Travelling To Machu Picchu
It was time to embark on our visit to see the ancient site of the Inca Empire, the Worlds famous Machu Picchu! voted National Geographic travel destination of the year 2015.
We were beyond excited for this leg of the journey through Peru. A taxi came to pick us up from our lodge in Urubamba to take us to Ollantaytambo Train Station were we would catch the Inca Train (book here) It takes a scenic 1.30 hours to reach Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu where tourists arrive prior to trekking Machu Picchu. It is stongly advised to reach Aguas Calientes the day prior to your visit of Machu Picchu, this way you can stay overnight and reach the site early in the morning to get a full day exploring the ruins with optimum energy to climb those huge steps. My expert advice is for a once in the life-time opportunity like this you should make every effort to catch the first simmers of sunrise.
A very common misconception is that one needs to complete the four-day trek to reach this incredible sight. The Inca Trail is one of the world’s most famous hikes – each year, more than 75,000 people tread the 26-mile route to reach the site of Machu Picchu. Train offers a fast and convenient alternative to those with young children who art yet able to cope with days of hiking through hot and cold climates.
Departing From Ollantaytambo Station To Machu Picchu
We embarked upon the Inka Train at Ollantaytambo Station, placed our bags in the designated compartment, sat down and got comfortable on the beige leather chairs, life was good round about now (Smiles!). Trains operate from Ollantaytambo, which is a town halfway along the main train line between Cuzco and Aguas Calientes, this made sense for us as were staying in the Sacred Valley for a few nights to get used to the altitude to which we were not affected in the slightest! and to soak up the amazing scenery of the deep valleys below.
When the train departed the station I looked around at the other happy passengers traveling to fulfill their bucket lists; mature, middle aged and young alike, all with a story and a dream to tell, Joshua was the youngest child I saw, in fact the only child. We got talking to some Americans who were traveling throughout South America who had not long came through Chile by motorcycle. The train traveled along its course through the valleys and over the Urubamba River with its raging white rapids. The journey was pleasant, we were served tea, coffee, water and peach juice inclusive.
Once the train pulled into Aguas Calientes we were sooooo excited to be this close to Machu Picchu! It was quite busy with travellers hauling backpacks and camping gear.
This town lies in a deep gorge below the ruins, it’s cut off from all roads and enclosed by stone cliffs, towering cloud forest, and two rushing rivers.
Aguas Calientes has been known as no-man’s land, with a large nomadic population, very slack services that count on one-time customers and an architectural tradition of unfinished cement and an abundance of scattered rebar. With merchants pushing the hard sell upon every corner, my advice is to go without any set expectations.
Crappy lodging & Feeling Ill
From the station we were greeted by a lady who took us to our hotel for the night, the smell that filled the air made me feel really nauseous and ill, cooked foods of all kinds just seemed to have sapped the fresh air away and left it filled with the overbearing smell of food. We got to our hotel which wasn’t actually a hotel but was actually a young women’s refuge… This was not what we had agreed, a damp and tired room with a square hole in the wall were obviously the window had never been put in, even worse it was overlooking what seemed to be a junk pit underneath the window… and the best part, no lock on the door either… and anyway what was the point seeing as there wasn’t even a window! no way hozay was I going to stay here especially with my son who was only 4 years old. I told the women politely that there was no chance we were staying and if she could refund part of the money for the room and help us to find another place for 1 night, we waited whilst she called the office in Cusco to which the reply was we would be refunded from Cusco when we got back which I didn’t bother to follow up on as the small amount of money would have taken far too much effort to retrieve and wasn’t worth wasting precious holiday time on. We checked a few places with the lady who helped to carry one of my bags, I was grateful and somewhat annoyed especially after feeling quite ill, all the hotels were booked up… and the town was pretty small, I did have panic in my heart at this point. Finally we came to a hotel next to the station, we saw the room, agreed a price and said goodbye to the other lady. The only room left unfortunately didn’t have any outward facing windows, at one point I think I was really thankful for this because any more of the smells from the street I would have thrown up! It must have been around 5pm by the time we unpacked our bits in this small room, I told Josh I was feeling super ill and at only 4 years old he was caring and left me be to rest, he and I both fell asleep with Simpsons dubbed in Spanish.
We woke around 10:30pm, I had to get out and get Josh some food, I dragged myself out from the bed still feeling really ill and into the bathroom to freshen up and clothe myself, I managed to get out the hotel with Josh excited to see what was awaiting outside, we passed an outdoor BBQ trying not to heave at the penetrating strong smells of cooking food, walking past party goers and drinkers dancing to the overly load latin music on the speakers, we arrived to the corner of the street to a shop selling fruit and other things, we brought some apples and a banana, Josh was happy with fruit, we went back to the hotel where the receptionist pointed us towards a bowl of fruit and told us to help ourselves and that our guide would arrive soon to talk us over our trek at Machu Piccu for the next day. We took a few more apples and headed back upstairs to our room after we went over the details with the guide later that evening. We came inside, lay on the bed and watched BBC World News and The Simpsons again which was quite amusing for us both, I was hoping to return to good health before the long day ahead trekking around Machu Picchu, the very last thing I wanted to do was to cancel the trek and leave disappointed.
The next morning we received a wakeup call alerting us that our guide was downstairs in the lobby awaiting us, we packed up our belongings, got dressed and prepared a day pack with spare clothes for Josh, medicine, toilet paper a portable power charger and of course the remaining apples. We were greeted by a smiling face and led to the point where we needed to catch the coach up to the peak.
I was feeling better, the 12 hours sleep had worked, we were ready to take on the day ahead. Coaches run from Aguas Calientes from around 5.30am, transporting passengers the 25 minutes hair raising climb up the side of the mountain to the site.
Links And Further Information
Aguas Calientes: Wiki Voyage
Accommodation in Aguas Calientes: Trip Advisor
Official Government Booking Office: Machupicchu.gob.pe
Machu Picchu: Wikipedia
Huayna Picchu: Wikipedia