Machu Picchu

Firstly a note. This is a double post and the story on the rest of the Sacred Valley was posted at the same time.

After breakfast at the train station we got ok the train. The train didn’t have much legroom (little more than the bus yesterday) but we did get a window positioned next to every seat. At first we got to see the rubbish produced by the citizens of Cusco. I wish they’d add a US$1 surcharge to the US$48 each way ticket price and pay people to clean it up as it’s disgusting. After that we got to see the tight valley the train winds through to reach the Sacred Valley including several switchbacks; especially as we left Cusco. After about 2 hours we again reached Ollyatambo and afterwards headed through the lush farmland of the Sacred Valley. After a while this gave way to the most virgin jungle I had yet seen as we wound our way along the track to Machu Picchu station.

After our journey we arrived into London Paddington Machu Picchu station (if you treat it like London and march straight through you can get the first waiting bus. Keep your guidebook handy for the route through the inevitable Market.) then you are taken to Machu Pichu itself. This meant we got to the top very quickly so we got a lot of time at the top.

It doesn’t exactly have a wow moment like Iguazu does but overall it is incredible and an amazing location to build a city surrounded by mountain peaks and also very challenging to reach. The bus up has to practically hug the cliff on the 30 minute journey to Machu Picchu itself. The highlight for me was the absolutely spectacular views in all directions of the surrounding mountains.

In the city itself we had a wander around and saw the usual half constructed buildings that are present at the other inca sites. The city also is clearly unfinished in places and large boulders take their place among the buildings. Basically the Spanish conquered the incas at the height of their empire so the city wasn’t finished. The centre of the city was a slanted rock which had no shadow on the equinox days which everyone seemed to want to pretend to touch.

After seeing most of the city which includes ledges for growing food for around a 3 hour trip we walked up a path for 30 minutes to get amazing views of Machu Picchu from above. It was as high as the mountain limited to 400 people so the view was pretty amazing, probably as good to be honest. Overall Machu Picchu was definitely well worth seeing and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

PS there are lots of trains from Ollyatambo to Machu Pichu. If you want to spend longer on the mountain but still do it in one day get the bus to Ollyatambo the previous evening and stay in a hotel there and then get the train to Machu Picchu from there and then get the train all the way back to Cusco in the evening. If you don’t stay there you’ll have to get up even earlier as it takes 2 hours to get there from Cusco however you do it. Alternatively you can get a late train from Ollyatambo to the village at the end of the train line which lets you walk up one of the mountains to overlook Machu Picchu whose numbers are limited to 400/day and you have to get entry at 7am.

PPS I’ll be adding photos in the next few days of the site to Flickr and I’ll link them from the story.

The Sacred Valley

So on Tuesday evening we went off to the Pre Columbian art museum in Cusco which had some more pottery of different Peruvian cultures as well as wood and metalwork. I have to admit the pottery was the best however. The museum was run by the same people who ran the pottery museum in Lima and it was also excellent.

Then on Wednesday we went to Pisac at one end of the Sacred Valley and attempted a walk into the mountains along the river. This ended fairly quickly in failure as we only had a 1km=1cm map as that was the best available (even that cost nearly US$20) and the path itself wasn’t clear at all and we kept getting distracted by sheep tracks. Maybe a GPS would have made it more possible. Regardless we did get to see some amazing views of the valley and it was a tough walk so I shouldn’t complain too much. In the evening we went to a small restaurant with excellent food but unfortunately the worlds slowest service.

On Thursday we had some chores to complete in the morning but we also headed off to the Sacred Valley to the other end that is accessable by road to the town of Ollyatambo. This took 2 hours each way by bus and collectivo but still coat less than $2. It was pretty efficient and we didn’t stop much and it was a great way to see the locals. I wish my Spanish was up to conversation too. The only problem with the bus was the lack of legroom but I didn’t have a problem. There are definitely advantages to being short!
At Ollyatambo there was an attractive town which we looked around as well as more terraces and an Inca fort. The inca fort was very interesting and we spent over an hour looking around it. They had also partly reconstructed the fort so you could see what it used to be like. Hopefully they don’t go too far with this though. This end of the valley was also much more tropical than at Pisac which as it was only 30km away was surprising. This was clearly an important valley for the incas. Then we got ready for Machu Picchu the next day for which we had to get up at 5am for the train.