A monumental visit to Machu Picchu
Getting to visit one of the seven wonders of the world was absolutely a highlight of this trip. Machu Picchu was quite spectacular and seeing a place in-person for the first time that you’ve only heard about and seen in pictures was amazing.
We took a train to Aguas Calientes where we stayed for the night before making the trek up to the mountain. Although it’s a small town, there were a lot of tourists and the restaurants, market, stores and hotels/hostels are all built around the railroad and the Machu Picchu experience.
Our group set out early and rather than hiking we took a bus to the UNESCO World Heritage site and had a tour guide with us. The total tour of the ruins was about two hours. The guide was well versed in the historical aspect of Machu Picchu and I really appreciated having him there to explain all the different things that I would never have thought to look up. For example, the Incans had a class system where the rich Incans lived on the higher levels and the poor Incans lived further down. Also, the theory behind why their structures have outlived many natural disasters and aged so well is due to the Incans building technique around the naturally existing structures and elements instead of changing them or building though them.
Included in our experience was the opportunity to an extra excursion to climb Waynaicchu or Montaña Picchu. I chose to hike Waynaicchu which was over an 80 story hike that overlooked the entirety of Machu Picchu. It was known as the sacred place of Incan ceremony and used its height to its advantage for secrecy. I am going to be very honest, the hike was estimated to take only 45 minutes, but between the elevation gain and my lack of physical fitness over the last year it ended up taking two hours.
Still, it was a gorgeous hike. We were surrounded on all sides by nature’s pure, innocent beauty and loved every minute of it. The air was pure, the sky was a crisp blue and the trees were that hue of green that is dark enough to create depth but light enough to enhance the light. To end our trip, we walked through the lower level of the ruins because you cannot get back into the higher levels once you have passed.
We ended our big day with a big Peruvian style comfort food buffet from the restaurant AYASQA Machupicchu. The buffet featured a full antipasto dish with different kinds of vegetables, a pasta salad with ham and cheese, all kinds of olives and dressings, a chicken dish, a beef dish, a fish dish, cilantro mashed potatoes, and desserts.
After eating we hung out around the town until 5 p.m. some students in our group visited hot springs and some rested. I ended up walking around with some friends to do a little local shopping and to try some native treats.
The train ride back to Cusco wasn’t supposed to be anything special but then we realized we were traveling on the evening of a sacred day in the church for the Peruvian people, the Festival de Paucartambo. So they played loud music through all the train cars and the Diablo danced up and down through the aisles blowing his whistle with passengers in celebration of the Virgin del Carmen.