Machu Picchu Here We Come! (Instalment Four)

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!

A lamp on a train? Now that's luxury!

A lamp on a train? Now that's luxury!

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.

Photo of Machu Picchu anyone? The entrance to the sacred place.

Photo of Machu Picchu anyone? The entrance to the sacred place.

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. 

Does it get any better than this? 

Does it get any better than this? 

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 :)

The Sacred Valley, Peru (Instalment Three)

A quick flight to Cusco and we landed in the tiny airport surrounded by mountains. Met by Maria and Queoma, we were driven an hour and a half to the next hotel Rio Sagrado in the Sacred Valley. 

A stop off at Pisac Market gave us an opportunity to walk the cobblestoned roads and be accosted (in a friendly way!) by vendors selling their wares: weavings, carvings, scarfs and hats were some of the many gift opportunities on offer.

We ate at a local restaurant; the husband tried Alpaca Steak and a local beer, whilst I gave the Cilantro Lamb a red-hot go. Delicious! Back into the car for some more chauffeuring, I watched in amusement as my husband suffered narcolepsy – his physical inability to stay awake was quite hilarious - he claims it was a combination of jetlag, altitude sickness and a midday beer. Unfortunately he missed the guide’s many facts and stories about the areas we were driving through, including spotting the vibrant and abundant quinoa crops.

As the car slowed amongst mud brick shacks (“Adobes”) I was a little dubious about this hotel. A dirt road with a fancy sign was all I could see. Behind a mudbrick fence there was however, an oasis beyond. Collected from reception by a friendly man driving a golf cart, we were escorted to our room. The view was spectacular and the grounds immaculate.

Room with a view. Rio Sagrado, Sacred Valley.

Room with a view. Rio Sagrado, Sacred Valley.

 

We had an afternoon’s rest before dinner in the hotel, where the husband again braved some local fare and had guinea pig – one of Peru’s delicacies. As much as I’d like to say I was brave and adventurous, the thought of eating an animal my children have requested as a pet was too much. I ordered the bog standard chicken and rice, with a Pisco Sour flavoured with mango. Better than the Caesar salad the Americans next to us ordered (with dressing on the side – oh please!). They weren’t even trying!

The next day was a trip to Ollantaytambo: a place I will never be able to pronounce yet never forget. A fascinating Inca town 60kms from Cusco, with rocks bigger than Gibraltar, the history of the archaeological site made it all the more amazing. The sheer size of the walls was mammoth enough but knowing the Quechuan people moved these without machinery is phenomenal.

Lunch was at a tourist catered rest spot where truckloads of buses arrive with loud, white folk who all pile their plates high with food they recognise.  Although I was happy to see some food without eggs, I was a little disappointed to see how Westernised the catering was. There was even “American Coffee” on the drinks list!

Back to the hotel for an afternoon of cooking lessons (for him) and massages (for me). It was hard, but I managed. 

Tomorrow: Machu Picchu!

Source: http://www.kylieorr.com/blog/