Visiting and exploring Machu Picchu in one day

Visiting and exploring Machu Picchu in one day

Peaceful night, at last! Some noise from the trains passing, but considering that the hostel is IN the train station I think that’s kind of expected. But even that didn’t disturbed me much. For the record, the hostel’s name is El Albergue and I recommend it! Really cool accommodation and certainly the best place to stay when you need to wake up early to take a train to Machu Picchu!

From Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes by train

Starting the day really early, I think the train was around 6am, and my belly starting to give unpleasant signs…., first “discharge” of the day… But well, with some extra space, a proper breakfast was the best thing to fill the blank! And with a special companion, a very cool cat that was all the time begging for fondling!

And my belly again…, starting with a chemical war…, totally like rotten eggs… TMI? So wait for it… Time to board, a 2 hours long trip to Machu Picchu while my belly was urging to have full attention. Once in a while I had to walk a bit far away from other people… seriously, not funny! The worst was when I had to go, again, to the toilet…, damn!!!!!! WHY IN THIS DAY??? Yeah! That’s right…, diarrhea!!! Machu Picchu day, the highlight of the whole trip, that day all of us were looking forward to…, and the day that my belly and ass decided to betray me!! You can’t imagine how I panic with that! WHY IN THIS DAY???

Inca Rail Train in Ollantaytambo

Ok…, relax…, maybe it was just another discharge, better now than later… Let’s go to the hostel, check in and leave our luggage there! Machu Picchu is waiting for us!!! Ah, wait…, I had to go to the toilet again!!!!! Oh, this was nasty…, and disgusting… I asked where the bathroom is, and they receptionist directed me to a room in the floor above. The bathroom window was towards the hostel’s hall, but the floor above… And it started again! Sounds, smelly waves of not-so-fresh air…, and people laughing… What? Wait? What?? Tajana and Ramón could hear me like if they were next to me, even though they were in the hall (floor bellow). And when they talked I really thought they were next to me in the room! Ok, hopefully that won’t be our room… Then I looked to my side and…, no toilet paper! Can it get worst than that???

Booking.com

A few kilo lighter, perfect for a trekking day! We headed to the bus terminal to Machu Picchu Archeological Site! A side note, Machu Picchu Pueblo, former Aguas Calientes, doesn’t have cars. The way to reach the town is either by train or trekking… That’s why the train tickets should be booked months in advance. The buses just do the route Machu Picchu Pueblo <-> Archeological Site.

We had two options, walking up the mountain, or bus… We decided that we didn’t want to get tired before the main highlight, so we went by bus. A few minutes later we totally regretted it! The view is SOOOOOO amazing! And doing that by bus, so fast, it’s almost a sin! At least that was relaxing, until the moment we boarded into the bus and I realized I didn’t know where the Machu Picchu tickets were!!!!!! Seriously, I think I had several heart attacks during that morning! I found them, they were safe, and we did it!

MACHU PICCHU!!!!

I believe I wrote this before in another post, but in Peru they try to sell every single thing! It is really annoying! And guess what? A lot of guides trying to make us hire them for the day, or just a few hours! One of them even offered a “one hour guided tour” since we had the tickets to the Huayna Picchu part, we refused it, obviously.

Hiking Huayna Picchu

Getting in to the Archeological Site, running across the ruins to the Huayna Picchu entrance and starting one of the three hardest hours of the whole trip! Another side note, Huayna Picchu is part of Machu Picchu archeological site, but they sell tickets apart to limit the quantity of people per day to the mountain. 400 a day and the last entrance is around 11am. The reason for this is obvious when you get there, it is a hard trekking, dangerous and slippery. Also, people might get lost there, or too tired that they even can’t return, therefore they close it at 1pm.

Visiting and exploring Machu Picchu in one day
Visiting and exploring Machu Picchu in one day

In my opinion, that was the highlight of the whole trip. Machu Picchu itself is amazing and worth to visit, but Huayna Picchu…., breathtaking! A photographer’s paradise! One of the most amazing views I had ever seen, after we did it we were tired like hell, but happier than ever! If you can, go to Huayna Picchu and prepare yourself for a very challenging trekking and equally rewarding one!

What I am going to write next might contradict what I wrote before, but we saw shoeless people, kids (who bring kids to such slippery place, with amazing scarps??) and even people with already some age, obviously in very good shape as well! I lost the count of how many photos I took that day (but I’ll get to know the number as soon as I organize my aperture library), but it is really hard not to think about catching every single view and moment of that day!

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We did it to the very top passing through a very small tunnel! And at the very top… BUGS! Damn bugs, I kind of freaked out with them and I really didn’t enjoy any moment there. I didn’t even took time to breath that view, so I run away to a few meters down…, and I was left alone! I waited…, I called them…, and no sign of Tajana nor Ramón. Where were they? I had to climb those few meters that I run down again, and there they were! Enjoying their lunch and not caring at all if I was ok or not! Bastards!

The trekking has two paths, the “big one” through Wayna Picchu (the big mountain) and the other one smaller which I don’t remember nor I can find the name (after checking the photos, I found it, the name is Huchuy Picchu). Huayna Picchu is the name of both parts, I think. And Wayna Picchu itself also has two ways, the bigger one and the one just to and back from the top. We did the bigger one, to the Gran Caverna. If I can recall it correctly, they estimated 40 minutes to the cave from the top, and 1h20 from the cave to the exit…, and yes, it is pretty accurate! We thought not..

