Discovered in 1911, Machu Picchu is an apotheosis of the great Incan Empire that dictated the western part of South America in the 14-16th century. Believed to be a royal estate or a religious site, this majestic citadel located on the Vilcanota mountain range northwest of Cusco, serves as a mausoleum to a glorious Incan past that met its demise under the Spanish conquest. This World Wonder, visited by thousands of tourists everyday, embodies the undying spirit of the Incan legacy and pay homage to the once great civilization. Our main destination in Peru is indeed this empyrean stony ruins perched on a mountain top. And for Peru, its a national pride and a goose that lays golden eggs. (Seriously, the entry ticket was lot more expensive that I expected).
The closest city (and international airport) to Machu Picchu is Cusco. From Bogota, I went to Lima and then took an early morning flight to Cusco. The fight offered some beautiful views of the Peruvian Andes and make sure you look outside when the airplane is about to land, as the view is amazing. On arriving at the tiny Cusco airport at 8 am I took a cab to the Pariwana hostel. A buoyant and spirited atmosphere and since the check in was after 2 pm, I slept on a couch in the internet room. My fellow travelers, Prateek and Jay arrived by noon and we decided to take a walk around the town. A small cozy historic town with numerous churches, narrow cobbled streets and beautiful squares. The largest and most vibrant of the squares is Plaza de Armas. Prateek and Jay (both vegetarians) tricked me into having lunch at an amazing vegan restaurant named Green Point (should try Coca khabura and tacu tacu) where we met Carlos, a French costume designer from LA. After some alpaca wool shopping and wandering around the squares, we returned to hostel at around 7 pm and joined their BBQ night accompanied by Ruan and Jordan from Canada and Diego and Gabriel from Peru.
At 6 am on 20th November, we took a cab to Poroy train station. Yes, we’re too lazy (and no time) to take the 4 day Inca train hike to Machu Picchu. Its a luxury tourist train called the Perurail Vistadome (of course, it was expensive ~$85 one-way). The 3.5 hour journey through fields, valleys and mountains is quite fascinating. However, what intrigued me the most was that the train took wrong turn and had to reverse to correct the course (I know, I was surprised too). On reaching Machu Picchu, after grabbing a alpaca meat lunch, took the $24 bus ride to the top of citadel. The weather didn’t look very promising when we got off the train as it was cloudy and drizzling . But it got better by the time we had our lunch. Its an interesting drive through dozens of hairpin bends, and don’t bother struggling to get good pics, because its gonna get much better when you reach the top. Piece of advise, make sure you book the entry ticked way in advance as they get sold out pretty quickly. At 1:15 we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. And this time, the weather Gods didn’t let us down.
Ethereal! Serene! Sacred!
I just cant describe how beautiful it is. The photos don’t do justice to this place, to be honest. What we did first (after the photo session, obviously) was to hike up to Sun Gate. It takes about 50 mins to get there and was quite strenuous due to high altitude. The view from there is totally worth the effort. Following the sun gate, we walked down through the ruins and took the obligatory selfie with the Llamas. Though in ruins, the stone walls and stepped terraces remind us of the architectural and aesthetic acuity of Incans. Surrounded by lush green mountains and sheer cliffs, it would’ve made for an excellent (and super fancy) hotel, had it been build this century. If you have time and energy (good stamina and endurance), you can hike up the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu provided you purchase the tickets in advance. After spending 4 hours (and super thirsty) we got back to the bus stop. Do not forget to get a souvenir Machu Picchu stampon your passport (I’m not lying and yes, you can get stamps on your passport other than immigration control).
On our way back to the station, we walked through the market and did some minor shopping (They accept US dollars at 1:3). We took the Perurail Vistadome back and there was a fashion show on board. We took a cab back to the main square and grabbed dinner. Try Ceviche if you like seafood (Heavy lime flavor). Subsequently, we retired into our dorms at 11, as tomorrow was gonna be a long day.