Most famous Inca ruin
29.07.2007 - 30.07.2007 15 °C
On the 29th, we caught the train to Aguas Calientes.
We brought only a small bag, leaving the rest of our gear in the hostel in Cusco. It took four hours, and the views were excellent - mountains, rivers etc. On arrival to the town, we bought our bus tickets and entry tickets for Machu Picchu.
By midday, we were ready to enter the site. The first thing you notice is the setting, which is absolutely spectacular. You round a corner, and are faced with astonishing views of surrounding mountains and drops offs on either side to the river below. You can really see why they chose this setting, although once again it is a mystery how they managed to get all the stones up there. The ruins themselves are interesting - again with impeccable stonework - but they are dwarfed by the setting, which to me is what makes this place. I mean, the ruins are houses and small temples, as well as stone terraces - no huge pyramids or anything like that. So the setting is what takes it to a higher level in my opinion, and it is indeed a special experience to see this place.
I will say though, that it is overcrowded and the whole manner of getting here seems too organised and thought out, so you feel like every possible penny is being squeezed out of you along the way. Anyway, we still enjoyed it.
Because we were staying overnight in Aguas Calientes, we had plenty of time to explore the whole place at our own pace, and to just sit and relax. It was fun to sit near the Intihuana - the “sundial” stone (used as a calendar, not a clock), and just watch as one tour group after another came through. Each guide had their own version of the stone’s importance, and of the place itself - basically, no one knows much about Machu Picchu at all, so it’s mostly guesswork. Most of the guides referred to some ‘magic’ energy emenating from the sun stone - and they would get their tour groups to lean in and hold their hands above the stone to feel this energy - no touching, mind you, the energy is too strong for that . This made for quite a comical spectacle.
At around 4 pm we had had our full of Machu Picchu, and returned to Aguas Calientes on the bus, to find a hotel for the night. There are hundreds of them in town, but they are so overprized! OK, so it’s high season - but $50 for a shitty room in a hostel! Anyway, we shopped around and bargained as best we could, and managed to find a double room with bathroom with hot water, for $20. Still not cheap, but manageable. Despite it being high season, a lot of the hotels were quite empty - maybe there is simply too many of them. We had dinner (also overprized) and went to bed.
On the30th of June, we were originally planning to return to Machu Picchu for a second look, but on further reflection, we decided against it. We didn’t feel that the site was big enough to warrant a second visit - and with the bus plus entry it would cost another $100, which we were unwilling to spend on it. So instead, we spent the day in Aguas Calientes, relaxing, and just soaked up the sun. Due to the lower altitude, it gets warmer here than in Cusco, and we took full advantage of that, getting warmed through. We also visited the hot springs which have given the town its name. Despite being dirty, they were quite nice, and they managed to chase the last cold from our bodies.
At 4 pm we boarded the Vistadome train to return to Cusco. On this more expensive service, they have sky lights in the train for better views of the mountains, and they serve a little snack. Also, they had onboard entertainment, in the form of some “traditional” Andean dancing (basically a guy running manically up and down the aisle), and a later an Alpaca fashion show, in which the train attendants dressed up in Alpaca gear and then try to sell them to you for $100 or more.
The train was slower than on the way out, and when we made it to Poroy station, from which the train had another 1 ½ hours to go, we saw bussed outside advertising a 15 minute trip to Cusco for five soles - we jumped at the chance. We returned to our cold hostel in Cusco, where we had our bags.