Hello Machu Picchu, You Glorious Thing!

PeruSouth AmericaTravel
January 23, 2013

Just got back from a 4 day trip with Rachel to the Sacred Valley of Peru, home of the infamous Machu Picchu.  Can I just start by saying that it’s a b*tch to get there! Yup, we’re talking plane, train, and bus to get to this jungle-top paradise.  The good news: IT’S SO WORTH IT!

I’m going to focus on the Machu Picchu component of our trip for this post, but we also explored several other places including Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Cusco over our 4 days.  Wanna see the full gallery?  GO HERE.


To get to Machu Picchu, you need to get to Aguas Calientes, a city only accessible by train.  If you come directly from Cusco, it’s about 3.5 hours.  Some people do it in a day trip from Cusco.  We decided to spend the night and beat the crowds for the sunrise & a walk up Wayna Picchu (more on that later).

Problem 1: I failed to read the fine print on the train tickets that said we could only bring 11 pounds each of baggage on the train.  We had a good 35-40 pounds between the two of us – Ooops!  What is one to do??  I saved the day by pulling out my biggest smile and best Spanish to talk our way onto the train.  Won’t make that mistake again!  Pretty sure it could have easily turned into a not-so-good situation…


We arrive in Aguas Calientes and are delighted by our accommodations at the Rupa Wasi Eco Lodge.  We each had our own little “Treehouse Room”.

Problem 2: The altitude kicked our butts.  We both were taking Diamox, but still felt totally and completely exhausted all day long.

We had the grand vision of waking up at 4 AM, eating breakfast at 4:45, boarding our 5:30 bus to Machu Picchu (MP), watching the sun rise and then hiking Wayna Picchu (the humplike mountain you see in back).

Problem 3: It is rainy season and luck was not on our side.  We woke up at 4 AM to pouring rain.  Despite my excitement to get to MP, there was no way I was going stand there waiting for a sunrise that wouldn’t happen and then fall to my death off a slippery mountain.

The Solution: Climb back into bed and take the 8:30 bus, at which point the skies magically cleared up and we had a nice sunny visit to beautiful MP.


MP is set up so that you can’t see it from the entrance.  Therefore, all of a sudden you turn this corner and – BAM – there it is, taking your breath away in all it’s glory.  I mean, seriously, how often are you in a city that is ABOVE THE CLOUDS???  The hype is deserved, this place is a marvel!


MP is divided into segments.  There’s an agricultural sector, housing, an industrial center and worship places.  What stuck with me most was how advanced their building and planning techniques were (which can be evidenced by the fact that only 30% of MP was restored).  This place was built to last!


We had a 2 hour tour with a guide.  I appreciated getting all the insight that a local could offer.  The history of the place becomes so much richer with more context.


Rachel and I aspired to climb to the top of that terrace to get the famous MP picture that everyone gets but altitude sickness got the better of us and we passed on it.  I still have 1, possibly 2 MP visits left, so I feel confident I’ll get up there at least once!


Take note in the above picture at how precisely they were able to align the stones.


The visit didn’t go as planned, but it was still spectacular.  I imagine that I’ll take something new away from this place each time I visit.  What a treat it was to share this experience with my dear friend.


PS – That mountain in the upper right corner is the one I thought I was going to climb.  Not sure what I was thinking when I booked those tickets!

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