March 22, 2008

Machu Picchu Lives Up To The Hype

Filed under: travel — mmrobins @ 9:22 am

We had a few days off from our volunteer work at Willka T’ika so we headed over to Machu Picchu. Finally. After 5ish months in Peru we’ve been asked a gazillion times if we’ve been there, and now we can say we have. Happily, it lived up to all the hype. After seeing plenty of ruins like Kuelap, Chan Chan, the temples of the sun and moon, and more I was half expecting to be disappointed by Machu Picchu. However, the amazing views, exquisite craftmanship, and unique location make it a highlight of any trip to Peru.

We took the train in to Aguas Calientes from Ollayantambo, which is an incredible rip off at $31 (more from Cuzco) per person for and hour and a half ride, but if you’re at all limited on time it’s really the only option. We got in around 10pm and found a private room for 20 soles (about $6) before going to bed. Our plan was to get up before the sun and hike to Machu Picchu, but we forgot that you had to buy tickets (40 fricking bucks per person!) in Aguas Calientes beforehand, and the ticket office is open from 5AM to 10PM. So we got up to buy tickets at 5AM which gave us a few more hours of sleep than planned, but didn’t allow us to get up before almost everyone else. The upside to this is that there was a woman selling delicious avacado, tomato basil sandwiches for 3 soles, which is an incredible deal in this town of gouged food prices.

The bus to the top costs $6 each way, again, a travel rip off for a distance that anywhere else in peru would cost less than $1. Fortunately walking up is easy if you’re in any kind of shape and takes between and hour and 1.5 hours. We did it in 1 hour 15 minutes and so arrived about 6:30. I read about another route just off one of the switchbacks that allows you to sneak into Machu Picchu, which with all the ridiculous costs makes it very tempting, but then you can’t go up Huayna Picchu and have to wait till the crowds roll in, and man do they roll in.

We went straight to the Huayna Picchu entrance since they only allow 400 people a day up. Huayna Picchu is the peak in the background of most of the photos, and has great views back toward the city, and is a fun climb. From the top you can see how the river and railroad that pass by Aguas Calientes end up wrapping around the peak and go to the hydroelectric plant (which is the subject of the next post on how to get to and from Macchu Picchu without taking the train). There’s also a long hike to the moon temple and the grand cavern that we didn’t do.

We found a little peak between Huayna Picchu and the main section of Machu Picchu where there’s also some good views and took some fun photos doing yoga poses with the city in the background. Nobody came up while we were there. Just take the first trail to the left, whose name I can’t remember, after the checkpoint for Huayna Picchu.

Time for a big complaint about Machu Picchu: no easily accessible bathrooms. I wouldn’t care too much for myself (that is unless I had one of those oh so fun bouts of travelers diarrhea), but many people pooped either on or just off the trail. I know a porto potty would spoil something in the view, but so do steamy piles of poo. As far as I could see the only bathrooms were way back by the entrance, which is quite a way from Huayna Picchu.

The tour groups roll in sometime after 10AM since that’s when the first train from Cuzco arrives, and the places fills up. This can be annoying because it’s hard to walk past some of them and they can be noisy, but we took advantage and latched onto the groups to listen to what the guides had to say. We were fortunate to have amazing weather almost the whole day, mostly sunny with one small rain shower as a cloud climbed up over. We explored the ruins including the Inka bridge until around 5 in the afternoon, by which time all the tour groups magically disappear (seemed to be around 4) and it becomes peaceful again. Then we hiked back down into town for dinner.

Pay no attention to the prices on the menus during the low season. Ask for a discount and you’ll surely get it. Mostly meals started at 15 soles, but usually went down to 12 or 10 pretty rapidly. Or even better than eating anywhere in town, bring your own food with you and eat that. We wish we did. Everything’s a rip off and the quality isn’t even very good from what we saw. At least the rooms are hella cheap in the low season. We spent one more night, and the next morning started walking along the train tracks for an alternate route out.

1 Comment »

  1. Cool cool cool…Machu Picchu. Did you put pictures on? I’d like to see pictures of you guys doing yoga poses…that would be quite interesting. I think it would be hard meditating surrounded by piles of poop though…heh heh…

    Comment by Aaron — March 28, 2008 @ 5:26 am

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