Our Machu Picchu adventure…
Before we left home, if you’d have asked me what I’m most excited for, my answer probably would’ve been Machu Picchu. This weekend it was finally time for us to go!
Saturday 6th August 2016
The sound of our alarms going off at 06:00 on any other day would have been horrible, but today waking up was fuelled by pure excitement. We had to meet at Plaza De Armas at 07:00 so woke up an hour beforehand, only to find ourselves rushing anyway, as always. After planning to leave by 06:40 at the very latest, we left at 06:45, and had to really power walk to the meeting point. Then upon arrival, as luck would have it, we ended up waiting for about twenty minutes until our bus arrived. We didn’t miss it though, that’s the main thing!
The bus was cosy to say the least, and because loads of passengers were travelling solo Abbie and I couldn’t get a seat next to each other. With two rows between us and unable to talk or share headphones I decided that I’d try to sleep, but that didn’t work in the slightest – I headbutted the window about six times before giving up on the idea and just staying awake.
After two hours we stopped for breakfast, which wasn’t included in the price we paid, so instead of eating whatever they had to offer we had crackers from our backpacks instead. By this time we found ourselves deep in the Peruvian mountains, having been wide awake for three hours already, at only 09:00:
After our first stop we continued for another two hours through the mountains. Our driver wasn’t the most considerate, and spent the majority of the time speeding or overtaking other vehicles when he definitely shouldn’t have been doing. He didn’t completely ruin it for us though because the scenery was just incredible:
We stopped again another two hours into the journey, this time just to stretch our legs. We then joined onto what’s probably the scariest road I’ve ever been down. Out of the window we could look directly down the side of the mountain, and at times the drop was a good 100ft if not more (that’s a complete estimate, but in no way at all exaggerated).
After six hours on the road we stopped for the last time to eat lunch, which was included in our package. The food was very basic, just chicken, pasta and salad, but tasted good and gave us the energy boost that we needed for later. The last leg of the drive was maybe another hour or so, which took us as far as Hidroelectrica, from which we had to get out and walk:
The walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes is rouhgly 11km, and took us a good two and a half hours.We had a backpack each full of clothes for the next couple of days, it was ridiculously humid all the way, and the old stone rail road definitely wasn’t the easiest to walk on.
For the first time in a while it became very apparent why we splashed out on walking shoes, which in Kelowna for example may not have been used much, but were absolutely necessary today. It wasn’t a race, but it was made a little more enjoyable by the fact that we promised ourselves to arrive in Aguas Calientes in at least the top four out of our nineteen person group. The element of competition kept us going at a steady pace all the way, with the occasional stop to take pictures or keep hydrated.
We had to keep reminding ourselves that in the end it would all be worth it. Every time a train passed us we just chuckled at the fact that those on board had paid so much more than us. Besides, where’s the fun it doing it the easy way? It wasn’t until around 17:00 that we arrive at our hostel, before all of the others of course, as hypothetical walking champions. We checked in and ended up in a private room with an en-suite bathroom becuase we got there before all of the others! After dropping our belongings off in the room we headed straight for the hot springs as a treat to ourselves for walking so far on the back of a 07:00 start.
It was a shame, because I love hot springs, but unlike any others that I’ve visited before where everybody is just there to relax, this was more like a childrens playground. Parents let their kids run around, jump in the pools, splash each other and play fight, all amongst those of us who just needed to chill out. We only stayed for about ten minutes before we’d had enough and left!
Dinner was included in the price that we paid, so we met our group again at 20:00 and went to a local retaurant, where they had a set menu of three dishes for us to choose from. We chose two different dishes, chicken and beef, so that we could have half each, but didn’t exactly get what we asked for – it turns out that by beef they actually meant llama, although that didnt stop us! There’s a first time for everything right? It was actually pretty good too.
After what we’re now constantly referring to as “accidental llama” we probably should have gone to bed, fully aware of the fact that we had a super early start due the next day. Where’s the fun in that though? We instead went to a bar with our three new friends, who for the purpose of this post I will call France, Slovakia, and Columbia (as I dont remember their names). Here we are around 23:00, a couple of cocktails down, with no care for the fact that we probably should have been in bed at least a couple of hours ago:
From left to right you have Slovakia, then me, then Abbie, then Columbia, then France.
We decided to head back to the hostel at around midnight, after agreeing to meet up again in the morning to take on Machu Picchu together. It was great fun, making new friends and getting to know each other, but definitely not the best idea we have ever had.
Sunday 7th August 2016
Remember when I said that we had to be up early? I meant it. At 04:00, on the back of little more than three hours sleep, we met Slovakia, Columbia and France in reception, and started walking:
From our hostel it took about an hour to get as far as the entrance to Machu Picchu (a gate at the bottom of the mountain), after which we faced 2,000 uneven stone steps and a climb of 1,280ft to the top:
We didn’t get through the gate until just gone 05:00. It was still pitch black so the only form of light came from those who remembered to bring a torch. The first few steps werent too bad, in fact the first twenty minutes of climbing seemed alright, but then it started to rain, and then we heard thunder, and then it started to pour!
We werent even a quarter of the way and already everything felt much heavier because it was so wet. We had to stop occasionally just to catch our breath, and tried to take shelter when we could, but it was pretty impossible on a single file staircase with hundreds of others taking the same route to the top. I dont think I can put into words how difficult it actualy was. At one point Abbie asked how far I thought we’d come, and I had absolutely no idea, but guessed that we were about half way. I was so wrong!
In total I think we took about an hour and a half, which isn’t bad given that it takes two hours on average, but was genuinely the hardest thing that I have ever done, there’s no doubt about it.
As we reached the top I didn’t know what to do – I wanted to smile and laugh but at the same time I wanted to collapse and cry. The emotions were so overwhelming and not only had I just completed the greatest challenge that I’ve ever faced, but I done it with Abbie right beside me the whole way.
France and Slovakia actually reached the top before us, and Columbia was behind, but we all met again at the top and carried on as a group from there with our tour guide. Note that it was still only 07:00 by this point and we’d been hiking for three hours already:
The rain continued until around 08:00 and then stopped and started every twenty minutes or so for the rest of the morning. Prominent clouds decided to hang around which left us with absolutely no hope of us getting what you would consider the ideal Machu Picchu photograph, but we definitely made the best of what we had. Besides you see photographs all the time where everything is perfect, but at least our photographs have a bit of personality:
We took the guided tour which lasted nearly two hours, and then had some time to ourselves to wander around. At about 11:00, the rain still pouring, we retreated for shelter in a cafe and relied on coffee to keep ourselves warm. It was damp, it was cold, it was all round pretty horrible, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way:
After hanging around for the clouds to clear and coming to the sorry realisation that we had absolutely no chance of the sun coming out, we decided to head back. You’d have thought that walking down the stairs would have been so much easier than walking up them, and although it took about half of the time, we still had to take care because of how wet and slippery everything had become:
Once we reached the bottom, it was back to Hidroelectrica to catch the bus, so another 9km of hiking. I think the only thing that got us through the day was how proud of each other we both felt. Alright we are on the other side of the world and every day is a new adventure for us, but I dont think anything will have this sort of effect on either of us for a long long time.
The bus to Cusco took six hours, along the same roads that we took the day before, but funnily enough we managed to sleep this time. Back in Cusco we had food and then went straight to bed after what I can honestly say was the best day Abbie and I have ever shared, if not the best day I’ve ever had.
In two days we hiked about a marathon and climbed to the top of a mountain. Wish us luck, it’ll take something really special to top that one!