It was finally time for Machu Picchu, the big ticket item of the family vacation... and when I say big ticket I don't just mean because it is sought after, well known, mysterious, and classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. I also mean a literal big ticket item, entrance going for $55 plus a round trip train ticket for $110 and bus tickets for $24, plus a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes. Lets be real, Peru has really figured out how to milk this Machu Picchu thing!! Nevertheless, we were stoked on it!
We headed off with just our overnight packs towards Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu, only accessible via train or foot. We caught the Vistadome train out of the ruin filled town of Ollantaytambo and enjoyed the huge skylight windows, allowing us to soak in every bit of the scenic hour and a half long ride. In a way Aguas Calientes is a bit charming... there is a loud flowing stream heading straight through the middle of town, there are no cars, and the main street is situated on either side of the train tracks. On the other hand, it is chuck full of tourist, and an overwhelming amout of crappy restaurants with someone out front trying to lure you in. Lets just say that we fell for the lure, and ended up in a weird little restaurant on the main square, eating less than mediocre food for mediocre prices. Although the meal sucked, the family got a chance to experience what Chris and I do when tired and trying to find some grub in a new town in a foriegn country, without the use of wifi or tripadvisor to guide us... sometimes it turns out excellent, and sometimes it doesn't! And in the end you just pray you dont get sick from one of those crappy meals, especially when the bathrooms were on the sub par side of things and the next day is Machu Picchu day!!!
|The views from the train|
|The main drag in Aguas Calientes|
|The sun is showing up, as are the crowds|
|Looks like the cover of my Lonely Planet!|
After the two hour tour, Elmer was off, and we quickly ducked for cover from the hot sun in one of the few covered areas of the park. Combine the early wake up call with the high altitude, strong sun, and hoards of people... We were getting pooped! We pulled out our lunch and refueled because seeing as how this is a visit none of us were likely to make again, we had to keep exploring... but not til after we exited the park to use the one and only bathroom available in all of Machu Picchu and seek out some hard to find, rip off water! What the heck?!?
|The other side of MP|
|Starting the steep climb|
|Always smiling! :)|
The heat and the altitude were intense, and they were closing the trail soon, so we kinda had to book it! Lucky for us there was always an excuse to stop for a quick breather because Machu Picchu was beginning to look smaller and smaller under us. We made it to the top just in time... the trail was closing and we were literally the last ones they allowed to keep going up! Whew, just in the nick of time to see a view of a lifetime over this beauty!! The summit, where Incan priests once performed rituals, towers at 10,000 feet above sea level, giving us unparalleled views of the famous Inca sanctuary (now 2,000 feet below us) and stunning panoramas of the surrounding endless mountains. It really puts into perspective how freaking far out and high up this place is... And all the sudden it seems very reasonable that the Spanish never found this gem!
|Looking tiny from 2,000ft above!|
|The line for the bus|
|Yes, you can hold baby alpacas and llamas here!|
|Shop til ya drop girl!|
|Lovely laughing old woman|
|My moms has never looked this tall in her entire life|
|This is how you have to open the door|
|Cusco by night|
|Cusco by day|
|Cathedral in main square|
|Inside one of the cathedrals|
|Roaming the cathedral|
|Chipmunk cheeks stuffed with coca leaves in the museum!|
|Saksaywaman ruins from a distance|
|Overlooking Cusco on our way out of town|