(August 22 – written by Nancy)
Today we took on the challenge of visiting the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu. It seems appropriate to call it a challenge, as getting there and sharing the site with 2000+ people requires a bit of fortitude, lots of patience and sometimes a sense of humour to keep things fun.
Yesterday we took the train from Cusco up to Machu Picchu Pueblo (sometimes called Aguas Calientes), arriving about 12:30 or so. It was a nice 3 ½ hour train ride up through a gorgeous canyon. Our hotel owner Carlos (a brother of the hostel owner in Cusco) was there to meet us at the train station to take us to his brand new hotel. I think we are the first (and only) guests here at the Picos House Hotel and we seemed to have gotten the prime room at the very top. After getting checked in Carlos then walked us down to the spot where we could buy bus tickets to go up to Machu Picchu and then on to a recommended restaurant for a late lunch.
Machu Picchu Pueblo is a very small village which seems to be made up mostly of hotels, hostels and restaurants to service the seemingly millions of visitors who come each year to visit Machu Picchu. There are also hundreds of little stalls selling everything Peruvian you could imagine so there is no lack of opportunity to buy souvenirs if that is what you desire. It’s an odd place but serves its purpose as a gateway to the Inca ruins. It’s possible to do a Machu Picchu visit in one day from Cusco, though it would be very tiring. We decided to take our time and have two nights here.
Entry tickets are sold for two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning sessions sell out quite a bit in advance so we were only able to get an afternoon ticket for today. Yesterday and last night it rained heavily here in the village so we were happy to see the sun when we woke up this morning. The tickets say entry is from 12:30 but we heard from others that you might be able to get in from 11am so about 10:30 we headed down to catch a bus from the village up to the site. You can walk up but it is 8km or so uphill so we decided we would bus up and walk back down.
Our first test of patience came early as we came upon a very long queue for the bus. And I mean very long. We were thinking we might get up to the site too early and have to wait up there before they would let us in. Ha – we ended up waiting 1.5 hours in the queue to get on a bus, and then with the 30 minute ride up to the site we certainly weren’t too early! On a positive note, there was no line whatsoever at the entrance – we walked right in without having to wait. Queuemagedon photos below…
So, I won’t go into the whole history of Machu Picchu as there is tons of stuff on the Web about it. It is a very impressive site – much more complete than most of the archaeological sites we have seen on this trip so far. We spent 3 ½ hours wandering around the site, dodging the other 2000 people who were doing the same! We decided it was a bit like visiting the Great Wall of China – you just have to get over the fact that there are people everywhere you turn and focus on the amazing views and the work that was done by ancient people to create a spectacular spot. I will admit Dave started muttering somewhat sarcastic comments about people taking selfies at every turn but we made it through without anyone hearing him!
After walking around the site for 3+ hours we considered catching the bus back down but after seeing the long line we headed off walking down the hill, figuring we could probably make it back to town in the same time it took us to get on a bus. The walk back down was fine, though we were both pretty tired by the time we got back. We stopped at a restaurant for a nice beer and a burger to celebrate our completing the challenge of visiting Machu Picchu. Tomorrow morning we catch the train back to Cusco and after a couple more nights there we will hit the road toward Bolivia.
Here are the pictures from today – probably too many, but that’s Dave and the camera.