I woke up this morning very excited, after all this was the reason that I came on this trip. Today I would be going to the place my dad always wanted to go & couldn't get to because of his health. It was the day I would visit Machu Picchu.
After an early morning call around 05:30, I had a shower & went down for my breakfast. After a buffet breakfast & the usual Coca tea, I was ready to join the rest of my travelling companions on our three-part trip to Machu Picchu. We boarded the coach outside the hotel at around 6:15 & set off through Cuzco on the first part of the journey to the Inca city that was rediscovered by the outside world again in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.
After a two-hour coach trip, we arrived at the train station near Ollantaytambo where we are to catch a train to continue our journey. To go to Machu Picchu you have to book in advance & we soon enter the station after showing our tickets along with copies of our passports. Each person has an allocated seat & a time to catch the train. The train we are on is the first one of the day & the platform is very busy with porters bringing out provisions for the train & parcels that are to be taken to Machu Picchu. We board the train & are shown to our seats by the hostess for the carriage we are in. We sit four at a table, two by two, on either side of the aisle & it surprises me how much room we all have & how clean and well organised it all is. The hostess reminds me of the hostess you expect to get on any airline flight you will take, smartly dressed, very helpful & always smiling. We soon set off up through the mountains as the railroad follows along a winding river crossing & re-crossing the Inca trail that many people Trek to get to Machu Picchu.
The train journey takes another two hours & we are served a snack & drinks by our hostess. The landscape we travel through is beautiful & the river roaring alongside us is full of white water crashing over rocks scattered throughout it. I wonder if they do white water trips through the valley and if they do how many people are injured trying it out. We arrive at the Machu Picchu station and then are separated into two smaller coaches to climb the last section of the mountains to Machu Picchu.
From here people are setting out for a walk up to the Inca city which from here we can still not see. The coach climbs up a winding road clinging to the edge of the mountain which is barely wide enough for a coach in places. For those of us next to a window, we are given great views of the drops down the mountain & the climb up it. Between the winding loops, we can see steps built up the mountain in a direct route to the summit. These steps are for the visitors that decide to walk to Machu Picchu, to allow them a more direct route than the winding route we take. If anyone actually takes these steps up rather than the winding road, I would be amazed. The steps are so steep I got worn out looking up them, I imagine a mountain goat would have difficulty using them & the only walkers we saw were all using the road that the coaches travelled. I don't know how long it would take anyone to walk this last stretch but it takes another half hour in the coach & I can't see anyone walking it in less than 2 hours.
When we arrive at Machu Picchu itself we split into two groups of 14 to have a guided tour around this amazing place. The words do not exist to describe how I felt when I got here & started to look around the place my dad had always wanted to visit but never could. I am getting a lump in my throat just remembering it & writing down these notes, but I guess the closest words I would use to describe my feelings are awe, amazement, gratitude, love, peacefulness & sheer glee at making the effort to see something so wondrous.
Our guided tour lasts around two hours & how I manage to walk around & up & down so many steps, at around 9,500 feet amazes me. We see the Kings complex of rooms, more steep steps, many springs & fountains, steps, an unfinished temple, storerooms & some more steps. Our guide had said that she would miss the last climb to the sundial as it was steep & some of the group may not be able to make this last climb. Taking my walking stick in hand I asked which way to go to get to the top, others echoed my desire to finish the climb & she changed her mind & took us the rest of the way up. We arrive at the sundial & I find myself thinking of my dad & wishing he was here with me, I know he would have been looking down on me with pride & looking through my eyes at everything I could see. This is the section that you see in all of the travel photos & must be the most photographed place in Peru, it truly is incredible & if it's not on your bucket list, it should be.
After finishing the walking part of our tour we have a buffet in a large restaurant built under a large expensive hotel here. I don't think the Incas would be too impressed by the addition of a hotel, restaurant & tourist shop here but I was glad for a sit-down & a rest. The food on the buffet was a very high standard & there was lots of it, some people were complaining that it was a bit cramped & that the service wasn't that great. I agree it wasn't a hugely expansive building but the service & food were excellent, get a grip people you are at Machu Picchu, what happened to the sense of awe you felt a few hours ago when you got here. As a must place to visit it will also be a place I never forget.
After eating we re-join the small coach to take us back down to the train station. Here we catch the train for another two-hour trip back to our coach. The view on the way back is not as good as the way up as the sun drops behind the mountains & it soon gets dark. At the train station, we meet our coach for another two-hour trip back to our hotel in Cuzco.
On getting back to the hotel I have a few beers & listen to Les Dawson on the Piano again, where we are also treated to a few songs from Edith, wife of Rene Artois from Allo! Allo! fame.