(1) Is Machu Picchu in your bucket list? Yes? Have you ever thought of traveling to South America to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World that was built as a refuge in the sky by the ancient Incas? Yes? Have you decided on how to go about your journey, whether you will take the Inca trail trek for 3 nights and 4 days, or simply take the train and bus to reach Machu Picchu at the Andean ridge? Yes? Well, I had a big leap when I decided to visit Peru (Brasil and Bolivia) from my current home base in Dubai, United Arab Emirates last August 2015. A major travel decision that I did not and shall never regret for as long as I live.
During months of planning for my first South American trip, I read several times that it is wise and smarter to acclimatize when going to Peru in order to avoid “Soroche” or Altitude Sickness. It happens when the body doesn’t receive sufficient oxygen from air at high altitude. You can experience shortness of breath, fatigue, headache. You may take Acetazolamide (Diamox) as prescribed, eat lightly, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol intake. However, considering the elevation of Cusco town proper (3,350 meters) and Machu Picchu (2,400 meters), it is best to go directly to Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu from arrival at Cusco airport (since MachuPicchu Pueblo in Aguas Calientes is lower geographically than Cusco); stay there for a night or two to acclimatize, and prevent Altitude Sickness, then spend the next day at Machu Picchu before going back to Cusco town proper.
I did not heed that travel advice (C’mmon, sue me! hehehe!). I found it so essential when I experienced a mild episode of Soroche while ascending to Machu Picchu from its entrance gates. Panting. Laboured breathing. Easy fatigability. I had to rest in between 10 to 15 minute-walk just to catch my breath.
Nonetheless, my Day Tour in Machu Picchu that I availed through Viator was one for the books! I was pick up from my hotel in Cusco near Plaza de Armas at 4AM, traveled via private van from Viator’s local partners, for 2 hours to Estacion de Tren de Ollantaytanbo.
Below is the photoessay of my once-in-a-lifetime journey to Machu Picchu.
(2) Best to arrive in Estacion de Tren de Ollantaytambo as early as possible.
(3) Past 6AM at Ollantaytambo Train Station.
(4) Round trip tickets handed to me by local partners of Viator where I availed my Day Tour in Machu Picchu. You may purchase your tickets at the train station yourself on the day, or better – days before your preferred date of trip, but pre-paying them online from a travel agency saves you time, efforts and spells convenience.
(5) So that’s my train! Inca Rail!
(6) Some travelers opt for Peru Rail.
(7) Sipping Peruvian coffee while waiting for my coach with this view.
(8) Hats off to the very organized and systematic passenger-handling of Inca Rail!
(9) Lovin’ the platform vibe!
(10) This, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls is the Executive Coach B of Inca Rail.
(11) Left Cusco town proper with empty stomach? The train crew serves something to load your tummy, included in the train fare.
(12) Just like in the airplane however this is on a railway. Impressive, isn’t it?
(13) The view from where I sat.
(14) An hour and 45 minutes after, I arrived in Aguas Callientes Train Station.
(15) The gates to Aguas Callientes where passports and tickets are being checked, and where tour guides are waiting for their guests.
(16) Following my casual and friendly meeting with my local guide from Viator, John, we walked towards MachuPicchu Pueblo in Aguas Callientes.
(17) Aguas Callientes (Agua is Spanish for water, Caliente means hot or warm hence Aguas Callientes means “hot waters” or “hot springs”).
(18) The admission gates to Machu Picchu! Before reaching this, we took a 25-minute-bus-ride from Aguas Callientes. Again, my tickets were pre-purchased by Viator, however, you may buy the return bus tickets from Aguas Calientes yourself at the day of your trip, or again, best if you purchase it days before.
(19) From the turnstiles at the gates where passports are again checked, my local tour guide and I ascended to Machu Picchu step by step, with slow phase to catch my laboured breathing. My physical being was terribly challenged by the thin air at MP’s altitude (and yes, you can blame my sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical excercise due to *insert lame excuse here*)
(20) A little past 8 in the morning on August 11, 2015, with thin air and high altitude, foggy and drizzling climate, I laid eyes and set foot finally in Machu Picchu!
