We had a leisurely start to the morning at Rio Sagrado, taking in the final glorious sunrise over mountain range. Not to mention another buffet breakfast that contributed to the extra 5kg I’m sure I carried back – mostly around my middle.
Our driver then drove us to the train station at Ollantaytambo ready to board the luxurious Hiram Bingham train bound for Machu Picchu! It was white-tablecloth service with views to die for. I was inexplicably obsessed with the fact we were on a train weaving through the mountains and our table had a lamp on it. For some reason, that lamp indicated we were in the lap of luxury. The delectable 3-course meal and wine to match confirmed the indulgent feeling. I admired the staff’s ability to manage glassware on a rocking vehicle!
The rear carriage of the train housed a bar, along with live musicians playing native and popular music. A ceiling of windows offered a view from every turn. It was a fascinating journey.
We arrived at Aguas Calientes – the base town where travellers to Machu Picchu embark and gather in confused hordes. Hotel staff met us at the train and took our baggage for us, while we queued for buses to take us to the pinnacle : Machu Picchu.
That bus ride was an extreme sport unto itself. I’ve lived in Manila, I’ve crossed the road in Bangkok, I’ve seen some precarious vehicles and driving in my time but that bus ride had me gripping the edge of my seat. A zigzag dirt road is the only way (bar hiking) to get to the top of the mountain. Everything’s sweet when there’s just one bus climbing up but as soon as an oncoming bus hurtling down the hill is presented, both vehicles move to the very edge of the road whilst still moving. I had more than one thought that perhaps we wouldn’t actually reach Machu Picchu after all…
We arrived and survived. The volume of people at the entrance of Machu Picchu astounded me. Perhaps it is because every photo I’ve ever seen of this epic place is serene and without a single head in it.
Unfortunately there was some confusion about our tickets and we were delayed by over an hour while they sorted it out. I ended up as “Kylie Orr – Male – Afghanistan” on the ticket but who cared? I was finally in! MP closes at 5pm each day and we were assigned a guide at 2.30pm. I was in a spin about coming all this way and only having two hours to explore and absorb. As it turned out, it was a blessing to have been delayed. The crowds had subsided, the light was perfect for photos and we were able to truly embrace the serenity of the magnificent surrounds.
I have never seen mountains as mammoth or architecture as amazing, for its time. It is an awe-inspiring space, made much more meaningful by the guides who explained so much about the buildings, the time, the agriculture and the spirituality. Photos don’t do it justice. It is a must-see on anyone’s bucket list – and my recommendation is to do it before you lose the use of your knees! Lots of walking, climbing narrow rock stairs and navigating uneven paths.
Afternoon tea back at the bus stop hotel (otherwise known as Belmond Sanctuary Hotel), then we boarded a bus to take that scary ride back down the hill. By the way, feedback from others staying At the Sanctuary Hotel was that the location was undeniably awesome but the noise from sunset to sunrise of buses and tourists coming and going offset the premium location.
We stayed at the gorgeous Inkaterra…next instalment :)