Tairona Inca: Colombia and Peru in 2 Weeks
Day 10 – 11: A journey to Machu Picchu by train from Ollantaytambo to Agua Calientes. Spending a night in Agua Calientes and exploring the world wonder in a day. Ending our tour with a train back to Cusco.
The overnight trip to Machu Picchu was added to our tour with Llamapath. For those who don’t have time to hike to Machu Picchu, this day trip covers the main points of interest.
We left the Lares hot springs and drove to Ollantaytambo dropping off two of the trekking crew at a train station in one of the small towns we passed through.
The mountain drive was peaceful and very scenic. Along the way we spotted several Inca ruins that could be seen from the road.
This area use to belong to the Incan Emperor Pachacuti and present day it is a touristy town and a starting point of the Inca trail.
There are many Inca ruins in the mountains surrounding the town including an extensive wall of agricultural terraces for farming and some Pinkuylluna, which are storehouses for grain and other crops.
Our van dropped us off at a restaurant where we would have dinner.
We had some time before dinner was prepared, so we explored the town square surrounded by stores. It was similar to Cusco, but on a much smaller scale.
The chefs at the restaurant presented us with a special surprise for dinner, roasted whole guinea pig! I was very curious to try and sampled two pieces. One of which happened to have the heart. The roasted meat was very tasty and the heart wasn’t bad either. Alex had the head and showed us the tiny ear bone that is used in a Peruvian drinking game.
We then loaded up into a Tuk Tuk caravan to go to the train station.
The line for entering the train station was pretty long. After the security checked our tickets and passports we found out that there could be a three hour delay. That didn’t sound good so we moved our group to the side of the platform and sat down.
Eventually our train arrived and it only took thirty minutes or so. As we were lining up to board, another train passed through on the tracks next to our train.
Without warning we were sandwiched between two trains, one moving by with less than half a foot of clearance from our unprotected bodies. Uncomfortable to say the least.
The PeruRail train to Aguas Calientes was quite comfortable. They served tea or soda and muffins or bread while a traditional flute music played in the background. Though pleasant at first the music was quite loud and became repetitive. But that didn’t stop us from drifted off to sleep.
A couple of hours later we arrived.
Disembarking the train, we found ourselves in a chaotic mass of people moving in every direction. We followed Alex through a market and into the town.
This small town named after its hot springs is the main stopover to Machu Picchu. It didn’t have main roads and was relatively quiet.
We arrived at Waman Hotel, which is currently rated as the best B&B in town according to Tripadvisor. It was very central and had pleasant staff.
Alex gathered us in the lobby and told us the plan for the next day. He also gave us the limited tickets to Huayna Picchu.
Then we retired in our respective rooms which were basic but clean and comfortable.
The next morning, we got ready and had breakfast at the buffet upstairs. The hotel restaurant had a great viewing tower over the rest of the town.
Alex walked us down to the bus line. We left our luggage at the hotel and just brought our daypacks.
The line was long and not moving at all. Alex knew that something was wrong as he’s never seen this before. We eventually found out that there was a huge landslide blocking off the road up the mountain.
Somehow the line started moving and passengers started loading onto the buses.
The large bus expertly maneuvered the sharp curves and steep drop offs.
Then suddenly we were face to face with a line of several buses going downhill. Our bus had to back up and even backed around a corner. Then when all the buses passed we moved forward and stopped at a stairway. Time to get off.
The bus took us about a quarter of the way up and we had to walk the rest via the stairs. It was a long muddy and tiresome walk. Many people were unprepared and some looked like they were close to fainting.
We made pretty good time, but the whole ordeal really pushed us back. We missed the entrance window for Huayna Picchu. Once the group assembled, we entered the site.
This Inca estate was built around 1450 then abandoned during the Spanish Conquest. The city was never completed explained Alex. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Our group walked around the mountain and then the ruins came into view. Even with high expectations, I was still not disappointed at the magnificent view before me. The morning fog hid parts of the ruins adding to the intrigue of the site.
Alex found a quiet area where we sat and were explained some of the history.
Then we took the guided tour and made our way across to different temples followed by the chambers of the king. Through evidence in the chambers we understood the Inca’s advanced connections with summer and winter solstices.
The sun came out and the fog disappeared as we neared the top, which meant we had excellent photo ops.
We enjoyed our time exploring the site and it was less crowded than I had expected. Alex reminded us that we had a train to catch so we walked down the mountain and caught a bus back to town. On the way out visitors can press a Machu Picchu stamp into their passports (or on a piece of paper).
Back in town we went to a nearby Peruvian restaurant for lunch. And oh what a grand feast! We had some excellent local dishes and cusquena beer. We were celebrating our successful visit to a world wonder.
The journey back to Cusco was uneventful. We caught the PeruRail train to Ollantaytambo where our driver drove us the rest of the way.
We checked into our respective hotels. We stayed at the Inkaterra La Casona in Plaza Las Nazarenas. The square was quite quiet and our hotel door was closed. We knocked and a doorman was waiting.
For dinner we met at Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse. We were very lucky to have our large group seated immediately because the restaurant was packed. Most of us ordered their BBQ specials which were cooked to perfection! The meat was very succulent and of course I went with alpaca steaks.
We reminisced on the past few days as we drank Pisco Sours. It was a fitting way to end the four day journey that will be etched in our memories forever.
Up next is a bus tour to Lake Titicaca!