(21) Cold, cold, cold Andes ridge!
(23) I know you know that it’s not only you who have been longing to experience Machu Picchu. It’s almost always in everyone’s bucket list, to say the least! Hence, it’s not surprising to see a bit overwhelming volume of tourists. And according to my local guide, expect it to be more crowded during weekends, as local tourists enter for free on Sundays!
(26) From Quechua or the native American-Indian people, the name Machu Picchu was derived from machu old, old person, pikchu pyramid; mountain; or prominence with a broad base that ends in sharp peaks; old peaks.
(27) Notice the colourful raincoats or capa de chuva (in Portuguese)? It’s a must to buy and have one either in transparent poncho, or in your favourite hue, as apparently, drizzle is inevitable in this rainforest area of Peru.
(28) Surprise! Hahaha! I didn’t let the chance to pass without wearing traditional Quechuan attire in no less than Machu Picchu! It’s not difficult to love the men’s chullo or knitted and beaded hats with earflaps, and an impressively handwoven poncho to keep everything warm!
(31) To someone like me who currently lives in an urban jungle called Dubai, where the world’s tallest and the most architecturally stunning skyscrapers are erected, this lush green scenery was such a welcome respite!
(35) One doesn’t need an Architecture or Engineering degree to appreciate the brilliance of how the Incas built Machu Picchu, brick by brick, and everything in precision!
(36) My ever handsome and loyal travel buddy, my alter-ego, @gelothebear conquering MP!
(38) I requested to rest and to sit for few minutes and to cease clicking my cam and to simply savor the moment. However, after 5 or 10 minutes, I found myself taking photos again. I can’t help it; this awesome place is picturesque at all angles!
(41) The Botanical garden in Machu Picchu that you may miss if you go there alone, without a local tour guide. John, my guide enumerated the names of these plants of which many are only found in South America, or at least common in Peru. He pointed to me coca leaves growing in a bush and even emphasised that it’s not a tree. Coca leaves are usually dried by indigenous people of Andean region to make it to tea leaves and chew them habitually. It’s noteworthy that the psychoactive content of coca leaves are only in low amount and quite insufficient to cause addiction unlike processed stimulant and recreational drug, coccaine.
(42) The Temple of the Three Windows or The Three Windowed Temple with 3 trapezoidal windows.
(43) According to my local guide, John, there are at least 3,000 tourists who visit Machu Picchu on a daily basis, and the volume increases during Sunday to 5,000 as locals enter for free as mentioned previously.
(46) The Intihuatana (Intiwatana) Stone, believed to be a sundial that can tell the time of the day, however others begged to disagree hence, it remained a some sort of astronomical or astrological object with unknown purpose. Can anyone enlighten us with Intihuatana stone?
(51) Do you know the differences between a llama and an alpaca? I was also clueless until I visited MP. Llamas are roughly twice the size of alpacas. Another notable feature are the ears – alpacas have shorter spear-shaped ears while llamas have long elongated banana-shaped ears.
(58) The Temple of Condor. To the Incas, the condor was a symbol of cruel injustice. My tour guide mentioned that the Temple of Condor, built with stone-carved “wings” and chamber, was primarily used for animal sacrifices.
(66) Back to MachuPicchu Pueblo, Aguas Calientes. After stamping our passports, I thanked and bid goodbye to my Peruvian travel guide, John from Viator and went down via same route. I took the 25-minute-bus ride from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes at around 12 noon.
(78) After I enjoyed that Peruvian lunch buffet in Aguas Calientes, I walked towards the souvenir-market just before the train station. Bought a few locally handcrafted small items and headed out to the station before 2PM.
Cheers to my day in Machu Picchu!
This South American Travel Blog Series includes :
- Brasil : My Lovely Home in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Helicopter Tour Over Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro
- Itinerary of Must Visit Places in Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : 36 hours in Sao Paulo
- Brasil : Chasing Waterfalls at Iguazu
- Peru : My First Day In Cusco
- Peru : Machu Picchu in 83 Photos
- and so much more to follow. Please stay tuned for stories and photos from Peru and Bolivia!