Thursday, November 4, 2010


The trip began with a van ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.  I covered this in my last post.  The morning I left for Aguas Calientes (base city for Machu Picchu) I walked for about 2 minutes from my hotel to the train station.  The hotel staff took my luggage for me so all I had to do was enjoy the walk.

If you do this you must ask for the Vista Dome train.  As you can see they have plexiglass panels on the ceiling so you have a complete view of the Andes.  From the map you can see the Machu Picchu is actually down hill from Cusco.    Machu Picchu is at an elevation of about 8200 feet - Cusco is at about 11,000 feet - to compare, Denver is at about 5000 feet.

As the pictures show the ride is amazing.  They served us a nice breakfast.  The seats face each other so you have four people sharing one large table.  The ride is quite amazing - especially when there is a crash, sort of.

We were about an hour from Aguas Calientes when I saw some locals cutting down a tree right next to the tracks.  I have taken down many a tree in my time.  You use rope to guide the fall.  The locals decided the best thing to do was to just allow the tree to fall on the tracks.  In a way thank god the train was far enough along that it did not fall on the tracks just ahead of the train.  It fell on my car.  My ceiling panel was the third back from the front.  The first two were shattered by the falling tree.  No one was hurt.  Because it was plexiglass they just shattered and did not fall into the train.  We spend about a half hour as the locals just laughed at all of the tourists on the train while they took pictures of them laughing at us.  The staff on the train were very professional.  The incident just added to the adventure.

From the moment I arrived in Aguas Calientes I was treated like royalty by Condor travel.  We got off the train and a representative was holding up a sign with my name on it.  I was immediately introduced to my tour guide and we were off to the bus station - about two blocks - while porters from El Mapi hotel took my luggage to the hotel and put it in my room. 

It is about a 20 minute ride in a very nice bus up the mountain.  It is a winding road.  The drivers are amazing.  There is no real bus schedule.  The buses are lined up - as they fill up they go - I would say every 5-10 minutes.  Now remember for every bus which goes up, one must come down.  The first time you see a bus come barreling down the mountain at your bus it is kind of scary.  The road is dirt with some rock.  On mountain edges they some how pass each other as one backs up and the other moves forward.  It was a fun ride.

Even though you are higher than Denver, Machu Picchu is a rain forest because of its proximity to the equator.  When I got out of the bus I could not breath.  The humidity was quite intense.  My tour guide had me sit while we put on sun-block and mosquito repellent.  I did not see any mosquitoes.  Also my tour guide told me the sun-block is enough.  Apparently mosquitoes do not like sun block.

We were off to the entrance - a little climb and through an original Inca home and there you see it.  It is breathtaking.  I could not imagine ever forgetting this moment.  My guide took me on a 2 1/2 tour.  I had a private guide and was glad my agency made that decision for me.  It is a lot of walking and climbing up steps.  With my breathing problems we had to stop a lot. 

For tourists who cannot handle it they have a medical clinic.  A woman in her late 30's from New Zealand passed out and according to her husband received excellent medical care.

I do not recommend bringing children.  The  few parents who brought their kids truly regretted the decision.  You do not want to have to carry your kid all over Machu Picchu.

Anyway - the architecture was amazing.  The thing about Machu Picchu is its location.  This place has survived over 500 years of earthquakes.  It is amazing how the Inca people understood earthquakes and were able to build temples and homes to withstand them.

The picture I chose, I chose for several reasons.  The peak in the background is climbed by 400 people a day.  You have to get to Machu Picchu by 6 a.m. to get on the list.  I met a woman from the UK who lives in Spain.  She is 66 years old, walks with a cane and is bent over from pins in her back.  She made the climb.  She says she spent 6 months in Spain with a trainer.  I met her coming down off the mountain when I was at Machu Picchu for the second day.

About 10 minutes before the end of my tour it started to drizzle.  It was amazing watching the storm come over the Andes from the Amazon.  The smell was wonderful.  That night we had a huge thunderstorm.  I slept with my hotel window open and just enjoyed the smell of the rain.

After the tour we ate lunch at Machu Picchu - My package included a buffet lunch at the hotel at Machu Picchu.  yes $33.00 is pricy, but I enjoyed the meal.  I had a white fish from the Amazon along with sweat potatoes and yellow lima beans. They have a hotel on the mountain - it ranges from $750 to $900 a night.  I stayed at El Mapi in Aguas Calientes.  It is $200.00 a night plus $38.00 in taxes.  Peru has a 19% sales tax.  I was very very happy with my hotel.

Tomorrow day two in Machu Picchu and the train ride back to Cusco.

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