Pt.2 of the South American Journey…
So our next stop over after Lima, was Cusco. The Machu Picchu gateway! After much deliberation and confusing route planning, our trip to the natural wonder, was booked through a travel agent. There seemed like a lot of steps to getting there, and not much room for error and we weren’t wrong.
We arrived the day before the trip, which in hindsight wasn’t a good move as you need at least 48hours to adjust to the altitude. Me being me, totally forgot about the altitude and as we disembarked the plane, thought the travel was catching up to me as I felt rather dizzy and light headed. After a trip to the ladies, I looked in the mirror and my lips had gone purple. After a mild panic that I was contracting something, Charlotte informed me that it was in fact, a side effect of the altitude. Yay, lucky me. It had hit me the moment I got off the plane…
Upon arrival at the hotel, we were given coca tea which helps with the altitude sickness, and whilst drinking it, it did its job! After that, I needed a constant supply of the stuff. Something that they don’t tell you though, is you lose your appetite (yay for diets, but nay for energy), and everything tastes awful for a good 24hours afterwards. Anyway, to help relax before the big day, we decided to get a massage and some reflexology. This in itself was heaven! I felt well and truly relaxed, other than having to stop every 5minutes for some water so I wasn’t sick, but it was worth it for than 2 hours of pampering. It was then a quick meal and to bed for us!
Our alarm went off at 3.30am, and after what we thought was an ‘early night’ I for one wasn’t overly awake at that time of morning. I didn’t sleep very well as the room was hot (hotels in Cusco don’t have air con apparently), my brain was alert for the early start, and I was suffering from the altitude. However, after a few altitude sickness tablets, some paracetamol and half a litre of fresh orange juice, I was ready for the (very long) day ahead!
A mini bus came and picked us up, and after the obligatory hotel stops on route, we started our ascend up towards Machu Picchu. The roads in Cusco are not the most pleasant to say the least, on more than one occasion I thought I was going to be sick. This could have been the altitude, or the fact it felt like we were in an off road rally race.
After 2 hours of being thrown around (albeit quite slowly apparently) we arrived at the train station. Whilst waiting for the Vistadrome train by Peru Rail, we treated ourself to a (awful) hot chocolate from the cafe. For a country that produces some of the best cocoa beans in the world (see my post about Peruvian Chocolate) I was surprised at how awfully bitter the hot chocolate was. But, in all fairness it woke me up!
Aboard the Vistadrome train, we were seated in 4’s with panoramic windows surrounding us, and a dressed table. We were told the 27mile journey was to take 1 hour and 45mins.
I sat back, and watched the world go by. As we were about 30mins from Machu, the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain. One of this things we had read prior to going, was the weather was unpredictable.
The train journey was amazing, the views were incredible, and the railway was super narrow. We randomly stopped about half way, and a few people got off the train in the middle of nowhere to pick up the Inca Trail. Crazy or brave, I’m not sure!
Upon our arrival, we were ushered on to another bus, where the most uncomfortable 20mins of my life happened. I felt like we were having a game of ‘break the egg’ (the game on trampolines as a kid). The sickness returned and I had to get out the coca sweets (equally as unpleasant as the tea). Eventually we made it!
At 8.30am, we had made it to Machu Picchu!
3 things to remember at this point:
1. Machu Picchu has its own weather climate
2. Altitude sickness is more real than you can imagine
3. It’s full of tourists
Excitedly we started walking up the small hill that lead to an opening, the view was unbelievable and the early start and the travel was instantly worth it. Our guide then told us that we were going to go higher to explore the views some more, as well as discover the lost Inca village.
The steps to go higher, are huge. By huge, I mean, I’m 5ft 4 and I’m pretty sure some of them are half my height. Needless to say, after about 5 of these steps, my chest was burning from lack of oxygen, but every time I turned around and saw the view, it motivated me to keep going. That was some amazing motivation!
After some more trekking, we discovered a small group of Llamas. I was in my element! These little cuties were very accustomed to having their pictures taken it seemed and knew how to smile for the camera! I made a little friend who liked having kisses blown at them. Cute!
It’s amazing just to sit at the top of Machu, stroking a llama, and thinking. I was in total awe of the Inca’s and how they managed to build an entire village up the top of this huge mountain. The strength, the hard work and the time it would have taken to get materials up there is phenomenal. A lot of the homes were built by stacking and locking rocks, but even the level of engineering that went in to make the buildings is overwhelming to see. I have a whole new appreciation for team work and time!
Whilst I was up there, feeling at peace with the world, my bad little demon took over and started up with the “what if you were to fall” questions in my head.
This was a very good thought as if I fell or anyone else for that matter, you are well and truly screwed. No helicopters can land safely, it’s not quick or easy to get any medical assistance, you will genuinely have to deal with it until a suitable point! But, that’s part of the charm of the place. It’s full of tourists but it’s not been over catered. It’s still it’s natural self.
All in all the day was approx. 17 hours, but worth all of it. I don’t want to spoil the experience by going on to much, but it worth it. The money spent to get there, the altitude sickness, the tiredness. I wouldn’t change a single thing. This is one wonder of the world that you must see if you ever get the opportunity. Pictures can not describe its beauty, and neither can words.
If you have any questions, or have been yourself, let me know.