Firstly we had to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes to reach Machu Picchu and actually that meant we had to get a 5am taxi to Poroy where we’d then aboard the PeruRail train to Aguas Calientes. A lot of travelling very early in the morning!
The train with PeruRail was an old fashioned train which had a more modern interior. The journey was quite considerably better than the likes of Scotrail or Virgin trains in the U.K. For example, they simply left on time. PeruRail is meant to be part of your experience and has large windows on the sides and on the ceilings for more views of the beautiful mountains that surround you. They also provide drinks and snacks on the way which obviously went down well with some!
We arrived at our hostel just before 10am and later than day looked around Aguas Calientes and it’s markets. The town is very small with little to offer apart from its surrounding landscape and connection to Machu Picchu. I did purchase a hand made Alpaca wool jumper as I was in need of more layers and i decided it would be my souvenir from my South America trip. Managed to haggle with the lady and purchased the jumper for fifty soles (£12).
I wouldn’t suggest spending much time in the town to be honest but if you are looking to eat cheap you have to go to the canteen above the market. Here there are many different stalls serving meals for lunch as well fresh sandwiches and juices. It’s full of locals so is a nice experience and you can tell you won’t be ripped off. We spotted a place that sold ‘Garden chicken’ as we translated. We couldn’t believe what was brought to us and for the price. We were served a large bowl of soup as well as the ‘Garden chicken’ which was chicken drumsticks on a plate full of rice and salad. This cost us just under £4 for two people! Along with this our favourite thing about the town was the shower. It was definitely the best in our South American experience to date. We rated it highly in power and temperature as it was properly hot! Well, the town is called ‘Hot Water’ after all.
On the morning of our Machu Picchu experience we awoke at 4am to get breakfast at 5am so we could leave about 5:30am. We didn’t choose to do any of the treks to Machu Picchu, we were satisfied with the climb up and the mountain tickets we’d purchased. The climb up to the site was difficult because it was all steps and was pretty humid that day. Lots of steep steps for a small person. It roughly took us about an hour to reach the top where we then entered the site. Typically the weather wasn’t great that day. It was very foggy which meant capturing photos was difficult. However I suppose it does give you more appreciation of the height that the Incas worked at.
Our entrance for Machu Picchu mountain was between 9-10am so we had a few hours walking round the lower part before starting our climb of the mountain. The a sign in/sign out book which is comforting but possibly concerning at the same time. Wow, was that an experience! This climb took us about an hour and forty minutes and again was all steps but this time they were closer together and less stable so you really had to watch your footing. The closer you get to the summit the more fear you start to have. The stairs lie next to the rock on one side and are met with a few thousand metres drop with no barrier on the other side. It’s incredibly unsafe in British terms but here in South America that’s nothing out of the ordinary.
From the top it was almost impossible to see anything due to the weather which was a real shame. Apparently that day was the worst in fifteen days. Typical! We did manage to get a glimpse of the ruins from above but the clouds just would allow us enough time for any photos unfortunately.
The descent down the mountain took about fifty minutes which was longer than we anticipated. And after a further climb down we returned to Aguas Calientes where we treated ourselves to some well deserved pizzas which was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. Definitely worth the pennies. And as expected I could barely walk the next day. Of course, Peter had no pain. Usual story.