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Published: February 17th 2012
The obligatory photo
Woke up this morning with great excitement as Jo had been looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu for a while...
After an early breakfast, the group walked to the train station 5 minutes down the road to catch a 7.20 am train to Aguas Calientes (the nearest point to Machu Picchu). We were extremely surprised to find a one-carriage rather plush train with clear glass windows and part-glass roof with a free snack service of sandwich roll, three biscuits and soft drinks - like on an airplane) Tickets cost $50 each way and were included with our trip. The train ran on a single track alongside the river which due to the season (rainy) was a raging torrent - and between steep and high mountains. The train stopped a couple of times for a train to go by in the other direction and altogether took an hour and a half to reach Aguas Calientes. We all disembarked and walked to a bus stop where a row of beige buses were constantly coming and going taking passengers up the winding hairpin bend mountainside up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. 25 minutes later we arrived at the top.
On the train to Machu Picchu
Been a spot of rain in recent days ...
joined us and the group split into two as one group were climbing the mountain peak opposite Machu Picchu for a different view. (Machu Picchu means Old Mountain and the peak the others climbed is named Wayna Picchu meaning New mountain. The word Picchu is not an original Incan name but probably comes from the Spanish word 'Picos' meaning Mountain brought in by the Conquistadors).
We received an extremely detailed tour of the site (which was absolutely stunning) despite the almost constant tourists weaving past and the almost constant deluge of rain after the first hour. We took the obligatory photographs which are in every single guide book available just to show we had actually been there! Some people found the guide far too long but we were happy to have all the thorough explanations as neither of us can ever be bothered to read things in a guide book.
The site involved a lot of clambering up and down slippery steps in the rain and there were a constant flow of other people all wearing cheap plastic brightly coloured ponchos (like the ones you buy for $2 at Disney). It seemed fairly busy and we would both hate to be there in peak season................
The group that climbed Wayna Picchu reported there were a couple of dangerous single file steep slippery steps and looking up at it from where we were standing, it did indeed look extremely hazardous and we were pleased not to have attempted it as the whole of Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas were covered with cloud for the majority of the time.
After a 3 hour visit, made our way back down the mountain by bus and met with the group in Aguas Calientes - a funny little tourist town hugging the hillsides with a railway running down the centre as a main road with shops and restaurants either side of the tracks. An extremely touristy place with prices to match.
We sat at a roadside restaurant with two others of our group and ordered a quinoa soup as we needed warming up. This is a staple soup here in Peru and can be extremely tasty - just a clear vegetable broth with lumps of boiled potato, cooked quinoa, coriander and a few other herbs - a high protein and comforting meal (although we did surreptitiously eat our roll from the train with it). Wandered down the road again and sat with another couple from our group for a coffee until it was time to take the train back to Ollyantaytambo.
At Ollyantaytambo (which the locals just call Ollyanta), the bus was awaiting our return to take us back to Cusco. Arrived at 8.00 pm and were given the same room in the hotel as previously.
Had showers and went out to the same restaurant as two days before for supper and back to the hotel to sleep. Unfortunately, due to the miserable wet and cold weather in Cusco, Jo has sneezed her way round Machu Picchu and managed to catch a full-blown cold. The usual sympathy from Ed (but at least we have Kleenex for Men from home with us)!
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