Thursday, January 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday - My Journey to Machu Picchu

Today I thought I'd go along with Thursday's usual theme: Throwback! I decided to repost how I made my plans back in 2011 to leave Bolivia and head out to Peru and arrive to the magnificent Incan site of Machu Picchu.

I didn't know how even more special our time was when we went to Machu Picchu until we found out while waiting to enter the World Wonder: We were there at the anniversary of Machu Picchu's discovery 100 years ago! Not only did I live a dream of mine, it was amazing to be apart of their countries celebration! Even got a cool anniversary stamp in my passport! I would love to return someday for a more deeper experience there. Machu Picchu is one of those places that will leave you pondering about life.

Although if you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, I recommend planning ahead of time due to space and maximum requirements to enter the site but as I mentioned below, it is possible to make it there last minute....if you are daring like that! ;)

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So my original travel plan was to head to Bolivia with some time set aside to go back to Chile to check out its Northern side. I also wanted to go to Peru but I feared not having enough time to really take in the culture and see everything that I wanted to see in the time period that I had. So in the end, I had decided to hold off on Peru because I really wanted to take my time there and truly appreciate my experience in that wonderful and lively country.

...........So long story short............
 
Plans changed! I wanted to stay longer down in Uyuni, Bolivia but the weather was beyond freezing that it wasn't recommended due to some deaths having occurred out there because of the temperature. They also closed the Bolivian-Chilean border due to the weather conditions so there was no way of heading back to Chile at that time. So I decided to push Uyuni back until after I figured out what my new plan would be.

What to do now?
 
After talking with some friends I had made in Bolivia about Peru and if I should do it or continue on in Bolivia, they pretty much convinced me with this: "Go to Machu Picchu. You are here now. When's the next chance you'll get to go to Peru? What if you never get the chance? It's worth it."

That was it for me.
 
I immediately emailed my friend Nora, who I met on a layover in Lima, who had told me she was going to be in Cusco for six weeks, told her not go to Machu Picchu without me because I was heading there! She was excited to hear she wasn't going on her own or having to find a travel bud to go with and right away she let me know where she was and lets go!

I booked the bus tickets right away. The next morning I left La Paz for Cusco with some time in Copacabana/Lake Titicaca and Puno. Arrived at midnight and went on a search for her. Luck on my side, I ended up getting a bed in the room she was in and she was happy to see me, sticking to my word! Always. Right away we got busy.

Had to figure out how to get there and get our tickets. They only allow 2500 visitors a day to enter Machu Picchu. We had wanted to go right away but we soon realized that we wouldn't be able to go for almost a week. So I had extra time than I had anticipated and really got to check out Cusco. So much history there, it's unbelievable. We quickly jumped on our tickets to Machu Picchu before we figured out how we were going to get there! :-p

Luckily found two spots left on the train from Ollantaytambo--Aguas Calientes--Ollantaytambo. We jumped on those tickets right away! So so so lucky. This whole trip was luck! Then we just had to figure out our way from Cusco--Ollantaytambo and Ollantaytambo--Cusco. We found a 'mini-bus' that makes the trip from Cusco--Ollantaytambo--Cusco at the bus station. Paid, I believe, $10,00-15,00 Soles ($3-5 US) and sat back for one 'wild' ride to Ollantaytambo, a cute little town with amazing Inca sites to see. Wandered around to find a good place to stay for the night. Next day tried to see as much of Ollantaytambo that we could and somehow found the way up to really take in the Incan sacred site, Pinkuylluna.

Headed to the train station and road for about an hour to Aguas Calientes. Before we left, we made friends with a taxi driver who took our names down and promised to take us back to Cusco as soon as we got back to Ollantaytambo so I could catch my bus back to La Paz---very tight! They said it was most likely going to be impossible that I would make it on time---boy were they wrong! Made it with 10 minutes to spare! Woo hoo! --Just imagine how fast the taxi driver was going! Wheeeeeeeee.

Don't forget to try Inca Kola in Peru! Does wonders with Peruvian ceviche. :) Grabbed it for the train ride to Aguas Calientes.

Aguas Calientes. Very small touristy town full of people everywhere. They say it has no purpose other than housing tourists heading to Machu Picchu but if you delve deep there, you may find a few things in store.

Everything was booked and everyone was busy. We searched and searched and finally found a place to stay..AGAIN..it was all luck. First thing we did was, well we wanted to find somewhere to eat but had to take care of business! Went on a search to find the bus station to pay for a bus ticket to go from Aguas Calientes--Machu Picchu--Aguas Calientes. Made it there 1/2 an hour before it closed! Without the ticket, no access to the buses and no day spent in Machu Picchu.

We were finally able to relax a little, found a place to eat some good food for an early dinner--knowing that we'd have to get up at 4 in the morning, and listen to beautiful Peruvian music. I could listen to it for hours. :)


Called it a night. Literally got everything ready so that when we woke up at 4 am, we could just get ready and leave! We lined up around 4:45 am waiting for the buses. Brrrr was it cold! We bought mate de coca from a lady selling to those in the bus line to warm up and as we all had waited patiently. Next time, I'll probably head there earlier because the line sure does get long!
And there we were...off to Machu Picchu!
 
And there you have it folks! If the timing is right and you have luck on your side, you can make it to Machu Picchu in a safe and crazy way! And not spend nearly as much as you would if you booked a tour/train/etc. Of course this was without hiking the trails but that can be arranged my next visit there!

I'd also like to answer my thought at the beginning of this entry with this: Peru is just incredible. And it is worth it to go now, for a day, for a week, month, or as long as you'd like. I'm glad I had some time to go there. I made the right decision. I've had a taste and I want more!

*Tip: If you want to hike Huayna Picchu, make sure you look for that option when you book your Machu Picchu ticket. It costs $10US dollars more but its worth it. You can hike it at 7am or 10am. We missed out on that opportunity but we did end up hiking Machu Picchu mountain, which was free and with breathtaking views! Next time, I plan on hiking Huayna Picchu and then spend another day there really just taking it all in and relaxing.

**Tip: Being in shape is a must! The altitude was fine for me because it's NOTHING compared to being in La Paz, Bolivia, but for those who aren't used to it + hiking up a mountain + the thousands of steps and things to do there = you will be tired! Adjust to the high altitude for a few days (or just go to La Paz ;), be in shape, and take it easy!

***There's a straight forward website where you can easily get Machu Picchu tickets/print them out. Email me and I'll send you the info.

Oh Machu Picchu, such a fascinating site to see.
 
To go along with the Throwback theme, stay tuned for Machu Picchu pictures on the way! Oh how I love reminiscing on my past travels that I hope to make again in the future. :)