Finishing on a high - Machu Picchu

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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
May 2nd 2010
Published: June 6th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Machu Picchu was the final destination on the Goddards’ World Tour (apart from the many airports and planes we encountered finishing off our journey and getting home) and after the ordeal in Mendoza it was so nice to finish on a high, with a place that I’ve been looking forward to since I managed to sneak South America onto the end of our itinerary.

Machu Picchu is the main tourist attraction in Peru, and don’t they know it ... the route there is via train (or train and a bus as it turned out) which is charged at pretty extortionate rates to tourists (we paid $48 each to get there, and $71 each to get back), add to this the cost of the bus up to Machu Picchu in the morning ($14 each) and entry to Machu Picchu itself ($40 each) and you’ve got a little gold mine on your hands. Comparing it to the cost of something like Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia it seems crazily expensive, but if it was in the US or Europe it’d be super expensive so you can’t really complain.

Anyway, I’m digressing from the usual formula of telling you in onerous detail exactly what we did, what we saw, what we ate and who we spoke to ... so, back to the formula it is (you lucky, lucky people).

After our ninety minute train journey we arrived in Aguas Calienties at around lunchtime, the town at the bottom of the hill upon which Machu Picchu sits, being as the general consensus is that it’s best to get to Machu Picchu as early as possible (they open the gates at 6am) we’d planned on spending the day in the town before heading up to Machu Picchu the next morning. The hostel we’d booked had told us that they’d be waiting for us at the train station to pick us up and take us the hostel ... however it wasn’t quite what we’d expected. When we stepped out of the train station we were greeted by a couple of girls with a sign reading “Max Goddard” which we assumed was for me so after a brief exchange (in which they still insisted on calling me Max despite my attempts to explain) we headed off for what we thought was a free lift to the hostel. As we carried on walking further it slowly dawned on us that rather than being given a lift from the train station we were in fact being given a walking escort through town, very strange.

We dumped our bags at the hostel and headed off into town with our Canadian companion (Alicia) in search of Machu Picchu tickets and a spot of lunch. Now, I’ll freely admit that we are by no means fun, vivacious, cheerful people; but Alicia made us seem like happy go lucky people! She just seemed to suck the life out of everything, with complaints, attitude and snobbishness ... we’ve met a lot of people on our travels but we’ve only previously met one person like that, so in honour of this we (behind her back) nicknamed her Grace after our Pai/Slow Boat/Luang Prabang buddy who had a similar affect on us. So anyway, with Alicia/Grace in tow complaining and rolling her eyes as we went (I’m probably exaggerating slightly) we dillied and dallied around town getting our tickets sorted and faffing over the choice of restaurant for lunch, before heading to the local market to do some more gift shopping. For once however the shopping was more of a necessity than a chore, as it was absolutely pelting it down with rain and it was the only covered area of town, so hence it was the only activity we could do except sit in our scabby hostel watching Peruvian television. After we’d searched every stall in the market (some of them more than once) for a hat of the right two colours that Cate was after, it was still raining (despite the fact we’d been in the market for over two hours), having exhausted the market for all glimmers of entertainment we had no option but to dash through the rain back to the hostel and to a little ray of Canadian sunshine (who had moved rooms when we got back, aghast at the smell some boys had made in there). After watching a strangely dubbed episode of Fear Factor we skulked off to bed early for the night, knowing that we would doubtlessly be woken at 4am by people so desperate to make it to Machu Picchu early the next day to ensure getting a ticket to climb Wayan Picchu; being the lazy characters we were we planned to give ourselves a lie-in and get up at 6am - hoping to be at Machu Picchu by 7am (hopefully in nicer weather than we’d just experienced!).

Despite numerous interruptions through the night as people came into the dorm late, then somehow dragged themselves out of bed at 4am we lay there slumbering until our allotted “lay in” time of 6am before crawling out of bed and noticing that the sun was already up. Sun! Not rainy, grey, dingy weather we’d been expecting, but sunshine ... hurrah! With a surprising spring in our step for 6am in the morning we checked out of the hostel and tootled into town to catch our bus to Machu Picchu - exciting times! Before we knew it we were aboard a coach brimming with Japanese tourists hurtling up a mountain towards an ancient Incan citadel. After negotiating the coach journey without being subjected to too many hairpin bends at ungodly speeds we made it to the gates of Machu Picchu safe and sound, marvelling at the amazing sunshine.

Spurning the attentions of the people trying to sell us their services for a guided tour we headed in to Machu Picchu and within 3 minutes we’d already stumbled upon a postcard perfect view of the city and Wayan Picchu towering over it, bathed in early morning sunshine with clouds rising up from the valley below. Was it worth making the journey to Machu Picchu? Absolutely! After ten minutes of taking photo after photo after photo, and having a Peruvian man try to explain something about his camera to us in Spanish we headed off to find some more vantage points and explore the place a bit, although exploration was put on hold for half an hour or so as the whole site was suddenly engulfed in clouds ascending from the valley below as the sunlight hit them, heated them, and floated them up towards us - a very cool sight indeed.

Anyway, I could probably write in laborious detail about our four hour experience around Machu Picchu, but it would encompass a lot of lists of places we took photos (with our silly Peruvian hats on), ancient buildings that we walked around, and a great deal of time spent marvelling at the beauty and majesty of it all - so it’s probably easier to let the photos show you what the place was like. The most impressive thing about Machu Picchu was to think that the place was built over 600 years ago, on its remote mountain top location. Simply awe-inspiring.

After four hours of quite arduous trekking around the place in scorching sunshine we’d succumbed to sunburn despite it only being 11am in the morning, and although we really didn’t want to leave the magical feeling place of Machu Picchu we’d pretty much exhausted our cameras of battery and memory card space, drunk all of our water, and didn’t want to stay so long that we got Machu Picchu-ed out ... so we took one last glimpse of the stunning view and headed back down the mountain, oh so glad that we made the effort to visit Machu Picchu and finish South America on a high.

Our early start to the day meant we’d finished slightly earlier than anticipated, so we had a couple of hours to while away in Aguas Calienties before our train left to take us back to Cuzco, so after stopping for lunch at the local branch of Yakumama Grill (our favourite place in Cuzco) we went back to the market for MORE shopping - it was at least fruitful this time round, as Cate finally bought a second hat after looking at every hat in the market the day before. We spent an hour or so at the train station playing cards and talking guff before finally getting on the train and pulling away from Aguas Calienties and the awesome Machu Picchu, ready for one last nights sleep in Cuzco before the start of a long journey home to Birmingham/Leicester via three flights.

Matt and Cate x

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