan people who had to run up and down those stairs four times a day to bring water to the settlement!
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
We did get to the top but unfortunately the cloud that was dropping big, fat, raindrops on us was also hiding the sunrise from us. Doh! We arrived just in time to see another bus load of people arrive, looking immaculate after their 10 minute drive up the hill, it was a little disheartening after my crawl up the mountain side.

When we first entered the cloud and fog were so thick that we couldn’t see our hand in front of our face. Not quite what we were expecting. The guide kept promising us, half an hour and the cloud will lift. Half an hour later it was still hidden. I started to get a little worried that we would never get to see the postcard view of Machu Picchu and had to take solace in the llamas that were dotted around.
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Another half an hour, no luck, then just after our tour finished the cloud blew away and we finally got our first glimpse of the ruins from afar. It really was amazing and just so much more than I had expected. We sat on a ledge for a long time and watched the cloud blow over it and then it would slowly reappear through the mist. This definitely made it worth the struggle up the steps.
Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
One of my favourite things, which you can’t really grasp from the photo is how calculated everything was, no stone has just been placed, it’s all planned and has a special meaning. For example, the stone below is the exact shape of the sihouette of the mountain behind it. Something I would have just walked past if I hadn’t have known. I also loved the fact that Dr Dre came with us! Nick laughed at me when I pondered aloud whether Dre would have already been here.
Cuzco, Machu Picchu
Before we knew it, it was time to head back down the hill to get to Hidroelectrica to take our bus back to Cusco in time. This time I bought a bus ticket!

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