Peru: Machu Picchu

After a good night’s sleep at our airport B&B in La Paz, we arrived at the airport for our flight to Cusco, Peru. Or so we thought…

Upon arrival, we learnt that Peruvian airlines had cancelled all flights from La Paz. Apparently, they did this already a month ago, but we never received any info on this… We were in a pickle. We’d bought tickets to Machu Picchu for the next morning. Including train tickets to Aguas Calientes, this joke could cost us over 300 dollar…

All flights that day to Cusco were full, and also all buses. Thankfully, we insisted that we needed to get to Cusco, and the airline offered a third option. Together will a small group of other travellers, we’d drive in a minivan across the border to Juliaca, Peru. From there, we could then take a plane to Cusco. They promised we’d be there by 1PM so we could take the flight at 2PM to Cusco.

We left at 9AM, and indeed it looked like we would make 1PM easily. But when we tried to book 2 seats for the flight to Cusco, also this flight was sold out. Our only option seemed to be a bus going to Cusco at 13.30. This was going to be tight…

At the border, we moved through Bolivian customs without problems. But then we saw the line for the Peruvian one… It was at least an hour long. Our group managed to squeeze in somewhere, but we still had to wait over 30 minutes. By the time we were in the second taxi (we had to switch cars at the border, which took another 15 min), there appeared no way we would make it. The driver drove very fast however. With literally 2 minutes to spare, we finally arrived at the bus station. We made it!

At least we got to see Titicaca lake, the highest navigable lake in the world (3850m)!

Almost 7 hours later (which should have been around 5 hours), we finally arrived in Cusco. Our hotel for the night was in Ollantaytambo however, so we needed to keep going for another 2 hours. There were no more collectivos (buses) when we arrived at 9PM. We ended up overpaying (125 soles) for a nice taxi to take us directly to our hotel. Money well spent, as we safely arrived 1.5 hours later. After such a stressful day, it was nice that we still managed to arrive before 11PM, and could take some sleep in order to enjoy Machu Picchu tomorrow.

The next morning we got up at 7.30 to validate our train tickets. We were supposed to do this yesterday, but could fortunately do this until 1 hour before our train departed. After a half hour return walk, we were back at the hotel for breakfast. We then left again for the train station. Our train was luxurious and the views great, so the 1.5 hours to Aguas Calientes flew by.

PeruRail luxury train
Ruins on our train journey as well
Waiting on the Machu Picchu buses at Aguas Calientes

In Aguas Calientes you needed to take a bus to get to Machu Picchu. We thought this was included in our entry tickets. It’s not… Another hour in a line to buy 24 dollar pp tickets later, we finally stepped in a bus. The ride itself was 20 minutes but had nice views.

Views from the bus up to Machu Picchu

We got off the bus, and after another short line for the entrance, we were inside.

It wasn’t as busy as we expected. There are 2 types of entry tickets, and we had the afternoon ones. The morning people were just leaving, and thus we didn’t have to wait in line to take the classic picture above Machu Picchu!

Made it to Machu Picchu!
Llama!

We slowly made our way up above the city, and arrived at the walk to the Inca bridge. The half hour hike was very nice. It’s calm compared to being with all the people at MP, and you can enjoy the nature in peace.

Beautiful hike on our way to the Inca bridge
Arrived at the Inca bridge

From there, we made our way into the ruins of the city.

View on the central plaza
The principal temple

During our walk through the ruins, the weather kept looking more and more threathening. Fortunately, it only rained near us and not (yet) on us.

Walking through the remnants of houses
Central plaza and Huayna Picchu mountain

It was about here that we realised that they implemented a one way walking route. Thing is, you don’t know that if you take one route, you cannot see something else. There aren’t any signs informing you where you are. You have to pick a route and see where you end up. When we tried to get back into the centre to see a part we missed, we weren’t allowed back. The security guard threatened to call the police on us for walking back (doesn’t matter that you have a valid ticket). It was a horrible experience. Only when Jenk said he lost his wallet in the centre of the ruins and Jos got upset (and other people started to get involved) were we allowed to go back. Finally, we were able to see the sights we missed the first time around.

The royal tomb
The condor carving
You can see all the way down to the river flowing through Aguas Calientes from Machu Picchu.
Overlooking the many layers of terrasses

We walked out of Machu Picchu to stand another 45 minutes in the streaming rain waiting for the bus. We arrived back in Aguas Calientes with well over another hour to go before our train to Ollantaytambo would depart. We spent it walking around Aguas Calientes (or Machu Picchu village as they renamed themselves), and discovered it’s quite a charming place.

Before we knew it, the hour was over, and we were back in a (more basic) train. As it was dark outside, you couldn’t see anything, so the train type didn’t matter. Taking an older type of train, however, saved us 20 dollar per person.

Tired but glad, we arrived back in Ollantaytambo. We ended the day with a delicious dinner for only 10 soles (3 dollar) at a great find called Panqa. We’re happy to be staying in Peru a while longer so we can taste more of the worldclass local cuisine:)

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