Today was our earliest morning – 5:10 courtesy call to make sure that we were out of bed and 6:10 departure. The travel took some time. We rode our mini-buses to the train station in Ollantaytambo. Boarded Peru Rail to Machu Picchu (about 1.5 hrs):
There were some great views from the train and, of course, the chippies had to enjoy them. They mostly stayed in the hotel during the trip – but they couldn’t miss Machu Picchu!
The final leg of the trip was another bus ride up the very serpentine road to Machu Picchu.
So – I’ll admit it. Of course I’ve heard about Machu Picchu and also about hiking an incan trail to get there. But I only had very vague impressions of the significance of Machu Picchu. Then, in preparation for this trip – I actually read one of the recommended books – The Last Days of the Incas by Kim McQuarrie. I found the book fascinating and so helpful to give context to some of the sites. But – Machu Picchu is really never mentioned in the book, until he gets to the section about Hiram Bingham. So – Machu Picchu was not (at least according to the latest understanding) the “lost city of the Incas” which is the name that they gave to Vilcabamba – the city that the last Incan emperor retreats to. As a result of this history – I probably came into seeing Machu Picchu slightly ambivalent. Ok – so it’s a famous site, but I’m thinking that it’s not really that historically significant – so how amazing will it be?
Wow was I mistaken. Machu Picchu is everything that it is billed to be. It is truly something that gets raved about and deserves all of that and more. We were so lucky that the weather was excellent – it is often rainy there, so sometimes you could go and not see more than a few feet in front of you – which would really have been a downer.
The ruins are incredible – the setting is majestic, it takes your breath away to see this citadel atop a mountain, nestled amongst these verdant steep mountains. And according to our guides, Machu Picchu was built by Pachacuti – the Alexander the Great of the Incans (the emperor who really expanded the empire).
Rudy gave us an excellent tour of the ruins – the agricultural section, the temple of the Condor, the sun temple and the temple to Pachamama (earth goddess). The picture on the left shows part of the temple to Pachamama – it demonstrates again how the Incans were focused on building around nature. The picture on the right is a better view of the sun temple. Again – you can see how they built around what existed and also – the amazing fit of the rocks. They didn’t go to this effort everywhere – just for the really important buildings.
Our fearless guides (Rudy, Tina, and Ernesto)
The guard house at the entrance from above (if you had hiked to Machu Picchu, this is where you would enter the ruins)
After the tour and lunch, there was an optional hike up to Intipunku – the sun gate. They said it would take on average 1.5 hrs up – but it only took us like 25-30 minutes (had to keep up with the young ‘uns). The views were stunning. The pathway up was sort of narrow – but I didn’t notice it (and I do have a slight fear of heights). A few others definitely commented on it though. There was a great view of the serpentine bus road, too! The last pic is looking back at Machu Picchu from the sun gate.
Once we clambered down – we all met up again for the long trek home. Bus down the hillside, long wait at the train station (plus the train was delayed), train ride back to Ollantaytambo. I was exhausted and on the hungry side – so I didn’t enjoy the train ride as much as it deserved – but they had some interesting entertainment on the train. First, one of the conductors dressed up as the Peruvian version of the devil (looked sort of like a clown with a scary mask on) and went up and down the aisles hissing at people and then dancing with some. Then they did a fashion show of fine garments made from alpaca wool – the other two conductors were the models. I don’t know why Amtrak doesn’t do this!
The final leg was the bus ride back to Sol y Luna. And a late dinner. A very long day, but so amazing.