Machu Picchu is every bit as amazing as the photos. It took quite the journey to actually get to the ruins in the sky! An early morning was ahead of us as we gathered our belongings and jumped in a combí, the buses around town, and we’re off to the train station. Outside of Cusco, the train station is a short 2 hours away. I’ve got to mention, that the driving in Peru is ludacris, absolutely insane. Forget drivers making their own rules in NYC, this is a whole new level. Combís share the road with one another and zoom around as if a speed limit doesn’t exist, only to come to an abrupt halt to slowly roll over a speed bump lying in the road — the only reminder to “drive safely”. Using your horn is a must, because these busses will drive around any and everyone. What makes matters worse, is that the locals will run across the street and dodge these cars to get to where they need to go. I have truly witnessed human Froger.
Once we whipped around the bends on the highway, dodged a couple locals here and there, we started to go down into an enormous valley. Never, have I ever, seen such beautiful mountains. They were absolutely gigantic and brought a pause to anyone taking them in for the first time. It was an amazing reminder of how small we really are. Our driver was gracious enough to pull over at a viewpoint. This vista was magical. Infinite rolling hills and terraces as far as the eye can see. We continued our descent into Ollantaytambo, the town where the train was located. Once we arrived, we got a quick bite on an empty rooftop, where we noticed ruins in the distance. These ruins were the original Inca storage holds. These ruins atop the mountains gave us a little taste of what Machu Picchu would have in store for us. We mozied to the train station, and got aboard the Peru Rail.
The sights were filled with mountains, jungle, river, and sunlight. It truly felt as if I were transported into the Jungle Book. Mowgli, where you at tho? I tried passion fruit juice or “jugo de maracuyá”, and it was so delicious. 2 more hours passed, and we finally pulled into Machu Picchu pueblo. Our hostel guide was waiting for us and he led the way through the market to our new home quarters.
Machu Picchu pueblo was a cute little square with trees made of recyclable bottles and Christmas lights all over the place. We grabbed some dinner at one of the restaurants that were serving tacos. To my surprise, when the tacos were placed in front of me, I noticed that noodles were piling out of them. Yes, noodles. Spaghetti noodles. I looked at Kurstin in shock. Is this for real?! Y’all, let me say it again, my “tacos” were overflowing with SPAGHETTI. If that’s your thing, cool. It is, however, not MY thing. You’re probably thinking, “OMG, that’s insane! She definitely gave them back. She definitely asked for something else. No, she definitely didn’t EAT them.” Oh, how I wish you were right. Alas, I opened up the soft spaghetti taco -dripping in sauce by the way– and slowly picked out the chicken and peppers. I was too stunned to do anything else. Well, you live and you learn. NEVER order tacos at a restaurant in Peru, it’s a trap to try their latest invention.
The next day, we awoke at 5am, and tracked our way to the bus stop that would drive us to Machu Picchu. There was a huge line, made up of tourists from around the world, sporting their very own pastel colored poncho. Being from the Northwest, I laugh at people who wear ponchos, so I politely declined to buy one from the lady selling them. The line went fairly quick. There were at least 5 buses coming and going every 10 minutes to take those of us who opted out of the 2 hour climb up the mountain. Once on the combí, we started to wind up the mountain, turning around dangerously tiny corners, completing the switchback Olympics — in my opinion.
When we reached the gates, I was overjoyed to get off the combí. It was a definitely kiss the ground type moment. We were welcomed by a slew of guides looking to take tourists inside. We had a personal guide that we waited for, for over an hour, who didn’t show! So, we took matters into our own hands and got our own.
- Machu Picchu was founded in 1902 (by someone who was apparently wandering around these giant mountains for fun).
- Machu Picchu had its first “tourist” in 1911.
- Machu Picchu still has its complete original structure today with 30% still yet to be uncovered. (However, there has been a bit of construction to ensure the buildings stay standing).
- Machu Picchu was built for farmers and working people (“What?! This isn’t an Incan palace in the sky?” I mean, it is, but for the working people!)
- Machu Picchu is admired by most for its amazing advances in agriculture, engineering, and architecture.
And, there you are! Machu Picchu is truly one of the most amazing wonders of the world, and I couldn’t help but smile as my thighs were burning with every step I took (there were a million stairs). Back to Lima we go!