Today's the day I see another wonder of the world - Machu Picchu. I awake early to a cool fresh morning in beautiful Cusco, Peru. The hostel is still and quiet as everyone is sound asleep. I quickly get ready, gather my backpack and snacks for the day, and call an Uber. It's about a half hour drive to the Poroy train station where the train departs to Machu Picchu. After arriving, I get my passport checked and boarding pass stamped while I wait with the others headed to Machu Picchu. The train ride is about three hours long through the beautiful landscapes of Peru. We pass mountains, rivers, small villages, farms with animals roaming freely, etc. The train is nice, comfortable, and has peaceful Peruvian music playing in the background. We are served drinks (traditional or non-traditional) and a snack twice on the journey. After staring out the window at the trees and mountains flying by for about an hour and a half the train stops at Ollantaytambo to pick up more passengers. Sitting across from me are two other Americans who have been traveling in Peru. I continue to take in Peru's beauty until the train attendants come over the speaker and announce that we'll be arriving soon. The train slowly pulls into Agua Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, and I step off the train into the fresh crisp air. After exiting the station I make my way through the crowded market towards the ticket agency. I arrive at a decent-size line but it moves fairly quickly and I soon have my ticket in hand. There are two ways to get up to Machu Picchu: take a shuttle bus up to the entrance or hike up. Since I didn't have time to do the Inca Trail I decide to hike up at least this portion. Before beginning the trek I explore Agua Calientes which is an incredibly unique town that looks like it came straight out of a story-book. The town has a boulder-filled river running through the middle with bridges over it, the streets are lined with colorful buildings, plazas are filled with statues, there's a stone church, and it's all nestled in the beautiful trees and Andes mountains. I pass over one more bridge and show my passport and ticket at one more checkpoint before beginning the journey up the trail. The cool morning quickly becomes a hot sunny day with the trees providing much-needed shade. The trail winds back and forth with occasional sections of stairs, steep muddy hills, and rocks to climb. I have no idea how long the hike takes (I didn't do my research) and it's a tad more challenging than I had anticipated (it's totally doable...just do your research ahead of time so your expectations are in check). Every 15 minutes or so the trees appear to break way, I hear people talking, and I get excited that I've reached the top. Each time it turned out not to be the top and the people I heard were simply taking a break and catching their breath. About an hour and a half later and dripping in sweat, I arrive at the top...well the top of the hike but bottom of the entrance to Machu Picchu. The entrance is crowded with busses unloading, tour groups gathering, and everyone waiting in line to enter. I file through the gate and find a covered pathway to take a quick break, eat a snack, and charge my phone (yes, there are outlets at Machu Picchu). I finish resting and then begin the short crowded hike up the path. At last, I conquer the hike and the view opens up to the expansive views of Machu Picchu that you see in photos. A picture may be worth a thousand words but, pictures don't do Machu Picchu justice! A little way down the path I'm met by Edison...Edison the alpaca! I take the time to pet him and take in the views from this high vantage point. Once "inside" there are an endless amount of paths to take to explore the different areas. At this point, there is little to no shade so I recommend bringing a hat, umbrella, or sunscreen. Also, it's highly recommended to arrive first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. This is especially true if you want to take beautiful pictures because otherwise, your photos are going to be filled with crowds of people. I wind and zigzag through the upper level down into the lower sections exploring all the nooks and crannies. Several hours of exploring later and I'm ready to head back down.
Calling it a daySince I hiked up, I decide to take the shuttle bus down. If you only want to hike one way, I recommend taking the shuttle up and hiking down for two reasons. First, it's easier to hike down than it is up. Second, taking the shuttle up will save time and allow you to arrive earlier and beat some of the crowds. The line for the shuttle down is quite long and there is a swarm of annoying no-see-ums (you can definitely feel them). I bat off the no-see-ums until I board the air-conditioned shuttle and it makes it way down the back and forth winding road to Agua Calientes. I have some time to walk around town and relax before my train departs back to Poroy. By the time I arrive back at the station in Poyro it's dark and the air has cooled. I step out of the station to an abundance of taxis waiting in anticipation for the train's arrival. I pick a taxi and head back to my hostel in Cusco. The taxi driver is nice and he asks where I'm from, what I'm doing traveling, and how I like Cusco. He even compliments me on my Spanish; I think he is just being nice or he has heard some very bad Gringo Spanish in his lifetime. I arrive back to the hostel and take a nice hot shower...a rarity on my trip. Overall the trip was great and I highly recommend Machu Picchu if you're ever in Peru!
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