We made it! We’ve been to Machu Picchu and it’s even more impressive than you could ever imagine. Amazing, how stunning a pile of old rocks can be.
We got up at 3.15am to catch the 5.07 train to Aguas Calientes. It’s the earliest train you can catch from Ollantaytambo. It costs a fortune! We paid £90 each for a return. You can get tickets from Peru Rail ticket office but we booked ours online back in Glasgow. With no direct road access to Aguas Calientes your current options are taking the expensive train, which for locals only costs 10 soles, or get a taxi to the end of the Ollanta road to a power station (hidra eléctrica) and hike from there into Aguas Calientes which we heard takes around 3 hours.
From the train station it’s a really short walk to the bus stop. You need to buy your bus ticket before boarding from two little kiosks. A single costs around 38 soles for adults at the moment, a return 76 soles. We purchased two singles in case we wanted to hike the way back from Machu Picchu. If you don’t want to take the bus, you can walk drom Aguas Calientes following the road the bus takes until after the bridge. From there you take the “stairs” up to Machu Picchu. The sign indicates a 60 minute walk. However, the group of university students we met the previous day said it took around 90 minutes.
The serpentine road up to the wonder is the only road in Aguas Calientes and the bus ride is scary. I thought the drivers in the Colca Canyon were crazy. Well, those tourist bus drivers are even worse and so is the road. Completely unpaved, narrow with no real road barriers, it really only is wide enough for one vehicle at a time. At least we made it up in one piece. Tickets and passports at the ready we made it in without queuing.
Instead of entering the ruins straight away, we headed up to the Sun Gate. From the entrance of Machu Picchu it took us a good hour to get there. I am not very fit and had to stop a few times to catch my breath, so you can probably do it quicker if you’re fit and don’t struggle walking uphill. One American woman we met back in Puno said it took her around 90 minutes, so our 60 minutes really aren’t too bad.
The trail steadily takes you higher and higher and is relatively easy up until half way when you reach a set of ruins. After that the path becomes gradually steeper and narrower. I made a point of almost clinging on to the rocks on my right-hand side as I didn’t particulary feel confident with the drop on my left and the open views into the valley. I’d say wearing hiking boots or shoes for a good grip is essential.
Sun Gate is a fantastic alternative to climbing either of the two mountains – it’s free and not limited to a certain number of people per day. The views back over to Machu Picchu, the mountains and the valley are magnificent!
We stayed for around half an hour taking in the views and munching our breakfast and left just before it got mega busy at around 9.15am. Another half hour later we were back at the ruins. We took our time walking around, reading pieces of information from the Lonely Planet and taking photographs from the various view points – including the famous postcard view.
There are hundreds of large tour groups, so it took us until around 12pm to make our way around. Not fancying paying another 40 odd soles for the bus ride from hell, we decided to head down the path from the wonder. Just as we left, it started pouring down, so we got soaked on the way down but at least we had decent weather whilst up on the mountain. After 45 minutes, including a few stops to straighten out shaky legs, we reached the bottom of the hill. Add on an extra 20 minutes and you’re back in central Aguas Calientes.
Everyone had warned us about the midges and mosquitoes. Following the general advice we wore long trousers and sleeves and covered ourselves in jungle formula. It got really warm on the way to Sun Gate, so I took of my jacket, but miraculously neither Brian nor I have any bites. Hooray! We’ve seen people covered in them – legs, arms and faces. They look really nasty!
Back in Aguas Calientes we had a couple of beers, went to La Boulangerie (which bakes really tasty pain au chocolat, danish pastries and more for little money) to stock up on food for the train back. We boarded the train around 3pm and left bang on 3.22pm. Easy peasy! It wasn’t until we got back into Ollantaytambo that Brian realised, I had left behind my tripod in Aguas Calientes. Hopefully, I won’t miss it for the last leg of the journey.
We ate dinner in a place called Puka Rumi. Both our dishes, Lomo Saltado (yes, again) and the chef’s recommendation of beef cooked in a creamy garlic sauce, were very tasty. It’s a nice restaurant, but the atmosphere was spoiled by some noisy Americans who thought it’s appropriate to play board games, cheer out loud and do little victory dances around the table.
On the way back to the hostel, we came across this little Simpson’s gem.
We’ve really had a great day and the holiday is passing way too quickly. We’re back to Cusco tomorrow for an overnight stay before we reach the last destination of our journey – Lima.