06.02.2014 - 08.02.2014 9 °C
After a day of mental prep time in Calca, we are on our way to possibly the last highlight of the trip, the world famous, incomparable Machu Picchu!
No wonder it is so famous and unique, it is a job to get there.
We leave Calca by minibus to Urubamba, in Urubamba we take another minibus to Ollantaytambo (Ollanta for short). In Ollanta we book a hotel room for the next day! Then we head out to the train station for the Machu Picchu train, which is delayed to combine two low season trains in to one. It is 6 PM by the time we get to Aguas Calientes, a small boring town, pretty much just set up to host heards of tourists that come here to visit MP. Since this place is only accessible by train, it is convenient to spend the night here and wake up early to head out to the ruins, otherwise one needs to take the early train in, which entails waking up damn damn early considering there is no train from Cusco to Ollanta due to repair works.
Aguas Calientes, the inhabited town of Machu Picchu in the valley, is set up to push the hard sell, in every way. As soon as you get of the the train, clerks start hustling you with crappy rooms to rent, crappy souvenirs to buy and crappy food to eat. So we shop around the whole town in pouring rain for a while for a hotel room to spend the night, which are mostly overpriced and poor quality. We settle for a below par room in one of the riverfront hotels. Riverfront in this case does not mean "pretty", but very loud due to adjacent roaring river, the rainy season is in full effect, dampness also shows on the walls, paint coming off in every corner of the building.
We buy our shuttle bus tickets to MP for the next day and after getting unavoidably ripped off at a local restaurant on the main plaza, we decide to forget about what else the town has got to offer and try to go to sleep.
At 6 AM, we wake up to a misty and warm day, get on the bus and head up to MP. Mountaintops are not visible and this means we might not be able to see the site once up there. And then as we reach the top, rain starts adding to the hopelessness.
We enter the site thru the gates, but can't see much due to clouds, and decide to walk towards the Inca Bridge, as a little trek practice and also to kill some time waiting for the skies to clear up. Inca Bridge walk turns out to be a great little practice for us city slickers, away from the crowds and oblivious of the steep drops next to the path.
By the time we get back to the ruins proper, we get caught in the wake of the tourist groups, there is literally no room to move around, and not much to see beyond 5 meters, but determined to see the site and make it to our 10 AM "extra tour" appointment we cruise thru houses and temples in ruins.
Our "extra tour" consists of entering the Wayna Picchu trek, supposedly a steep and arduous path that leads up to the top of the hill beyond MP, which we can't see of course at this point. At the blow of the whistle, about 200 trekkers set out thru misty jungle like vegetation on a narrow path, first flat and descending, then steep and slippery, not to mention it is about 2720 meters above sea level.
In about an hour of heavy panting and numerous breaks on slippery steps we reach the mirador balcony, but of course we can't see anything, so we chow down on our packed lunch of sandwiches and power bars, trying to catch our breath. Many trekkers like us gather around here with the hope of maybe seeing MP from the top, but to no avail. Clouds are probably moving at an immense speed but unnoticeable, still hover over MP thus making the perception of space impossible.
An hour of waiting around and giving up hope we start our descend towards MP, and in an instant clouds start clearing out, bits and pieces of ruins down below are now partially visible. 15 minutes later the whole site is visible and promising signs of sun are there. And the moment we have been waiting for, it is picture time, finally.
Content with what we have captured, we head down to MP to see the rest of the site, more houses, temples, water channels and stairs, with a few lamas and rabbits roaming around for the effect.
Back in Aguas Calientes, we treat ourselves to happy hour Pisco Sours before getting on the train back to Ollanta, a fine way to celebrate our first year anniversary.