At 03.50 we heard a car honking repeatedly outside our hostel door, and just a few minutes later we were in a van together with a handful of other people heading for “Ollantanboo” where we would catch the train up to Machu Picchu, the lost Inca City that has become the biggest tourist attraction in Peru.
The roads were foggy, and while driving full speed through hills and turns we could just see a few meters ahead of us for most of the hour and a half it took to drive there. Well at the station it was still pitch dark, but the Peruvians were already up and eager to sell us souveniers the meters we had to walk to get onboard the train that was waiting for us at the station.
The two hour train ride between “Otalayamboo” and “Aguas Calientes” is one of the most beutiful trian rides I have ever taken, running slowly through tunnels, in between mountain forests and along rivers. I might have been a bit biased by the beutiful and comfortable train compartments though, with glass roofs, calm pan flute music and a free serving of snacks and drinks.
Once at Otalayamboo around eight o’clock, there were some people waiting for us with a sign that gave us our bus tickets for the 25 minute ride up to Machu Pichu, where our guide was waiting for us, eager to start. Once through the entrance he shot off with great facts about the Inca Empire and took lots of photos of us in the places he meant was best and least crowded.
After two hours of what had been one of our most interesting guided tours, it was time to explore Machu Picchu by ourself for as long as we wanted (it closes 5.30) and we found out that most people leave around 2- 3pm, so after that there were much fewer people getting in the way for our pictures compared to the morning where there were long lines for taking pictures at the most popular spots. Before getting back on the train at 18.30 we managed to climb up to the Solar Gate at Mount Machu Picchu, walk over to the Inca Bridge and of course take enough pictures of the ruins and the llamas for a lifetime.
Around 10.30pm we were back at the hostel after a full day at the ruins and another few hours each way between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. We felt that we had gotten our moneys worth from the day trip booked through Kilroy (link), as it probably would have cost a lot getting our own taxi the 1h40m to and from our hostel in Cuzco and Otalayamboo, where the train departed from, plus the private guide that met us once we arrived at Machu Picchu. Our tickets that was given to us at the beginning of the tour also showed the additional included costs per person:
– 106US for train tickets round trip in tourist class from Ontalayamboo and Aguas Calientes
– 19US for bus ticket round trip from Aguas Calientes to Macchu Picchu
– 42US for entrance to Machu Picchu
I was also impressed about the genuinety of the archelological park of Machu Picchu, and even though it has the rhumors of being one of the most touristy “been there, done that place” we learned a great lot and were just stunned from the natural and archeological beautiness of the place. I can now understand why some people think that this should be on everyones bucketlist.
We have found Cuzco to be a quite fascinating city, being the most genuine (with well preserved colonial architecture as evidence of a rich and complex history) and at the same time most touristy place we have visited so far in South America (where everyone and everything in the city center are there because of the tourism). It is not large in size, the airport is located inside the city and the whole city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, but still it is one of Peru’s most visited cities because it as the capital of the Inca Empire lies close to Machu Picchu, Pisac and other Inca sites in the Region.
For our five days here we stayed at Milhouse Hostel, which was a great base as they arranged free daily activities and was located as centrally as possible, close to both the main square “Plaza de Armas” and the main street “Avenida el Sol”. These both had lots of shops where we bought around 5 alpacca wool sweaters each to send home with other stuff that we did not need any more for our trip. Eight kilos set us back a hundred dollars including packaging, which we found okay considering that we had gotten the sweaters really cheap after lots of haggling. The city center also had lots of restaurants serving traditional Peruvian meals such as alpacca and “cuy”/guinea pig (e.g Nuna Raymi restaurant), which is considered a delicassy only served at special occations. I still cannot come up with an other reason to only serve this at special occations than the Peruvians not liking it much either. There was very little meat in the Guinea Pig, but it was still very filling. It tasted much like chewing on bones, and the meat was very dry and chewy, but after the meal, it still felt like we had eated a fattening christmas dinner in the stomache. Everyone have visiting Machu Pichu on their “to do list” when visiting Cuzco, but I think that both visiting the market in Pisac and eating a cuy should also be something not to miss when visiting the tourist and inca capital of Peru.