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Published: November 18th 2016
An early start as we take the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The train stops on the way to allow people to get off to do the one day Inca Trail hike. I'm gutted to miss the chance of doing this trail. The permits for this hike are restricted to 200 tourists a day and, despite booking my trip four months in advance, it was not good enough for visiting Machu Picchu at the start of the peak season. Although I missed out on one of the best hikes in the world, the train still at least offers impressive scenery views of the Scared Valley.
Once we arrive at Aguas Calientes and check-in at the hotel we have plenty of free time to explore this small town. The town gets it's Spanish name because of the hot springs and so Aguas Calientes translates to hot waters in English. It seems Aguas Calientes was built for the tourists visiting Machu Picchu as this town is not the most pleasant of places to stay in. Our guide tells us of a Machu Picchu museum which is a 20 minute walk along the road to Machu Picchu. I walk
the journey to the museum only to find it closed. I walk back to the town and find myself chilling in the thermal baths. The water of the thermal baths is an unattractive green colour and I find myself getting bored being sat alone so I decide to try out an Inca Massage at the Natura Spa. The massage is amazing! I fall asleep because I am so relaxed and I have never experienced a massage with hot stones before.
In the evening we have our final dinner together at a Peruvian restaurant called Inca Wasi. This restaurant has a great atmosphere with a live band playing Latin music and the inside décor all Inca related as well as clay faces on the wall of all the great Inca leaders. For my main dish, I order a chicken, pineapple and banana curry. It sounds kind of Caribbean? but apparently Peruvian. It tastes delicious. Day 2
Alarm clock goes off, it's 4am. Immediately I get up, all excited at the thought of seeing a special place that I've been wanting to see for so long, a place that is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the
World. I can't believe the day has finally arrived... but why wake up so early? our guide, Rive, tells us that the best time to see Machu Picchu is at sunrise. Rive says the sunrise offers mystical views of the ruins as well as avoiding large crowds of people and long queues for the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
The queue for the bus to Machu Picchu is really long. It's really essential to queue up early and I am glad we have because we get on one of the first buses. Walking to Machu Picchu is also possible, but will take an hour and a very steep walk. We arrive at Machu Picchu and it's still dark but you can sense that sunrise is shortly going to happen. Our guide takes us to a quiet spot which is also meant to be one of the best locations at the site. We sit on the grass waiting patiently for sunrise, Rive jokes "Congratulations guys, you've seen Machu Picchu" when all we can see is thick fog and nothing else. To our right, we watch this yellow ball of fire as it slowly appears over the mountains breaking
through the smokiness of the fog. In front of us, we can just make out the famous large rock called Wayna Picchu and gradually the ruins of Machu Picchu become visible. An eerie experience, yet exciting at the same time. I have goosebumps as the ruins become more and more visible with the fog fading. I cannot believe I am finally here. I pinch myself, it hurts. No Alan, this is not a dream, you are standing in Machu Picchu. What an experience to be sat in the dark, full of fog, watch a beautiful sunrise and then see the magic of Machu Picchu just appear right in front of you... wow... still can't believe I am here.
Next we go for a tour around the ruins. It's hard to believe that the Inca's brought these big huge rocks up the mountain. We discover that Inca's picked their location well as the Spanish failed to find Machu Picchu. We also learn that "'Machu Picchu'" means "Old Mountain.” in the native language of Quechua. Archaeologists believe that approximately 400 people lived on the site. We then get free time before needing to get the bus back to Aguas Calientes. I
decide to take on the Sun Gate trail with Lizzy as hear the views of Machu Picchu from are pretty impressive. Apparently Sun Gate acted as some kind of control gate for entering into the sanctuary. The trail is not too tough, but does require a good level of fitness. Luckily the paths are quite wide so walking past fellow tourists is okay, but evolves climbing up many steps on the way to the gate. I stop a few times to catch my breath and drink water. Looking back at Machu Picchu; one minute you have full visibility, the next its hiding within the clouds... so magical.. can see why the Spanish never found this place.
After making it to Sun Gate, walking back to Machu Picchu much easier as going down steps. There is enough time to also visit the Inca Bridge, however, Lizzy has a slight fall and hurts her foot but nothing serious. She tells me to continue without her so she can walk at a slower pace. I continue and soon find myself on the trail to the Inca Bridge. I notice immediately that the path is very narrow and crossing fellow tourists not such
a nice experience since there are many sheer drop-offs. After 15 minutes of walking along this scary trail, I make it to the Inca Bridge. The bridge is in poor condition so it's a case of appreciating the view as it's not possible to cross.
Before heading back to the bus to Aguas Calientes, I take one last view of Machu Picchu. I loved this place before I ever arrived here and love it even more now that I have visited it.
Once back at Augas Calientes, the group have a final lunch together and discover great news of a couple getting engaged at Machu Picchu. That surely has to be one of the best places in the world to get engaged. We take our train departure back to Ollantaytambo followed by a bus to Cusco. Day 3
We have one full day in Cusco. There are many excursions, but I am not keen on waking up too early for them. Apart from visiting the centre of Cusco the other options seem to be visiting nearby Inca ruins. There must be something else I can do that doesn't involve looking at ruins? Peruvian cooking classes sounds
fun, wonder if I can find somewhere that does them.
I start my day leisurely strolling around the streets just browsing shops looking for souvenirs to take home. The centre seems busy with some kind of military parade. My first thoughts are "Must be to do with the presidential election" but when I ask a local they say “This is Cusco, there’s a parade every day somewhere in the city.” whatever the reason, it's pretty cool to watch the parade.
I am not sure how I missed the entrance to the cathedral of Cusco on my first visit, but feel lucky to get a chance to explore inside, as this cathedral has to be one of the best I've seen in terms of stunning interior décor. Unfortunately no photos are allowed to be taken inside.
Afterwards I find an Information Desk and they tell me of a place that does Peruvian cooking classes. I quickly try to locate the premises to discover there is an afternoon slot but means having to join a couple who have already picked from the menu what the three course meal will be. Luckily, the couple had chosen the menu well. Would
you believe the name of the company is Peruvian Cooking Classes
. The class takes about 3 and half hours. It includes making an alcoholic beverage, starter, main and sweet. You get to eat and drink everything you make, too. You also tour the local market to buy the ingredients. The Peruvian cooking class is really good fun and surprisingly the couple are from England. For drink, we go Pisco Sours. The starter is stuffed avocado with carrot, peas, potato, chicken and mayonnaise. The main is sliced steak with onion and soya sauce that comes served with French fries and rice. The dessert is selection of mini chocolates. I definitely recommend this activity to anyone visiting Cusco.
In the evening a small group of us visit an Irish bar to say goodbye to Rive and thank him for a great trip. Day 4
The trip is coming to an end. The group I've been with for the past few days split in two with the majority going to the Amazon Jungle for a couple of days and the rest of us, including myself, going back to Lima. Peru has been such a great country to visit and I've done so
much in such a short time, yet I've seen only a small amount of what Peru has to offer. Sometimes I wish I could give up the life back home and just have all the time in the world to explore amazing countries like Peru.
When back in Lima, I managed to catch up with a guy called Muller, who I had spoken with a few times on Busuu an online language learning site where I try to learn Spanish. He took me on his scoter whilst we drove around the crazy busy streets of Miraflores, what an experience to say the least! Muller showed me Surquillo his neighbourhood which is next to Miraflores and we visited a bar for a drink. Afterwards, I meet with two lots of couples from the group for the very last time for a wonderful evening meal. I am gutted my time in Peru has come to an end... I'd love to come back some day!
Next stop; Buenos Aires
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