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Machu Picchu: Amazing

4 July 2006 4 Comments

Day 217 - Monday 24th April 2006

I think it was a 4.30am get up as we needed to catch our train to Machu Picchu at 5.30am. Staggering half asleep through the streets of Cusco as they were just beginning to fill with people we found the train station easily, aware that for the past few days we had been coming home at this time rather than just getting up and starting the day.

Machu Picchu

Cusco at that time of the day is not such a warm place. Funny it hadn’t seemed to be that chilly the on days previous when we were making our way home. From going to bed to getting up didn’t do much for the old body clock and no sooner had we boarded the train that all I wanted to do was go straight back to sleep.

In spite of the US$67 per passenger train fare (a kings ransom when compared to other things in Peru), it didn’t appear there had been any kind of climate control installed into the train, therefore conditions were cold at that time of day to say the least! I didn’t sleep for the whole journey. Instead I sat and froze!

We left Cusco at just past daybreak, however tiredness set in and I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery. Towards the end of the journey the train meandered along the path of a river deeper and deeper into an area known as the Sacred Valley. This at least gave me something to look at to take my mind of the cold, all the while reminding me of the Copper Canyon Railway, way back in northern Mexico.

We arrived at the town of Machu Picchu (formerly Aguas Calientes) and headed to the ticket office where we shelled out our US$30 entrance fee to the site. Having shelled out $100 for the day (way over my budget) I didn’t relish paying the additional US$10 for the 10 minute bus ride up to the ruins. We unfortunately didn’t have time to mess around and walk up the hill so were forced to pay.

All this served to remind me to come better prepared in future!

1. Warm clothes for train
2. Take the train the day before you plan to go to Machu Picchu and spend the night in Aguas Calientes
3. Get up early and walk to the site

On entrance to Machu Picchu, it was apparent that there was an absolute hoarde of people. This didn’t really matter as we walked in and saw the quintissential calendar shot of the Incan town. Absolutely breathtaking.

Lost to the modern world for centuries Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by US explorer Hiram Bingham. Guided by two locals he made the trip up and was presumedly astounded by what he saw. Located on a steep mountain, the sides of which plunge 2kms down to the Rio Urubamba, Machu Picchu is a formidable set of ruins in an even more formidable location. Used as a religious temple and agricultural centre the ruins were part of the great Incan empire.

The agricultural slopes that are carved into the mountain are more often than not a ridiculous angles with nothing to stop a hapless farmer tumbling 2km to his death should he have overbalanced pulling up a weed or somesuch! The precision in which they are edged is remarkable, and of course the drainage systems are very functional.


Standing up on a high point looking out over the site it is hard to imagine why the hell they built a whole city in such an inopportune location! Security is the obvious answer. Either that or they really valued their privacy.

When the old Incan rulers commissioned the construction of the site, they never could have imagined that in a few hundred years their civilisation would be long destroyed and the site of all the hard work would be teeming Western invaders but that’s what it is. We were three of the Western invaders among the throngs who had descended on the site that particular day.

Come lunchtime the majority of the invaders had seen enough and returned on their tour buses, leaving the site virtually deserted. This was the best part of the day and we had about an hour in the ruins virtually to ourselves, which we took advantage of by having a wander uninterrupted.

Although the Incans are long gone, some of their pets have remained. Llamas wander around the grounds keeping the lawns short and generally posing for photos - albeit uninterestedly.

One cool idea the park authorities had was the giving you the option of having a Machu Picchu stamp put in your Passport. Aaron and Jon each got one, and I was given a cruel reminder that I didn’t have a Passport to put it in!

4. Remember to take Passport for cool stamp

We had a spot of lunch before taking our train back to Cusco. The return leg turned out to be the opposite of the first leg. The train had mysteriously turned into a sauna. As we chugged along the winding track through the Sacred Valley everything was hunky dory - even the temperature had evened itself out and I was able to sit back and relax a little. That was until about 90 minutes outside of Cusco, when, in the pitch black, the emergency brake was applied and we screeched to a halt in the middle of nowhere. As it turned out it was probably best that it was pitch black outside, as that way we couldn’t see the remains of the person we had just hit, run over, killed, and whose body was in bits on the underside of the train.

For some reason somebody had been on the tracks and the driver hadn’t seen them and we had run them over. I know neither why nor how, but that’s what happened. We sat there for about 2 hours as the police came and took their report. Unfortunately that is all I know about the poor guy/girl. Over the following days I looked in the newspapers but didn’t see any further story.

By the time we made it back to Cusco at 10pm we were absolutely shattered. We had intended to catch an overnight bus to Arequipa but didn’t have the energy for it, so we checked back into a hotel and collapsed.

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  • Lyn said:

    At such a high altitude was it at all cold - the clouds look pretty low in your pictures- were there other animals or just the yaks in the city. We are getting cold turkey without the blog..

  • SMITHY said:

    yep keep the blog going buddy - love it

    what date do you fly back in to the country

  • Roy (author) said:

    Mum: Llamas mum, llamas!! Haha. Its pretty cold at night but in the daytime the sun is so strong it is pretty warm, prob about 20C.

    Smithy: more entries to come……I arrive back in Blighty at 18.30hrs on Thursday 10th August 2006. 5 weeks today.

  • steven said:

    5 weeks!!! Mum i hope your throwing a party? I’ll keep reading until you get home Roy,see you then….

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