After 3 flights and a bus trip, the day we'd been waiting for was finally here. But...not quite. We still had a train ride across the valley and then a bus trip up the mountain before we got to see Machu Picchu. We had purchased the first train out of Ollantaytambo so it was another early day for us. Our hotel was a little less than a mile from the train station, so we just walked there. It was a nice & quick downhill walk :)
The train ride was perfect. We booked the Vista Dome on PeruRail and it offered some really great views along the way. They also provided drinks (coffee, tea, water, juice) and a snack ( it was a sweet quinoa pastry). It all helped pass the time nicely. As soon as we got to Aguas Calientes, or I believe now they are calling it Machu Picchu Pueblo, it was time to get our bus ticket. There was a long line for the busses already when we got there and it was not moving quickly. We assumed this was the line for the tickets but then we realized that was a different line. OOPSY! So, I just stayed in that line while Jason went to the ticket booth to get the actual tickets. Our little mistake saved us about 30 minutes, though ;)
I was nervous that I would get motion sickness on the bus, but we got lucky and were the first ones on the bus so we picked seats right in front and I got the window seat too. The ride is about half an hour or so and it is straight up and up these narrow switchback roads. I only looked down once and it was enough to make my stomach drop, so I just looked straight ahead and hoped this wasn't our driver's first day! Finally we make it up to the entrance and there's not much to see but more tourists. I knew there were no restrooms once passed the gate to Mach Picchu so I made sure to go! Another tip, make sure you take your passport, not only will you need it to get in to the citadel along with your tickets, there's also a stand where you can stamp your passport with a souvenir MP stamp :) BONUS!! Last minute, I decided to purchased a small book with a map highlighting the sights and giving tid bits about the various sections to Machu Picchu. It was just the right amount of information for us without being overwhelming.
As soon as we handed the guard our tickets I started to get super excited. Once we passed the turnstile and walked through the walkway it was like a curtain had been lifted and we found ourselves in another time, albeit there were a lot of other people who were transported along with us it but did not take away from that initial feeling of awe. Of course, I am not one for big crowds and I'm not gonna lie, it was starting to have a Disneyland-crowded feeling quickly.
But, I had a plan for this too. I'd read most of the tourists were there early and would probably be leaving around lunchtime and I was counting on this to enjoy the grounds a little bit more peacefully. So, my plan was to go on a small hike to the Inca Bridge as soon as we got there to allow for the majority of the tour groups to be on their way. It worked out perfectly. We took our time getting to the bridge and enjoyed the views. I got a little nervous as we got closer and I could see how close to the edge of the mountain we really were and how high up we were. I really held on tight to the cable along the narrowest part to get close to the bridge! EEK!
My plan worked out perfectly and once we made our way back to the main part of Machu Picchu it was noticeably less crowded and we began our own tour. I think we spent over 4 hours walking around the Incan citadel and can honestly say we saw just about everything! While planning our trip, I could not convince Jason to take the 3 day Inca trail to Machu Picch, so we decided we would walk back down the mountain back to Machu Picchu Pueblo. I had downloaded a map of the trail beforehand and we were able to see parts of the trail on our bus ride up so we were confident we'd be ok. The hike down was amazing, but really really hard, especially after already walking around for hours all day. It was literally stairs and stairs going straight down and when we were finally off the mountain, we still had another mile to get to town! By the time we got to the town, we were exhausted, starving, and dirty!
We found a restaurant with good reviews on Trip Advisor (love this site) and went in for dinner. I was so happy I packed a big comfy sweater in my bag, along with a rain jacket I never needed. I also changed my shirt and freshened up as best I could. Just having that change of shirt felt amazing! After a lovely meal, we walked around the town checking out the souvenir shops. The whole town is built for tourists, so it's full of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. It's not very authentic, but it helped pass the time. We booked the last train back to Ollantaytambo and still had awhile before departure, but we just couldn't keep walking around so, we went to the train station and sat there waiting and talking until it was time to board. It felt so good to sit! Our train back was the Expedition, which is was pretty no-frills and I was so glad we paid the extra money for the Vista Dome on our way there. However, we rested and even fell asleep on the ride before we made it back. We were so ready to take showers, and sleep when we got there but those quaint narrow cobblestone streets felt creepy in the cold empty darkness. I don't know where Jason and I found the energy but we trekked up that hill and to our hotel! That hot shower felt so good after our crazy busy day. We packed so much into this day but it was so worth it and I would do it all over again! Ok...maybe I would arrange a car to pick us up from the train station at night instead of walking ;)