Travel Journal – Machu Picchu

 

It’s time for another flashback in the ol’ travel journal!

The last time I posted a travel journal entry, we were in Cusco and I had badly sprained my ankle bungee jumping, in effect ruining my plans to hike the Inca Trail. Instead, we proceeded to book tickets for the train that would take us to Machu Picchu, then went on to the highest Irish bar in the world and got very drunk.

Being hungover doesn’t bode well for waking up early to catch the train to Machu Picchu, but in the end we got there somehow! And were very glad we did.

1 - Train to Machu Picchu

It was mainly families and older folks catching the train to Machu Picchu, which made me feel as if I should be out there with the others hiking to Machu Picchu, but the ankle says otherwise. However, the train to Machu Picchu turned out to be this incredibly charming bright blue and yellow affair and was as well-appointed inside as it was on the outside.

2 - Machu Picchu train interior

There weren’t many people heading on the train to Machu Picchu that morning so we had almost the entire carriage to ourselves. Everything was very clean and the seats were comfortable – my travel companion promptly fell asleep, exhausted by last night’s debauchery, though I managed to keep awake because I didn’t want to miss the views passing by us. And they were really great views because not only did you have the windows on either side of us, but the windows above as well!

3 - Machu Picchu train windows

Though I was disappointed not being able to hike to Machu Picchu, I would also recommend the train to anyone looking for a non-strenuous visit to the iconic heritage spot. It’s comfortable and clean, and the staff were also fantastic, professional and friendly, and often coming by with refreshments for purchase.

The views we passed by were also beautiful, ranging from small Peruvian villages to amazing canyon-like mountains rising around us and rivers rushing by. The scenery sometimes put me in the mind of stories from the Wild, Wild West!

5 - Peruvian village

4 - View from Machu Picchu Train

After a couple of hours or so, we finally reached our destination, Aguas Calientes. We were starving at the time and it had started raining so we decided to see about getting some lunch first. The meals are rather pricey at Aguas Calientes, due to it being a tourist destination at the foot of Machu Picchu, but we were so hungry we didn’t mind. After a hearty meal, we caught the bus up to Machu Picchu (seated behind some really loud American girls who couldn’t stop talking about who did what to who on their tour group) and before you know it, we had made it to Machu Picchu!

The long train and bus trip had been completely worth it to see this:

7 - Machu Picchu

It truly felt as if we had entered into another world. It was hard to believe we were seeing it at last – the ancient Incan stone structures  and terraced fields nestled at the foot of the Huayna Picchu mountain, the spot once known as ‘The Lost City of the Incas.’

And we also caught glimpses of the adorable llamas that hang out in Machu Picchu.

8 - Machu Picchu Llama

Though the weather continued to be alternately drizzly and misty and my ankle was hurting like a motherf***er, we wasted no time exploring the ruins and snapping pictures.

9 - Machu Picchu Walls

10 - Machu Picchu tree

Who built these structures and why? Archeologists have suggested the site could have been a royal retreat for the Incan emperor and his court, a sacred religious site or even an agricultural testing station due to its small terraces. Others have suggested it could have been an isolated prison or the site of an ancient temple. There have been bones discovered on the site, both of male and female Incans, and evidence of sacrifices made in the area.

The drystone walls and thatch roofs, the lush green of the terraces and the mist that shrouded the site while we were there put me in mind of other ancient heritage sites like the ancient dykes and ruins in Scotland, Ireland and England. For some reason, I kept thinking of Stonehenge and the druids.

16 - Machu Picchu

There was even this little cottage perched atop a mist-shrouded peak which made me think of Hagrid’s cottage from Harry Potter!

17 - Hagrid's Cottage

But the lost city of Machu Picchu has its own magic which it weaves among its visitors, with its ancient mountains rising around and its rainy mists which seemed filled with the ghosts of the people who had once inhabited it, their stories still hidden in the fog of time.

11 - Machu Picchu

12 - Machu Picchu Shelter

Occasionally, the rain got heavier and we were forced to take shelter where we could, including at these two shelters at the end of the picture above, along with various other tourists.

We were also glad we had brought along the plastic ponchos that had come as part of our package for our cancelled Machu Picchu hike!

13 - Machu Picchu poncho

Getting around Machu Picchu in the cold drizzle that made the paths and the steep stones slippery could be a little challenging at times, particularly with my ankle. It was at times like this that I wished I was one of those llamas, just bounding effortlessly around!

18 - Machu Picchu

20 - Machu Picchu steps

Those stairs in the picture above were a particular challenge for my ankle. They don’t look it, but they were particularly steep and slippery, and even the other people walking upon it with healthy ankles found it a little hard going!

19 - Machu Picchu Mountains

After a few hours of exploring, we decided to call it a day and take the bus back to Aguas Caliente where we would wait for the train that would take us part of the way back to Cusco.

Unfortunately, when we got back to Aguas Caliente, we found that the entire town was shrouded in darkness as there had been a blackout! We ended up grabbing a beer or two at a restaurant while watching the rushing river below, swollen with the rains.

The restaurant offered some scrumptious meals, including llama with a strawberry sauce that I was tempted to try just for the sake of having tried something different while in Peru. Unfortunately, I was incredibly stuffed then from our massive lunches and had to sadly forgo eating llama. Perhaps it’s just as well after having seen those cute llamas bounding around in Machu Picchu just an hour or so ago! I had also been told I should try the guinea pig while in Aguas Caliente but we didn’t see any on the menu – perhaps it’s just as well!

15 - Aguas Calientes

The rest of the day was spent waiting at the packed train station, cold and wet in the growing darkness due to the power outage that still hadn’t come on for the rest of our time in Aguas Caliente. It was with some relief that we met up with the rest of our Inca Trail hiking group and climbed onto a bright warm train heading back to Cusco.

And so that was the story of our eventful trip to Machu Picchu. Was it worth every minute? Yes, it was! Despite all our mishaps – the cold and the rain, the aching ankle, the blackout, the inevitable arguments along the way, it was worth seeing Machu Picchu in all its glory. And we even got to see other parts of Peru that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen – such as our trip back to Cusco packed in a minibus full of locals decked out in their colourful traditional clothing after realising there was no way I could hike that trail.

And for sure, one day, I will be back and I will be hiking that trail – and hopefully in good weather! 🙂

14 - Machu Picchu signs

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