Why We Only Spent 30 Minutes at Machu Picchu
After we had returned home and packed up our stuff for the following day (our trip to Machu Picchu), we discovered that our flight to Cusco had been delayed from 5:50 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. However, the airline asked us to still be there at the planned time. We looked up other early flights, and decided to take a chance to get on one of them to catch our train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, which would leave at 7:50 a.m.
We woke up at 3 a.m. and made our way to the airport. When we arrived there, the airline (Avianca) told us that they wouldn’t be able to take us on an earlier flight. That meant, we would miss the last train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and have to take a cab to Ollantaytambo, and a train from there. PeruRail fortunately had a stand at the airport and we got to change our train without any problems and extra charges.
Instead of 8:20 a.m., our flight ended up leaving an hour later. Before, I filled out a complaint form and spoke to the supervisor. A guy that also complained, mentioned that he had witnessed Avianca had put other passengers on earlier flights, even though they denied it. The supervisor promised me that everyone in our group would be upgraded to first class on our flight from Cusco back to Lima the next day. We gave her a part of our boarding passes, so she would have our names.
As soon as we landed in Cusco, we got a cab to Ollantaytambo, which was about 1 hour and 30 minutes away. Cusco is a mountain town with a modern center, but very antiquated outskirts. We drove through markets, where people lay out their produce and merchandise on blankets on the ground. Stray dogs lay in between or ate from the piles of trash scattered everywhere. Sometimes, you would see a dead one.
As we left Cusco and drove through Peru’s green mountains and its small towns, I observed that despite the appliances used and the materials of the houses were aged, I felt as if time had not been moving for years. Nothing looked new or modernized, and you would expect everyone to be cut off from technology, but signs advertised “Free WiFi.”
I never knew of “altitude sickness,” but because Allison and Denis had been to Machu Picchu before and had gotten sick, they and everyone else had advised us to chew on Coca leaves or Coca candy.
These were made from the Coca plant, from which Cocaine is produced. I doubted that I would get sick because as a child I had always gone to the Alps and never experienced any issues, but I still chewed some leaves and ate some candy.
In Ollantaytambo, we entered our train to Machu Picchu.
It was very comfortable with tables and plenty of leg space, soothing Peruvian flute music, and tea and snacks. As our train arrived, I expected us to be at Machu Picchu already, and did not know that we still had to take another bus. In this town, the Sacred Valley, we purchased our entrance to Machu Picchu (S./128, approximately $40) and our bus ticket to there (S./75, approximately $25).
In order to get anywhere in this town, we had to walk through a souvenir market for tourists. Smart. When we got on the bus, it was already 3 p.m. The last train to Cusco, which we had already booked, left at 5 p.m., which meant we had to be back at the Sacred Valley at 4.30 p.m. because the ride took about 30 minutes. Our bus to Machu Picchu took us on a windy road up a very steep mountain, which barely fit two busses next to each other; thus, I was always scared that our driver might hit a bus that was coming down because you were not able to look around the curves.
As soon as we stepped off the bus, we ran through the entrance and climbed a few stairs up the hill. Our breaths got short as the air here was very thin due to the altitude. What came next was the most stunning view of my life: Machu Picchu lay in front of us surrounded by green mountains. The sky was grey and it had rained before, but fortunately not while we were exploring this World Wonder.
It blew my mind how the Incas established this site a few hundred years ago without the knowledge and technology of today. This day, Machu Picchu was not too crowded with tourist; therefore, we were able to get around quick and take lots of picture without many people disturbing the background. Of course, we took selfies with tame lamas which refrained from spitting at us.
Soon later, we made our way back down to the Sacred Valley, grabbed something to eat, and hopped on the train two minutes before it was supposed to leave. We were served a piece of chewy cheese pizza with champignons, sweetened peanuts with sesame, a coconut cookie dessert, and some small, yellow, tomato-resembling fruit I had never seen before.
After two hours on the train, we were squeezed into a bus for another 2 hours, which took us down to Cusco, where we had booked our hostel Kokopelli, located in the historic center. Around 10 p.m., we passed out completely exhausted.
A few more pictures of Cusco:
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