adventures abroad, photography, travel

Tour Day 2: Machu Picchu 

It’s dark and early in Urubamba, as we gather ourselves to check out, have breakfast, and head to the train station for the ride to Machu Picchu. 

We’re at lower altitudes than when we arrived in Cuzco, but with Machu Picchu at 6-8000 ft, the sun is still strong, so the morning preparations include sunscreen (in case it turns sunny) and mosquito repellent.  

A combination which will, by the way, strip the color right off the ubiquitous water bottle by the sink (for drinking and tooth brushing, etc). Which becomes noticeable immediately if one then touches their face leaving a pronounced bright blue smear. 

Sigh. Scrub. Start over. 

And then, just in case the day isn’t interesting enough, lock oneself out of the room while placing the luggage outside. 

Yeah, good start

Breakfast is basic, but I’m not a breakfast person anyway. Anyway, we are all so excited for what the day will hold!

Urubamba is just 15 minutes from the train. The Machu Picchu Express takes us 1.5 hours to the town just below the site, and then buses take us up a series of switchbacks by which we ascend the next 2000 feet up to the base of Machu Picchu.  Cloud cover threatens to obliterate views, and in fact our first glimpses of the surrounding mountains are sometimes lost behind the clouds. 

We see it, as we’ve seen it in pictures , but the actual scale of it is impossible to describe. 

Zoomed in to one small area to help give a sense of size. (Can you see the tiny specks that are the tourists?) And this is just zoomed into one section of the site; aside from what is accessible today, they estimate at least another 30% of the site yet to be reclaimed from the jungle around it.

We are taken on a tour of the major areas of the site – as the weather turns first to rain then sun – and then some of us opt to hike up higher to get another view…

The altitude/thin oxygen, the ascent, the speed and the backpack I was carrying made me think I might die en route. So glad I didn’t give up, though.

Thank goodness the Spanish explorers and colonists didn’t find this place, or they’d have built over it or used it as a quarry for building elsewhere, as they did with other sites. 

After an amazing morning exploring the site – the size and the precision of the building both amazing, and my pictures can’t convey it – we descend back into town for lunch (I try a bite of the alpaca steak someone orders, just for the experience – not bad), the return train to Urabamba, and the transfer to our buses to get to our hotel in Cusco, over 2 hours away. 

I expect but fail to sleep en route. It is dark by the time we arrive. 

When we get there, we are at our discretion for dinner. Some go into town for nightlife or to see the plaza. A handful of us go to a local restaurant nearby. Pat, Ron and I have dinner together. At a nearby table Christie  (who arrives well before us or we’d have her join us) orders the baked cuye (guinea pig, a local delicacy). It is presented, positioned on its hind legs, whole, teeth staring her down, with a carved tomato on its head like a helmet. 

I suspect we enjoy our dinner more than she does, but she has an unforgettable experience and the picture to prove it!

Back at the hotel for the night, I have multiple tours for tomorrow, so I try to get some sleep (mostly succeeding until the restaurant downstairs opens in the small hours of morning and the staff elevator beside my room comes into heavy use… combined with the banging on a door of another guest on another tour, who has apparently overslept their planned departure.)

Ugh. Do NOT make me come out there. 😉