It’s finally arrived, the veritable Jewel of the trip, Machu Picchu. We started the day nice and early with a 6.00 meeting time, after practically dragging a few of the group out of bed we were ready for the short walk to the Ollantaytambo train station.
In various states of consciousness we boarded the train to Machu Picchu. The one and a half hour long trip was spent eating our packed breakfasts, enjoying the complementary snacks and drinks (in particular the caramelised almond tea) the train service provided, reading, sleeping and taking in the rapidly changing scenery. As we sat in the comfort of the carriages, we were able to enjoy the incredible views of the roaring Urumbamba river and dense forest vegetation.
The group arrived at the town of Aguascalientes refreshed and ready for whatever the day held in store for us. After a round of picture taking it was off to our hotel, La Payacha, to drop our overnight bags and prepare for Machu Picchu. It was an awesome surprise to find that our hotel was bordered by the Urumbamba river of one side (directly beneath the boy’s bedroom window!) and the train tracks on the other side, a pretty unique location. Next it was off to La Boulangerie to pick out our lunches for the day then onto the bus and up to the entrance of Machu Picchu!
It was with much anticipation that the bus rounded the last (of many) bends and the group disembarked at Mach Picchu. We entered the site at 10 in the morning and were given a small walking tour from Yieber where he explained that the prevention of the arrival of the Spanish to Machu Picchu was vital to it’s relatively untouched condition. We were surprised to learn that so little is known about Machu Picchu and its role in Incan society as a result of the natural decomposition of Incan textiles and tools that may once have been found there. We continued our walk along a small section of the Incan Trail our final destination being the famed Sun Gate (Intipunko) of Machu Picchu.
It was a challenging uphill hike but one the group was well prepared for, the altitude being lower than that of our walks in Misminay. After taking in the (somewhat cloudy) views and exploring the ruins along the way, the group arrived at the Sun Gate. We ate our lunch while marvelling at (and cursing) the heavy cloud that shrouded the mountains and obscured the view; though it added to the mystery of what we were beginning to see is such an intriguing and sacred place. Yieber continued to broaden our knowledge of Machu Picchu by explaining the role of the Sun Gate as a checkpoint into Machu Picchu and as a window through which the sun lights Machu Picchu at the time of the Summer Solstice.
We made our way back down the Inca Trail at our own pace, rejoicing as the clouds finally cleared and we were able snap some incredible pictures of the agricultural sector of Machu Picchu. We had a break in the sun on the West side terraces, plagued slightly by the many bugs and then made our way to the ‘postcard’ spot of Machu Picchu. Here we began the long process of taking a photo of each group member, clad in our clothes of the region (alpaca jumpers and beanies) and posing “naturally” in front of the much sought after backdrop of Machu Picchu.
Sadly it was then time to leave Machu Picchu for today, reassured with the promise that we would soon see it again, the following day. As we left the site the rain stared up and persuaded half the group to take the bus back down to Aguascalientes while the other half trekked down the, slightly slippery, stone steps that also lead to the town. Both groups were able to enjoy the incredible scenery provided by the sheer mountains and diverse rainforest, although at different states of dryness!
As we had some time before dinner, some of the group decided to brave the bad weather and make the, somewhat unexpected, trek to the hot springs for which Aguascalientes earned its name. We enjoyed the hot water, spectacular views and the company of locals and tourists alike. The girls of the group were particularly grateful for the company of a certain handsome Argentinian 😉 however it was soon time to make our way back to the hotel and meet for dinner.
Of course we had, yet another, delicious meal in Peru. The group enjoying traditional and not so traditional meals with the gusto of those recently returned from a tiring and rewarding trip to Machu Picchu. We can’t wait to experience this incredible place again in the morning!