My Machu Picchu journey started with a day in Lima before I flew into Cuzco. I’ll be leaving Lima for another blog as I spend more days there in November. Flights to Cuzco are plenty and you can book them online or through an agent. I booked my Trip via Bamba Experience, http://www.bambaexperience.com/. They helped me book my flights, hostel and also, guided tours to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. (Quote Stella1818 in your email when you book with them, offer lasts end October 2017 but you can travel anytime so don’t wait!!)
Upon arrival in Cuzco, it was already late in the evening. Cuzco is an amazing city. It’s crazy busy and there seems to be a celebration on the square all the time. When I was there, I saw children parading the square with lanterns, similar to our mooncake festival but in a larger scale. When I asked, them what it was, they said it was to celebrate St Marks day and they have almost a festival every other week! The party and music lasted the whole night so I didn’t get much sleep before my hike the next day to the sacred valley. The one nice thing I did was get an Incan massage for only 50 soles after dinner.
In Cuzco, you have to try the Cuy, which is guinea pig done in the traditional way. It’s a bit boney and evil since we keep them as pets but hey, when in Rome gotta do what the romans do right? You can also try alpaca which has zero cholesterol and tastes a bit like venison. The roast chicken is also very delicious!
The next day, I woke up at 5am to pack an over night backpack for Machu Picchu and Savred Valley.
The sacred valley hike is a moderately difficult one, because you hike from Chinchero (3600m) up to Piuray Pass, 4200m at the highest and then down again to about 2900m. The hike is gorgeous as you get a fabulous panorama of the Urubamba mountain range and I was lucky I had my guide Sergio from Bamba who was very knowledgeable about the terrain and also played the flute for good weather. It worked because the initial clouds that we saw cleared up as we hiked along. He also taught me how to pray in the Incan way using coca leaves.
Because I had a slight headache, he told me to put Coca leaves in my mouth and let it stay there. Somehow, it worked as my headache went away, maybe because I was also blown away by how beautiful the sacred valley is. If you’re lucky, you get to see condors and pumas. I only heard the pumas and saw the condor from very very far away but maybe you would get luckier than me. I was already very grateful for the good weather.
The highlight of this hike is the Incan ruins of the sacred valley, Huchuy Qosqo, which means little Cuzco. It’s a beautiful Inca city built about the same time as Machu Picchu and the best part is, it’s not as touristy. In fact, I was the only one with my guide the whole time and then we ran into another small group. The view from there is magnificent as you can see the entire sacred valley from there.
Hiking down is the tough part. If you do any hike, I’ll advise you to get good hiking shoes. My shoes were running shoes so I fell down 3 times coming down the steep slopes towards Lama. Once we reached Lamay, we had a wonderful drink called Chicha which is holy as well as it’s made of fermented corn, which is a gift from Pacha Mama, who is Mother Earth, who is revered by the incans. According to my guide, you’re supposed to offer some of the Chicha before drinking it, to thank Pacha Mama for everything she has given us. You offer it by pouring some of it on the floor.
A car picked us up from Lamay to transport us to Ollantaytambo. This town also has an archaeological site and if you have more time, you can buy a ticket and explore it too. It’s pretty impressive.
From Ollantaytambo, I took the Inca Rail to Aguas Calientes, which means hot water, it’s also now known as Machu Picchu town as it’s the place where you catch the bus or hike up to Machu Picchu the next day. The train ride was comfortable and it’s about 1.45 hours and it’s super scenic so don’t fall asleep. You can see the river, the glaciers and the mountains. You also get a drink and a snack. The ticket cost about USD60 one way. There is also another company called Peru Rail and they make the same stops.
I arrived in Aguas Calientes at sunset.
Many people think that the sunset or sunrise in Machu Picchu is amazing. My guide actually said because it’s perched in between mountains, you don’t see the real sunset or sun rise as it’s blocked by the mountains. You get the best light for photos around 8-3pm. So now you know you don’t have to get up to catch the 530am bus unless you want to be the first ones there, or am doing Wayna Picchu at 7am. Just remember, everyone thinks the same as you and will also want to take the 530am bus. I took the 730am bus, reached the site at 8am and it was not too crazily crowded. I met a group on the train that did the 530am bus and they were 60 people in that group.
My ticket only included Machu Picchu but not Huayna (Wayna) Picchu, which is the higher steeper climb from Machu Picchu. Friends who did it says it was amazing, the view. I’m kinda glad I didn’t because my fall from the day before at Scared Valley hurt both my toes and knees and I will have trouble hiking down. Instead, I hiked to Sun Gate, which is the other direction and it gives you views of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu and it’s a much easier hike, only 2 hours up and down and it’s less steep.
Hiking to Huayna will take you 3-4 hours and a fall can be fatal. If you want to do Huayna Picchu, you need to buy your tickets way in advance because only 400 are allowed each day to hike up and 200 each time, at 7am and 10am. I m strongly recommend getting a guide for Machu Picchu so that you understand the mystical and magnificent history of this amazing site. I was lucky to have a personal guide as I was the only one on the tour. I saw guides outside offering services so if you do go there on your own, you can engage a guide at the entrance.
The incans built this civilization in the 14th century only to leave it due to the Spanish invasion after 150 years. It was discovered in the 1900s by a farmer who was wondering where the terraces led to! It is so magical and now it’s the most visited site in South America. So you will need to plan if you wanna do this and book your tickets early. The photos don’t do this magnificent wonder justice so you need to come see it yourself!
Remember to bring your passport to the site. You need to show it for entry and also the bus and trains. Also, you can get a Machu Picchu stamp at the exit! How cool is that?
You can only walk in 1 direction within the site m, so the guide will bring you on the right to see the actual site, you head out after the tour, then you head in again to explore the guard house and the sun gate on the left. Views from the guard house is amazing. You can only use your ticket to enter twice so don’t turn the wrong way. Remember, right, then left on the second entry.
Hiking in sunny weather can be real hot so bring a cap and wear sunblock. Bring insect repellent too. If it’s cloudy and windy, it can be cold so bring a windbreaker too as the weather is unpredictable in the mountains.
At sun gate(inti punku), at the mid point, there is a holy rock near the temple where there are 4 pillars. It’s a good mediation spot. I prayed to Pacha Mama and thanked her for the great weather as it was supposed to be raining and cloudy when I saw the weather report. It only got cloudy and started to rain a little when I got into the train back to Ollantaytambo.
If you are staying in Cuzco for more days and am fitter than me, and have good hiking shoes, you can do the rainbow mountain hike and/or the very popular 4D3N Inca trail where you really hike up to Machu Picchu without bus or train.
I came down from Machu Picchu around noon and the queues for the bus was long but I managed to get on in 30 minutes, just in time for lunch and the 230pm train back to Cuzco.
I believe that you can do all the above on your own and book individual tours and hikes on your own. Having Bamba help me book everything just took the hassle out and I don’t have to bother about finding the places as they pick me and drop me off. Their guides are pretty good too and speak good English.
So here you go, the magical Machu Picchu journey! Start planning and if you do use Bamba, do use my code Stella1818 and email them to book. I don’t get anything but you get 10% off the trip so have fun!
For more videos, follow me on Facebook and Instagram @ 4toegraphs to see more photos and videos of this amazing place