Wow. I must say, every day seems to get a little better, which is surprising since every day feels so awesome.
Today I started early (around 5) to check out of my hotel and head to the train station. My taxi was waiting for me and I made it in plenty of time.
The rail ride was AWESOME. Peru Rail is a great experience. The views were spectacular and the service was great. Coffee and some kind of quinoa fig pastry that was actually really good.
The views were seriously amazing. That’s Carmen, in the first picture who was with her husband Cesar. They are from Spain but Cesar travels between Chile and Spain for his job, one month in each. His English was very good so we had some very good conversation. Carmen’s wasn’t bad but not as strong. They were a really great couple and made the ride more enjoyable. I had some questions about my Machu Piccu ticket and Cesar was able to translate them to one of the rail guys to get answers for me.
Also, we passed this:
Welcome to the Skylodge… three transparent pods (and a restaurant on the right) clinging to the side of a 400 ft cliff, and you have to scale a sheer rock face to reach them. Read about it here, but no thank you!! Haha.
This is a thing!!!!!! My God.
Anyway, some other great views, and we finally arrived in Machu Piccu in Aguas Calientes. I was smart enough to book a hotel walking distance (like literally two mins) from the terminal so I dropped my bags at the hotel and headed off to the bus terminal to buy a ticket to get up to Machu Piccu. You can walk it, but it’s about an hour and a half and strenuous and I was concerned I’d be pooped by the time I got up with a lot more hiking to do.
The ride up was a bit frightening on the edge of the cliff, but I convinced myself that they do this all the time and I’m not in control. 🙂
Hard to get many pics from the bus, but I did catch this one, mainly because I think this must be a Hermes (maybe?? I don’t know my brands all that well) scarf this guy was wearing and I’m wondering who wears that to hike Manchu Piccu, lol??!
Anyway that’s just rude of me and I digress.
Once we got there, I considered checking it out on my own first. I freaked out a little at the beginning because I somehow lost my ticket or forgot it at the hotel, but I was able to provide my passport and they brought it up and I could get right in. Once in, I met an American couple from Seattle that said they had done it with a tour guide and without a tour guide and recommended a guide. So, I went back outside to the entrance and started talking to a few people. Basically there are a lot of individual guides outside and many people that want to form small groups to save money on the tour. I talked to a couple of groups and found a good one for 20 sols per person, which is really cheap from what I heard. There was a couple from South Carolina, four British guys on holiday, and three siblings from Canada. Great group and we had a great time. Totally worth the guide because you learn a lot of history and he explained everything we saw. Everything was just amazing. Some pics from the tour:
(You have to love his hat!)
Those are just a handful of the photos I took and other things that we got to see. It’s hard with the blog because I really want to explain all of the pictures, but I’d be here all day and I have more to do haha!!
A note for people wanting to travel to Peru: Huayna Picchu is supposedly a great hike to take (the largest mountain you see in the pics) but you have to sign up pretty far in advance since they only take 200 people a day. There were people in my tour group who had done it and described how challenging and terrifying it was at times with no guard rails and being on your hands and knees! It is a very strenuous hike but evidently very much worth it for the views. So if you want to do this, make sure to sign up far in advance.
Also, when booking your tickets, it can be very confusing. I had signed up for a mountain hike along with Machu Picchu, which is the smaller mountain to the left of Huayna Picchu, but the entrance time was at 7 a.m. only, which I did not realize, and wasn’t able to make it given when my train got in.
Anyway, after the tour was over and hearing what the rest of this group had done already with their day, I wasn’t satisfied to just be done. I was hungry but one of the siblings mentioned they heard a lot of people got sick at the cafe. So, even though I was hungry, I went for another hike to Sun Gate. Now, if I thought I was conquering my fear of heights before, I definitely did it on this hike. It started raining towards the end of our tour, and never stopped after, so I did this hike in the rain. Some of the rocks were kind of slippery, but it was rather intense uphill. Nothing that can’t be done, but some rather scary moments where the trail got tight. It took me about 2 hours round-trip. Interestingly enough, at this point the fog had rolled in and there were very few views for much of the hike.
Another tip to those wanting to travel to Peru: I would honestly just spend the money and buy two days of tickets for Machu Picchu. The weather is extremely unpredictable here, and apparently on Sunday it was foggy the entire time and no views could be seen. Imagine how disappointed you would be if you planned your trip around this and weren’t able to see anything. I was very thankful that I got the views I did. And it was kind of cool to see the fog roll in and see nothing once I took my own hike. Clouds rolled in and out and I finally made it to the top, and felt accomplished. A few pics from this hike:
My boot shows how close I made it to the edge, haha!
Me, soaked, and looking mighty fine:
And one final pic to show the difference in views between the beginning of the day and the end:
Again, I could go on and on with pictures. It was an incredible day.
Made it back down to catch one of the last buses back to Auguas Calientes. Now, I will say that the nicest hotel isn’t always important to me, but the safest and closest is. For the couple of nights here in Machu Piccu though, I booked a pretty good hotel (Casa del Sol). Some might think or say the hotel isn’t that important because you’re not spending much time there (I say that sometimes), but being soaking wet from hiking through the chilly rain for the past five hours, Karla at reception being so friendly and able to speak English very clearly, receiving a pineapple mint welcome drink, getting to my hotel room where my bags were already there, music playing, chocolates waiting, and the sounds of the river coming through the window, made all the difference in the world.
The above is right out my window.
A hot shower and I headed down for a glass of wine at the bar.
Met a couple from Australia, Will and Jackie, and we talked for quite awhile. They had arranged a personal tour guide for their entire trip to took care of all of their scheduling, reservations, etc. They said all in, including airfare, for 22 days they probably spent about 35,000 Australian dollars total (so about $17.5 each who would be like $13K or so US). It sounds like a lot, but probably worth it for those who want to travel to Peru and not deal with making all of the plans themselves as I have, especially given how long their trip is.
Anyhoo, I went to dinner at a nearby restaurant that was recommended (Treehouse) and it was delicious. I tried Alpaca for the first time (I know, I know, taking pictures of the guys and then eating them, but just focus on the circle of life). It’s sort of like steak, and you order it cooked the same way, it’s just a little bit tougher. Also tomato soup that was phenomenal.
Yum, Yum, and Yum. I heard English (Yay, Hahah!!) and met a couple sitting next to me from Boston, Colleen and Ben. Colleen was accepted into medical residency in New York, and Ben was about to enter law school, so their move to New York is soon. We chatted for quite a while about the different things we were doing. Super awesome couple who are very driven and going to have a great life together!
Between Will and Jackie and Ben and Colleen, it was great to be able to connect and communicate again in my language. While the exploration so far has been phenomenal, it is very different in that I have not been meeting as many people along the way.
Anyway, time to end this so I can get out into the day. Evidently no train tickets are available to Ollantaytambo, which was my plan for today, so instead I’m going to go to the hot springs for a little relaxation. Another tip for Peru travelers is to make sure all train tickets are booked in advance. 🙂
Another incredible day. So fortunate and blessed. And heights, I’m kicking your butt!