Sometimes it's not about the journey, it's all about the destination
Getting to Machu Picchu was not easy. First there were the four flights to get from Seattle to Cuzco. This alone took over 24 hours, and as you may or may not know, I’m not particularly a fan of flying. We then explored Cuzco for two days before “Escape to Machu Picchu Part II” resumed. It was an early morning, and the sky was still dark as we flagged down a taxi driver at 4 am who then delivered us to the crumbling remains of a bus station. Due to heavy rains early this year, the train trip to Machu Picchu now begins with a bus journey, so we then boarded our “tourist bus” for a two and half hour ride to Piscacho.
The bus ride was intense. Stuck in the back seat of 12 person van, Dan spent much of the journey dry heaving in a plastic bag. While I spent the ride peeking out the window eyeing the precarious cliffs we were teetering on. It seemed like the majority of the time on the bus was spent navigating a single lane, gravel road, whose shoulder crumbled into a raging river far below. Once in Piscacho, thankful to be alive, we boarded our Peru Rail train for an hour and half ride to Aguas Calientes. Although we were still teetering on the remains of landslides and washed out river embankments, for some reason I was too engrossed with the scenery to truly care (and anything was better than that horrible bus ride).
Once in Aguas Calientes we checked into our “eco lodge” the Rupa Wasi. Built precariously into the cliff side our little loft room provided sweeping views of the tiny town below and was literally engulfed in the jungle. Sure, the entire room tilted dangerously forward, and any round objects placed on the floor rapidly rolled off into a corner, but we still found it to be … charming.
We didn’t linger long in our vertigo inducing room, but rather quickly bought our bus tickets for the steep journey up the mountainside to the remains of Machu Picchu. Once again I endured flashbacks of our recent bus ride as we lumbered up the dozen or so steep switchbacks on another single lane, gravel road. Thankfully this ride only lasted 30 or so minutes before we were deposited with hundreds of other tourists at the entrance gates to Machu Picchu.
Once through the gates it was a vertical climb to get to the postcard view of Machu Picchu. In a single file we marched like ants, and one after another the sounds of oohs and ahhs trickled down the line as we each caught our first glimpse of the awe inspiring view.
We spent the entire day at Machu Picchu, climbing amongst the ruins, lounging in the grass with llamas, and hiking the many trails in the surrounding hills. Foregoing the knowledge of a guide, we preferred to explore on our own agenda.
Machu Picchu is incredibly vast. Sure, in photos it appears to be a dime sized stomping ground, but in reality we could have spent days discovering the many hidden alleyways and terraces. It was interactive and hands on, and thus it was easy to visualize what life what like here 500 years ago.
Although historians and researchers have spent decades attempting to discover the purpose of Machu Picchu, only theories exist. Some believe it was a “vacation” getaway for Inca royalty, others believe it was built as a prison. Some say it was used for agricultural testing, while others suggest the Incas built it for the Gods. No one really knows, so it was easy to image all the potential possibilities as we wandered through the hundreds of chambers.
We stayed until there were only a handful of tourists left, when the light trickled through the mountains and peacefulness descended upon the hills. It was truly magical and unlike any other travel moment I’ve experienced. We felt worlds away from the realities of life and if it weren’t for the dozens of guards who prohibit such activities, we probably would have camped out there under the stars.
Back in Aguas Calientes we ate a quick dinner before retiring for the night. Oh how I wish things could have ended so sweetly, but instead, food poisoning came knocking down Dan’s door. To make matters worse, the water supply to the town was lost. All I can say is that I was so thankful it wasn’t me. Yet.