by Regin Reyno
Day 12th, November 19, 2019
6th leg: Cusco and Aguas Callientes, Peru
After a 2-hour train ride from Ollantaytambo-via the classic and charming PeruRail-I arrived at Aguas Callientes; a town designed for tourists visiting Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is the center of the once mighty Inca empire. It was built during the 15th century, located high up in the mountains of Urubamba, Peru. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
The train, certainly, is part of the experience when visiting Machu Picchu. Its spacious seats, clean interiors, and wonderful classic design will make your trip comfortable and memorable. Most part of the roof is even transparent; made of fiber glass-I supposed-designed for passengers to maximize their scenic sacred valley experience.
Of all the New 7 Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is the most difficult to get to. It is so elusive, that’s why it’s the most charming. Pretty much like a hard-to-get woman with lots of choices.
A staff-who was waiting for me at the station-guided me to my hotel. I opted to stay for 1 night in Aguas Callientes so I can enter Machu Picchu the moment it opens in the morning. I chose the 6:00 am ticket, hoping to have a sunrise-like experience and to avoid the crowd.
In Cusco, I found this travel agency which takes care of your journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco, including your hotel at Aguas Callientes: Danzak Peru. I recommend it.
At my hotel the night before my visit, lying on my bed, I cannot sleep. I was excited. I’ve been dreaming of visiting Machu Picchu since 2011.
When we were kids, our parents bought us a book called Strange Worlds Amazing Places by Reader’s Digest. That’s how I first knew about Machu Picchu. The photos amazed me instantly; a mysteriously lost city in the mountains surrounded by forest, and Hiram Bingham-its discoverer-in the frame. I felt that only explorers can visit this kind of place. I never imagined that one day I’m going to see it in person. (I even thought that Machu Picchu is the name of the guy on the photo, Hiram Bingham.)
I woke up at 5:00 am, looked up in the sky. It was dark and cloudy. A staff picked me up from the hotel and we walked to the bus station for Machu Picchu. There were many tourists. We lined up outside for the bus. Then, it started to rain; what a disappointment.
I went to the other side of the world to see this site in the mountains and it was raining, cloudy, and foggy. I prayed for the rain to stop.
As our bus was climbing up the mountain en route to Machu Picchu, we’ve passed by several hikers, walking to the site. Walking is also another option to get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Callientes. (Even from Cusco via the Inca trail). I felt envious as they can slow things down and enjoy the view along the way.
At the entrance, Eugenia, our guide kept on telling us, “Pray for the rain to stop. I know it will stop because I prayed already. I believe in God and prayer.”
Our group was composed of almost 15 people from different countries. USA, Taiwan, India, Spain, Germany, Portugal, and of course, me, Philippines.
As we were walking, we were greeted by a wonderful views of the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu: towering limestone cliffs, lush forest, and rivers. I was immediately in awe. I knew Machu Picchu is amazing, but I didn’t expect that it is surrounded by that kind of wonderful view; pretty much like China’s Zhangjiajie Hallelujah Mountains.
At the first view point, Machu Picchu revealed itself to us for the first time. And miraculously, thank God, our prayers were answered. The rain stopped. We all went crazy. We dumped our things on the ground then posed and took photos.
I cannot believe what I was seeing. It front of me was Machu Picchu. It was the center of the once mighty empire of the Americas; the Inca empire. I was just seeing, reading this in our book 25 years ago, and there I was, seeing it for real.
We continued walking. Every once in a while we stopped, and Eugenia explained, talked about Machu Picchu. It was good that there was a guide, explaining details about this important archaeological site. But there’s this side of me who wanted to roam freely. I tried doing so, but the group waited for me before they moved to the next spot. I don’t want them to wait for me, and Eugenia said, it is her responsibility that everyone in her group sticks together, as per their tourism policy. So I had no choice but to stick to the group. That’s why I usually prefer traveling and exploring by myself because I want to be free. I don’t want anyone to dictate my pace, especially in an important site such as this.
We went closer to the main city; where the residential quarters are. The fog and cloud passed by, slowly covering some parts of the site, making the view more mystical and enigmatic. I then realized that, yes, a fine, sunny day would have been good, but it lacks the mysticism and charm of a Machu Picchu view with some fog and clouds. So, that cloudy day with scattered rain showers was actually a blessing in disguise.
We were in the Temple of the Sun when Eugenia explained how the stones were put together without the use of mortar, metal tools, and wheels. That was really mind-blowing. So amazing as the stone slabs are huge. She also pointed out that the stone slabs used for the Temple of the Sun are perfect. We noticed that, too. Compared to other structures in this ancient city, the ones at the Temple of the Sun looked perfectly aligned and are more beautiful.
There were terraces, too. It was for their gardens. They were so beautiful. The borders of the steps were made of stones, instead of the usual dried mud found in terraces of Asia.
We neared the last part of our guided tour. After a group photo, we, then, were given an hour to freely roam. But, you cannot go back. The visitor route of Machu Picchu is just one-way.
The view nearing the exit is very beautiful. There’s this deep ravine with views of the mountains, a river, and terraces of Machu Picchu.
In all my travels, Machu Picchu is the most beautiful and magical place I’ve been to. If I have to describe if briefly, I’d say, Angkor Wat + Batad Rice Terraces + Zhangjiajie, China=Machu Picchu.
The Inca empire has no written language, so there are still a lot of questions about Machu Picchu. That’s why it is sort of a mystery until now; more questions than answers, and I’m ok with that.
This is definitely one of the highlights of my around-the world journey.
- sleep in Aguas Callientes
- definitely take the train (there’s also an option, Machu Picchu by car, but I highly recommend you to take the train)
- be in the moment, savor the moment (less smartphone screen time and photo time)
- read and research before visiting
- opt for a day train ride
- reserve via Danzak Peru tour agency
This post is part of Tuyok.