First stop Aguas Calientes
The next morning right after arriving in Peru I took the PeruRail to Aguas Calientes. Beforehand I didn´t know that there were other options to go there – for a quite more reasonable price. But now it was too late and I took the train (Dome – I went back with the one called Explorar but this one is much nicer, more space, better service, its worth to pay the 10$ difference). The station is half an hour away but then the train feels like first class. You get Peruvian music and tasty snacks and even get some information about the landscapes you are passing by. As the train can only go by 40km/h it actually takes 3h30. I arrived in Aguas Calientes at noon, checked-in, had some lunch and then went for a walk. There isn´t much to do. Everything is a bit more expensive than elsewhere though even so there is a nice market don´t get tempted – you will get much better prices in Cusco. Lunch is between 8 and 20 PEN. There is a termal bath as well as lot of places offering massages. I went for one and it was worth the money, one of the best I had in the past month.
After that I went straight to the hostel and went to bed at 9pm. Don´t forget to buy your bus tickets also the day before as the queue starts already at 4am. I was there at 4h15 but fortunately was able to sit down and have a chat. I went with the third bus around 5h45 and arrived in Machu Picchu shortely after 6am. The queue at the entrace was ok and I had my first look around. I still couldn´t believe that I´m actually there! I couldn´t see much, as there were clouds everywhere due to the heavy rain the night before.
Machu Picchu Mountain
Once we bought the entrace tickets we also included the entrance for the mountain hike. Supposedly you get a nice view so I thought it might be a nice hike. Once there I actually found out that the hike takes at least 1h30 to get up and the same time to go down. Well then, I brought at lot of water, waited for the second entrance to open at 7am and started the hike. Huayna Picchu – where I first wanted to go to – was actually sold out. It would have been less altitude. Machu Picchu is about 2.500 meters, Huayna Pichi about 2.700 and the Mountain 3.100. I wasn´t expecting that this hike would be such a challenge but it was one of the most incredible things I had to do. It took me 2 hours to get up – as it is not walking but climbing up steps made out of stone, of different hights. This together with the altitude and the fact that I still am with a cold made it first of all a physical challenge. Later it would become more of a mental one as I went higher and higher – the path getting smaller. There were some parts were you had a wall to one side, 80 cm of path and on the other side – nothing. If you would slip you fall into the deep and would probably die. The only comfortable thing was that there were many people doing this – so I thought, why not me. I can make it was well. Those following this blog know that I have problems with altitude and am afraid of falling down… I was close to turn around a couple of times. Then I motived myself saying that there would be probebly another way to go down. That there must be another way. I couldn´t imagine myself doing the same way downwards. Shortely before I arrived on top I found out – there is no other way.
Finally at the end first I didn´t even see Machu Picchu as there were clouds everywhere. Later they disappeared but actually it looks so far away you can barely see it. It defenitely was an experience – but honestely – if anyone would have warned me how this hike would be like – I wouldn´t have done it. And you have a much nicer view after only half of the hike (which I just didn´t see on my way up due to the clouds).
The way back I gladly had some company which made me feel a bit saver, I said myself the whole bad part, go step by step, don´t look down. I rooted myself beforehand. Connecting my feed with the earth and all in all it was much easier than I thought. I was so afraid of going down but one I was one the way – knowing that there is just no alternative – I went on. And on. And made it to the saver part and finally back down to Machu Picchu town.
This was a challenge, a hard one. But I did it! I overcame my fear. Controlled my shaking legs I had on some point and made it. It makes me proud. For other people this hike looked so easy, but for me this was hard physical and mental work.
Just think about what you are going to confront before booking this. I wasn´t aware of it. It´s great I made it but it was defenitely a challenge.
Machu Picchu – the ruins
Once “down” again I joined a guided tour and got some more facts about the place. The most asthonishing one for me was that the town actually only was habited about 50 to 100 years. After the Spanish came after Cusco and later Machu Pichu and the place had to be abandoned. So it might be 550 years old but most of the time it was covered by nature before it got discovered in the 19th century.
The place it self is nice and its worth to do a tour or just sit somewhere and feel the energy. I might believe it was this energy which made me do the hike without having a panic attack. Who knows.
The hike downwards
I didn´t bought the bus to go down as it is supposed to be a nice hike. And it is, half of the way you also walk down steps (but much much easier ones) and the other hald of the 1h30 you walk around the road. The way is easily doable – just the fact that I was already climbing and walking for hours made it a bit hard and with every minute I go slower. I was so glad once I arrived at town. In the end I walked around 8 hours in the altitude with almost no break. Today, the day after, I can barely walk as I have such a terrible muscle ache in my legs (still I managed to see Cusco today, you can read about this shortely).
It was just enough time to get lunch as I had my train at 4pm. Unfortunately there was a problem on the way with another train so we left Aguas Calientes with more than 4 hours of delay in the end. I arrived back in my hostal around 1am. It was a long day and I was so happy once I was able to strech out in my bed and get some nice sleep!