But to get there, we had to jump a fence that the security guy put there to avoid more people to go to the long path, he kind of argued with us but he lost all the arguments when we told him that we just saw him let other people pass…, we did it! 40 minutes walking down, and it is hard! Your legs literally start shaking and you barely can control them when you stop. Through that path, we even had to go over wooden stairs, and climb some as well, always down…, and we knew we were going lower than the exit way, which means… we had to climb again….

Classical view of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
Classical view of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu

We did it to the Gran Caverna and we had to (re)start the climbing again… We were really exhausted and kind of frustrated, we though we were in better shape…, and actually we were, just not for that altitude, which makes life way harder! We did it to the end, and within the estimated time. It was definitely my biggest challenge (and accomplishment) ever! 3 hours hiking/trekking at 2400m high and with diarrhea! I did it, and I finished it with clean underwear, if you know what I mean…

Exploring the rest of Machu Picchu

Then a 45 minute relax, eating cookies as a lunch, Ramón even took a nap! How great is that, on a 7 wonder? We walked around the ruins for a while, but both quit quite early, I stayed longer and I went to the very top, to take a photo to the most known perspective. I walked alone for a while, trying to enjoy that 7 wonder…, but after Huayna Picchu it is really hard, I wish I had two days for Machu Picchu, I would enjoy it properly, nowadays it seems that it was just a dream and that I never been there…

Llamas in Machu Picchu
Llamas in Machu Picchu

The day was almost over, or at least our bodies were…, I actually left the site way before than I thought I would, I wished to see the sunset from there…, but yeah, it was really exhausting, one day wasn’t enough for the whole area… Back to the main entrance to meet with Tajana and Ramón, and back to the town by bus, where Tajana met another american guy with another amazing story…

Arriving back to Machu Picchu Pueblo, I had to buy a t-shirt, I miscounted the t-shirts to take with me to Machu Picchu so I was one t-shirt shorter…, well, I didn’t miscounted, I just thought I could reuse one…, like if after a trekking a t-shirt would be usable again…, newbie…, after that the hot shower and a dinner out. Around 8pm we went back to sleep, we were all dead…

Exploring Aguas Calientes

We spent the night in Machu Picchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes, and we had heavy rain during all night, but really heavy rain! After all, it was the end of the rainy season, so not that surprising for us…, but still, heavy rain… Probably it was due the weather that the next morning we had no water, therefore, no shower which we had the night before, so no big deal about it, but we had to brush our teeth with bottled water…, not so fun but part of our experience in Peru.

After that, we had a nice continental breakfast, or at least that’s what they call it, the problem here were the toasts that weren’t toasted…, strange but ok, we were hungry and we had a long morning ahead. Again, following a recommendation of the book we had, we did a small trekking to a waterfall, which we didn’t see because it was already too late and we had to pay to get in.

Booking.com

According to the book, the highlight there wasn’t even the waterfall, but the butterfly and birds sanctuary, and the best time to see them is during the first hours of the day…, that we spent sleeping… However, while at the entrance I saw my first Hummingbird! And also some huge and amazing butterflies, I really wonder what we’ve missed… I also broke the 1000 photos barrier that morning…, and this was just the seventh day.

After that, lunch time! A family size pizza for each one of us! And for a starter, a special coffee to Tajana…, the way they served the coffee was already strange, hot water apart from highly concentrated coffee, she had to mix it. While she was pouring the concentrated coffee, I saw something strange with the solution but no one else saw it, so I thought maybe it was my imagination… However, she didn’t drink it immediately, and while we were talking I saw something really strange with the infusion, I saw like “particles” moving, and I told her to stir the coffee and see what it was. A butterfly inside it! BONUS! Obviously, she didn’t drink it.

Urubamba River, also known as Sacred River
Urubamba River, also known as Sacred River

Regarding Aguas Calientes, it is quite americanized now. According to some locals, they are trying to change the pueblo itself to get tourists to stay longer. Because nowadays there isn’t much to do there, and even the small trekking doesn’t have any information how to follow the path. We got to know about it through the awesome book Tajana has. If you eat out, don’t get surprised by the prices, by Peruvian standards it is quite overpriced and the bills already include servicio which means the tip. Unlikely anywhere else, you don’t have the option to give or not the tip, it is already included.

We went for a small walk, through the markets and we went to the train station for a coffee before our return to Poroy. In my notes I have a line saying that Tajana and Ramón were stressed with the boarding, and I actually reckon that something happened at Aguas Calientes train station, not sure if it was with the coffee or what, I really should have had written this post months ago…

Our return tickets were just to Poroy, if I am not mistaken the reason was that according to the railway website the section between Poroy and Cusco was closed under maintenance, but…, we were lucky! Inside the train, we got to know that the section after Ollantaytambo was also closed, so we got a bracelet that would allow us to go to Cusco!

Train in Aguas Calientes, the Machu Picchu Pueblo
Train in Aguas Calientes, the Machu Picchu Pueblo

Even that train trip was surprising, at some point we stopped for a while next to an old house, I guess that’s not that uncommon since the people living there were already waiting for us. Some people threw food overboard to the people living there, so did we.

Arriving in Cusco, tired like hell and under some rain, we then got the taxi to the same hostel and we got the same rooms…, even though we asked to changed, but it was just one night anyway. We had a light dinner, and back to bed!

Where is Machu Picchu?

By Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

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