This is far overdue, but here it is. It's been almost four and a half months since I got back from South America and Machu Picchu, but it is still definitely worth a blog post. I still remember the important things, and I have the journal I keep of my travels to help me with the rest.
By the way, I definitely recommend keeping a travel journal. I used to write in a journal a lot when I was younger, but now it's more of a thing I do when I go to new places. I have found it to also be a nice way to wind down at night in the hostel (or hotel if that's what you're into. My travel journal is pictured to the left and every sentence on there goes hand in hand with my travels!
After spending the night in Lima, I took a morning flight to Cusco. It was a fairly quick flight and I was in Cusco by noon. The first thing I had to do was buy tickets for Machu Picchu. Every day only 2500 people are allowed up to Machu Picchu. It's substantially less if you are planning on hiking Machu Mountain or Wayna Picchu. Since I went out of season, I wasn't too worried about not getting a ticket, but it is definitely important to get tickets ahead of time if you are going during tourist season (July and August I believe).
Cusco was beautiful. One of my favorite places I saw was the really pretty city square surrounded by a couple of churches. It was like no other city I've been too. Small, cobbled roads with mysterious doorways leading into dark rooms. The local people carried their wares and children to the markets in bright blankets. It was really enchanting and I was sad I didn't have more time to explore.
Overall, one of my favorite parts about Cusco was how the city was laid out. It was as though buildings were scattered in every which way, but somehow, it all still looked perfect. And I can't leave out the fact that my hostel only set me back $4 for one night!
The Train to Machu Picchu!
If you are considering taking a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, make sure you do research first! When I purchased my tickets, my train was from Poroy to Machu Picchu, but on my way back, my train was from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is quite further than Poroy from Cusco. If for some reason you leave from Ollantaytambo, there is a shuttle that goes from the train station to Cusco at a fraction of the price of a cab. Since I was tight for time, I took a taxi from there to the airport, but even still, the taxi was not too expensive.
I'm really happy I decided to take the train in to Machu Picchu. It was a surprisingly long ride in my opinion (3 hours!!), but I was able to see the Peruvian countryside and it was absolutely stunning. We passed by small horses and farms with workers and people wearing traditional garb. It actually kind of reminded me on traditional polish clothing because of the brightish colors!
At some points, history was told over the intercom about the different areas we were going through. The train also used a special zig-zag rail system that allowed us to drop a substantial distance in just 5 minutes! It was definitely an interesting experience.
The Bus Ride
After getting into the city of Machu Picchu, I got myself situated at my hostel and got on a shuttle bus up the mountain to finally get to Machu Picchu. If you get car sick, good luck with this one! Not only was it a bumpy ride, but we were literally right on the edge of the mountain the whole time. It was insane. In the picture to the left, you can see the zigzagging road our bus took! It was insane!
The Lost City: Machu Picchu
Above you can see one of my first views of Machu Picchu. I could've believe I was standing there, in The Lost City of Machu Picchu. It was a place I read about in history class years ago, never thinking I would actually set food there. But I did. And it was breathtaking. Clouds surrounded the peaks of the surrounding mountains and I found it incredible that we were in the middle of nowhere. The entire day I tried to picture what it must have been like to live in this city so many years ago, but it was impossible. I couldn't picture it.
Inti Punku: Sun Gate
Over 2700 meters above sea level, the sun gate was my first stop. From the top, you could see all of Machu Picchu. It took about an hour and a half to get there, but it was well worth it. The view was incredible. I was up there by myself the majority of the time and it was very peaceful and it was nice to just relax there and take it all in.
I would definitely recommend doing the hike to Inti Punku first thing. It was relatively tiring compared to the rest of the day, so I was happy I did it first and was able to relax the rest of the time exploring the less strenuous views of the ruins.
In a Cloud
My phone and camera always die at the most inopportune times. It's the story of my life. As a result, the one moment that I would've loved to catch on camera will have to forever remain a memory. I wasn't prepared at all for rain, so when it starting pouring, I took shelter in this cavelike area, shielding myself from the cold rain. Afterward, when I emerged, all of Machu Picchu was enshrouded in a cloud. I couldn't even see a thing in front of me, it was all just cloud. It was magical. I've never experienced anything like it.
I'm sure everyone feels something different when they visit Machu Picchu. For me, it was constant bewilderment and enchantment. I could't believe that people once made their home in such a remote location. I couldn't believe I was walking the same paths that many walked years ago. At the same time, as corny as this sounds, I felt something different inside of me. I felt like being in Machu Picchu gave me strength. It gave me power. I couldn't tell you the reason for these feelings, but I think just being present in such a remarkable, remote area and being able to see everything in the surrounding areas made me feel that power. It was an amazing feeling.
At this point, I couldn't tell you the rest of the minor details of my time in Machu Picchu, but I think it is definitely a place everyone should go to at least once in their lifetime! It should be on everyone's bucket list for sure.
I definitely did not spend enough time in Cusco or Machu Picchu. That is one of my biggest regrets I had from my South American adventure. I definitely could've spent another full day in Cusco (making that a day and a half total) and another day of hiking in Machu Picchu (two full days in Machu Picchu itself). Unfortunately, I had to work with the time I had, though, and I am still extremely happy and grateful that I made the trip out there.
I PROMISE I will be back to Machu Picchu one day to do the Inca Trail. Saving that trip for a "partner in travel" though; I wouldn't want to suffer like that by myself! I think everyone considering doing Machu Picchu should definitely try to do the Inca Trail if you have the budget and time for it. Machu Picchu is incredible in itself, but I can only imagine what it would be like trekking into the ruins after a four day hike.
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