Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Travel Blog

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We woke before the sun and caught the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, a 30 minute ride winding up the mountain to the ruins. By the time we entered the site, the dark had into a cold, gray morning pall. Two paths lay before us, one up and one down: to the left, up a hill, and to the right down to a little hut.  We climbed the winding steps up, and beheld a valley completely shrouded in fog, and out of it rose steep Huayna Picchu.

Then, slowly, the clouds parted and there before us was the ruined city, the perfect view of the entire city that you see in all the postcards.

Gray and stately, resting on a peak of terraces over the valley, it was like Brigadoon rising from the mist.

I'm glad we went the way we did. It seemed like the organized tours circled the opposite way that we went, so that they could cap off the visit with the overlook, but I liked getting there in the morning when there were no tourists down below to get in my pictures, and with the morning fog adding an air of mystery.

MP is on the peak of a high hill, so the city is surrounded by pretty green terraces. The steep terracing spreading out and down from the city compliments the geometric, angular architecture of the city's trapizoid windows and stately stairs and crisp stone walls. The terraces are useful too: they were filled with fertile soil from the valley for agriculture, and terracing also prevents landslides.

Winding down the path from the "postcard view", we entered the city from the "South Gate". Although most the tours circle in from the downhill direction, this was the only way into the city before Machu Picchu was abandoned. Castle-esque structures rise into the mist from the Residential area; the rows of bare stone walls were once homes to the inhabitants of Machu Picchu. Once upon a time, they would have been covered by thacted roofs. Nearby, you can see a replica of what a house would have looked like back in the day.

Machu Picchu's structures exhibit the intriguing trapazoid windows indicative of Incan architecture. Look closely at the views through the trapazoid windows. Often they are aligned with other windows or views of the mountain, which the shape of the windows can perfectly frame.

Midway through the residential sector, we found some wierd flat rock that inspired Atousa and I to do a re-enactment of an acient sacrifice, the kind where you rip the victims heart out with your bare hand. Although I know that was the Aztecs, not the Incas. Or Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. Whichever

We made our way up to the sacred plaza, the site of religious ceremonies. Here you can see the temple of three windows and the temple of the sun.

It being 2006, when I was still sedentary Mimi Classic, we decided to forgo climbing Huayna Picchu, and circled back arouond through the lower part of the city. Tours were all over the site now, and we tried tagging along to some of them. Finally, we made it back to the little hut we saw when we first entered.

Hanging at the edge of a tall terrace the fog, it looked like the hut at the end of the world -- so cool.

Since we had gotten to the site so early, it wasn't even noon when we finished. We spent a good three hours waiting around by the tracks in Aguas Calientes, at a cozy little restaurant. The best area to eat in Aguas Calientes is by the train tracks. There's stairs leading down near the area where you enter the town. The area is a bit hidden as it is lower than the rest of the town, so you get a much different vibe than the uber-touristy areas on the hill.

There's no street, just the tracks and dusty road around it. Across the tracks, some Incan ladies chatted while manning their snack stands. The locals waved and talked to each other. Every once in a while, the train whisked by, super close to our seats.

We relaxed for hours at a nice little restuarant, waiting for our train. The food was excellent and cheap, but I still spent way too much because we kept ordering more stuff that sounded so good. I had a stuffed avocado salad, fresh fish, coffee, and we finished with a round of Peruvian desserts. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant because the food was great, the lady was very nice, and there was a private bathroom in the back that was better than the one at the hostel.

While we were relaxing by the tracks, some mean tourist lady wandered into the restaurant next to the one we were at and demanded an espresso. The restaurant lady kind of gave her the shifty eye and said sweetly "OK.. I make....". It was pretty obvious there would be no espresso as the entire town did not have electricity at this point due to a power outage, and I sincerely doubt there as an espresso machine in the back anyway.

A few minutes later the restaurant lady comes back with what appeared to be a vigorously stirred coffee, which was pretty funny. The tourist lady became very indignant and did not seem to grasp that she would not be finding a fancy espresso machine in this town, at least not at a restaurant by the train tracks.

We finally got on the train, this time the Vistadome (see my review on that for the comedy that is the Vistadome entertainment), and got into Cusco after dark.

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Machu Picchu General Tips & Advice review
This isn't so much a review as an overview of transportation to Machu Picchu from Cusco. I decided to put them in one place as the information seemed … read entire review
Machu Picchu General Tips & Advice review
There are three different trains from Cusco to Aguas Calientes: Most people take either Backpacker (see my other review), or the Vistadome, as the Hir… read entire review
Machu Picchu
photo by: NazfromOz