Today was another early morning, getting up at 4 am to get ready for the train to Machu Picchu. We had breakfast at the hotel from about 5 to 5:30 am before getting on the bus to head over to the train station.
The train was quite an experience, leaving Cusco at about 6:15 am. The windows on the train fogged up because it was only in the mid 30’s outside. The train then headed up the hill, then stopped, backed down the hill to hook up more cars. That process repeated twice before we were finally on our way.
It took almost exactly four hours on the train through the amazing scenery of the Sacred Valley to get to Machu Picchu. The food on the train was quite good and it was a very high class train ride. We had the middle tier of service, called Vistadome. I really enjoyed the train ride despite the early morning.
We arrived in Aguas Calientes at about 10:15 am. Aguas Calientes has recently changed it’s official name to Machupicchu in the interest of selling more souvenirs. We left from the train station and had to go through the gauntlet of the market to get to our hotel, the Macchu Picchu Inn.
Once at our hotel, we had about an hour to relax before we met for lunch. During the break, we called Grandma and Grandpa Ideker briefly to wish them a happy 60th wedding anniversary since we were missing their party while we were in Machu Picchu. We then hiked the couple of blocks over to the Hantuchay Tower where we had a buffet lunch. While all of the food was included in the cost of the tour while we were at Machu Picchu, the meals here were some of the worst on the entire tour.
Following lunch, we got on the bus to head up to Machu Picchu around 1:15 pm. The bus ride took about 30 minutes on a very narrow, windy dirt road. The road was largely one lane with the occasional passing lane for the busses to get by each other going in different directions. The bus drivers flew up and down this road much faster than I would have been comfortable going, but they did drive it all day every day.
We arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu at about 1:45 pm. Our guide for the tour of the city was named Jafeth. My first reactions upon seeing Machu Picchu were just awe at the surroundings and then wondering why in the world anyone would ever think that this was a good place to build a city. Over the next three hours, Jafeth took us through most of the ruins of the main city complex before the tour ended right at closing time.
We walked in and Jafeth took a number of pictures of the group from one of the first scenic overlooks on the agricultural terraces. We then moved in to see some of the cisterns at the Temple of Water before moving up to the Royal Tombs and the Sun Temple before going into the king’s house and seeing the king’s bathroom. The speculation is that that room is the king’s because it is the only room in the city with a toilet.
Next we hiked up to see the quarry area where Jafeth showed us where the scientists were doing some tests to confirm how the Incas had cut the granite stones with nothing stronger than obsidian tools. They widened the natural fissures with the obsidian and then inserted wood sticks and poured water over them. As the wood absorbed the water and expanded, it would crack the stone further.
We then hiked up the stairs to the temple complex, highlighted by the Temple of Three Windows. We then hiked further up to Intilhuatana or the Sun Hitch. This is the only known surviving Inca Sun Hitch. All of the others were destroyed by the Spanish. The Sun Hitch is so named because of the behavior and relation to the sun on the solstices.
We then hiked back down to the entrance to the Wayna Picchu hike and back through the industrial section and the servants’ quarters area. The final stop on the guided tour was at the Condor, which is a huge carving encompassing two natural rocks in the shape of the condor’s wings and the condor head carved into the floor below.
With 15 minutes left before the park closed after our tour, we raced up towards the Watchman’s Hut to try to take some pictures from the most famous overlook in the site. We didn’t quite make it all the way to the hut before a guard stopped us, but we did manage to take a number of great pictures in the setting sun. The guard finally shooed us out, and we walked back down and ended up waiting with Edwin and taking the very last bus back down to the city. Edwin had left a little earlier and had spent quite a bit of time stamping all of our passports with the Machu Picchu stamp and the date.
Once we got back down, we had a few minutes to clean up and then we had dinner with the group at the Machu Picchu Inn. After dinner, Andrea and I had decided to go up to Machu Picchu again the next morning, so we went and purchased our tickets and then headed to bed. We realized that Edwin still had our passports and that the ticket office had suggested that we have them to enter the next day, so I came back out to the lobby and finally got a hold of Edwin to get them back before heading to bed.