Onwards to Machu Picchu!
The train left early in the morning, so we left Santa Teresa before dawn to make it to Hidroelectrica, the project/village that houses the train station and the hydroelectric station that provides power to most of Peru. Upon arriving at the train station, we were informed that the train departing in the morning was for local Peruvians only and there was NO WAY they were going to let foreigners on it. We argued, we offered insane amounts of money, we moaned and groaned, we almost threatened (not quite), but the train staff would not budge. So, what did we do? We walked the tracks! Vidal jumped on the train with all of our bags and said he would walk back and meet us when he got to Aguas Calientes.
We walked about 2 hours along the tracks to Aguas Calientes, which ended up being one of the best parts of the trip for me! The natural beauty of the area was incredible and we followed the Urubamba River all of the way. We could see Machu Picchu way above us on the cliffs. We pretended we were Indiana Jones or Hiram Bingham. With about a 1/4 mile left to go, we saw Vidal walking toward us. He had taken our bags and checked into our hotel rooms for us and had made it back in time to guide us to Aguas Calientes.
We took quick showers, ate lunch and boarded a bus for Machu Picchu. Almost two full days to explore! As Ashley and I rounded the hill and the ruins came into view, I had a profound moment of realizing where I was and how incredibly special this place was. I have traveled a lot of the world in my few years, but I have never felt like I did when first seeing Machu Picchu. It actually changed my life. I just wanted to sit down and watch it for hours.
After exploring the ruins on our own, we returned to Aguas Calientes. Our friend and traveling companion, Chris, took Ash and I out for a fantastic dinner at Indio Feliz. The food was Novo Andino and everything was delicious. I fell asleep that night realizing that I would have another day to watch the sleeping majesty of Machu Picchu.