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Day 8 – The Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu

(Thursday August 29th)

Today was the first of the two days we were going to spend in Machu Picchu – one of the main reasons for the trip. There are many guide books that cover the history of Machu Picchu in much better detail than I ever could, so I’m not going to try. You’ll find a few photos along the way, but generally I’m going to cover everything else!

After yesterday’s atrocious weather we were expecting the worse – but we awoke to blue skies with a touch of cloud in them. What a change. The assumption had been that we’d need to take fleeces with us, but Juan advised us to pack them – the less we carried the better. Our main cases were going directly to Cuzco, and we were just taking an overnight bag with us.

The Machu Picchu Train

There is only one practical way to Machu Picchu – train. There are two rail companies, Inca Rail and Peru Rail. We were going on the 8:53 (precisely!) Vistadome train from Ollantambay. Juan warned us that the likelihood of the train leaving on time was remote. He was right. Our mini bus drove us to the station in plenty of time – we were informed the train was delayed until about 9:30.

Train to Machu Picchu

Ah well – one great thing about Ollantambay station is there is a great café on the platform. Don’t go to the one in the waiting room, but to the one that looks slightly ‘Olde English’ style next to it. It does excellent coffee.

When Juan heard the train coming, he shepherded us out and to the correct end of the platform for our carriage. We climbed on and settled in. And very comfortable it was. Tea, coffee, coca tea, cold drinks and a cheese and salad roll were served as part of the ticket. Juan warned us not to eat the lettuce in the roll – he’s a bit paranoid about these things, since he caught a very nasty bug once. And in fact all the guide books warn you to avoid uncooked vegetables & unpeeled fruits too. We left it anyway – it was a bit dry.

The journey itself took about one and a half hours through beautiful countryside. The train goes quite slowly, and has to stop at certain points to let the down train past. But it was very pleasant and made a good comfortable start to the day.

Tip: The Inca Rail trains look decidedly more worn than the Peru Rail trains – even outside of the ‘Vistadome’ section. It’s not cheap on the Vistadome – about XXXX in one direction – but worth it on the way to Machu Picchu if you can stretch to it. See (websites) for more details)

Machu Picchu

We couldn’t have visited Machu Picchu in better weather. There were still a few clouds in the sky so it was warm, but not baking hot. Our good shepherd handed us our tickets, we all visited the little girl/boys room (1 sol and toilet paper is extra) then off we went.

Machu Picchu panarama

Toilets in Peru can be a bit basic, and you don’t put toilet paper down them. No – not even the bits you’ve used - if you see what I mean. There is always a waste basket next to the loo in which you deposit the used bits. I’d also recommend making sure you have tissue on you at all times.

First stop was just inside the gate, to stock up with coca leaves. These would, apparently, make any ascents easier. Then off we went. The great thing about (apart from his excellent

subject knowledge) is his experience of pace. You seem to stroll along at a very slow speed, and next thing you know you’re looking down from a height. That’s not to say that there isn’t any climbing, and you do end up puffing – it’s just not quite as difficult as you thought it was going to be. Juan is a bit of a safety first man though. The steps and paths in Machu Picchu are not for anyone with a disability. They are rough and I would imagine very slippery in the rain. But he was a bit too keen at making sure we never went anywhere near any edge, and warned us multiple times about big or steep steps. We were beginning to feel quite decrepit!

We were also lucky in the number of people who were visiting – it was nowhere near as crowded as I thought it would be. Juan said he had seen it with about 5 times as many people in it. We wondered if the previous day’s rain had kept some people away.

There are also security guards, who are there to make sure you don’t go anywhere or touch anything that you’re not supposed to. I fell foul of one of them on our second day – but you’ll have to read on to find out about that!

At the end of the ruins away from the entrance we came across what must be some of the most photographed llamas in the world! There are around 13 Llamas in macho Picchu – and they are so tame! I couldn’t believe it when one of them lay down to sunbathe (as they do) and was quite happy to allow a Japanese tourist to come right up to her and stroke her head for a photo opportunity. My girls and boys would have been off as soon as you got near them!

Juan took us round all the important bits of the site, then we headed back to the entrance and the café. I’ve certainly been in worse cafes but don’t expect the Ritz! They provide all the essentials though, including what must be the bargain of the day – a huge 15cm square chunk of chocolate brownie for 15 sols.

Then for any of us that were still feeling energetic (that didn’t include Art), we returned and walked up to the guards hut above the entrance. This took about 30 minutes of steep but slow climb, but was worth it for the aerial view of the whole site. And the light was perfect.

Hatuchay Tower Hotel

This was our residence for the night. And I’ve certainly stayed in better. I specifically asked for a double room, but something got lost in translation. We got a twin. But I couldn’t be bothered to change it. The view was good – it looked directly over the river.

Hotel view

Tip: Apparently in Spanish a ‘Doble’ room is a twin room. So things do get lost in translation…..

We were given a voucher to get a free Pisco Sour in the bar, so we arranged to meet the other two guys in our group there at 6:30. The bar was closed. We spoke to Reception and they opened it for us – but as soon as he’d made our drinks the barman disappeared. The bar was very basically decorated.

We strolled down to the very basically furnished restaurant (dinner was included) – and it was deserted. Not a good sign. So we decided to go and pull faces at the remaining three of our tour group who were booked into the rather plush hotel down the road. We found them just sitting down to dinner in a very well decorated restaurant with beautifully printed menus, so thought we’d better leave them to it and go back to our own. Aha! There were a couple of other people in our restaurant. We walked in – and the first thing that struck me was the dank slightly mouldy smell that you sometimes get in unkempt buildings. Nothing major – but it was there.

The meal wasn’t bad – nothing special, but again I’ve had worse.

I was glad we were only staying there a night.

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