Before I reached Cusco I had already purchased my ticket for Macchu Picchu for the 27th of September. Since I arrived on the evening of the 25th I already had to leave the next day towards Aguas Calientes (also known as Machhu Picchu Pueplo) the next day. My original plan was to take a bus till Hydroelectrica (near Santa Teresa) and hike up the final 10km till Aguas Calientes. This is the cheapest option to reach there. Unfortunately the Coca farmers in that region are currently on strike and block the road to reach there. Which means, I can either do a long 4 to 5 day hike (Salkantay) or take the train to reach there. Since I’m short on time I choose for the train. It costs me more than five times as much as the bus+hike option. But it also the easier option, as I save 20km in total of hiking and after the amount of cycling the last days that’s possibly a good thing.
After a relaxing train ride through the Urubamba river valley I reach Aguas Calientes in the early evening. I check into my hostel and then explore the town to find some food. Which is actually not difficult since the whole town basically only exists out of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Finding good restaurants is hard though. I opt for a pizza which turns out to be a bad choice. They provide it with two salsas, but even if use both of them it doesn’t add a lot of taste to it. I’m still hungry, when I reach the hostel and so I treat myself with another portion of fries there. Around 10 o’clock I get to rest as I want to get up early the next morning.
My alarm clock rings at 4 am. After a quick breakfast I walk to the entrance of Macchu Picchu. The gates open at 6 am and when I reach there 15 minutes earlier there is already a long queue. It’s probably 6:15 am when I pass the gates and a few minutes later I’m at the first viewing platforms where almost everybody stops to take a selfie with the ruins of Macchu Picchu. When visiting Macchu Picchu you can choose from three different options:
1) Just Macchu Picchu
2) Macchu Picchu + Montana Macchu Picchu
3) Macchu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (the mountain behind almost all the Macchu Picchu pictures)
I choose for option 2. After the entrance to that mountain it’s more than 2000 steps going up to more than 3000m. It takes me approx. 1 1/2 hours to reach the top. Already in between I stop several times to take photos from the amazing scenery. At the top I stay for another 30 minutes before I decide to go down again. The way up may be physically harder, but I definitely like it more than going down. The steps are made out of natural stones which are uneven and most of the time very small which makes it very difficult to securely place your feet on them. I have to concentrate to not slide or stumble and walk down like a penguin. After a bit more than an hour I’m back at the entrance.
From there I walk up to the sun gate (Inti Punku) from where you have another great view over the ruins and the surrounding mountains. I can imagine that it must be really nice, to be here for sunset, but from what I understand you can only do that as part of the Inca trail. Finally I take a walk through the ruins itself. Boards with explanations of the different structures are missing and so I try to listen to some of the guides who are running around with their groups. I spend maybe 1 1/2 hours in the ruins. When the clouds over the surrounding mountains turn grey and thunder can be heard I decide that it’s time to go back to the town. The first rain drops fall already, while I’m still inside the ruins but the weather remains more or less stable until I reach the first houses of the town. But then it starts raining heavily and I have to take shelter in a restaurant before I can continue till the train station and get back to Cusco.
Back in Cusco I get myself a second dinner. Actually I need two second dinners. First pizza and then some sushi as desert. I finish the day with some beers and Pisco Sour together with Floor and Raymond – a Dutch couple I met back in Ecuador. When I finally end up in my bed it’s already past 2:00 am – I’m awake for more than 22 hours now and definitely need some rest now.