We rose early again this morning and Ayul gave us a tour of the Ollantaytambo ruins before anyone else was around. I loved that he took us to the ruins during these times because later I saw groups that couldn't even hear their guides because of all the noise and people moving around. We learned about how the Incas created their own refrigeration systems by storing grains and crops on the mountainsides where they received cool winds blowing from may directions and keeping the temperature down. It was very windy on the ruins and I wondered at how the little kids could keep from falling down as they grew up on the mountainside. Ayul said they learn as babies to have a great sense of balance. Next we left some of our baggage at El Sauce in storage and continued with an overnight bag on the train to Machu Picchu. The Urubamba River was raging and we heard the next week that it actually took out some of the tracks of the train that had to be repaired. We arrived early afternoon to Aguas Calientes and checked into El Mapi hotel, a very beautiful and trendy boutique hotel. We had lunch at the restaurant next door, great pizza and melon figurines cut out in the shape of fish and llamas. Then we were off to Machu Picchu! It was a short 15-20 bus ride up the switchbacks to the entrance. Ayul made sure we received our MP stamp in our passports as we entered. We made our way then to our first sight of the ruins. Wow! Its hard to describe the feeling. We've all seen it a hundred times in photographs and videos but to actually be there it gives you a sense of awe. How did they create such and extensive civilization in the middle of the mountains and jungles. We could have spent days at MP but Ayul gave us the 4 hour version of the history and archeological findings at Machu Picchu. We were thankful because by the end we were tired and there aren't any bathrooms in the site so you have to hike back down the mountain and come up again, about a 30 minute process all around. Two things that surprised me about the ruins. 1) Llamas are keep by the park to manage the grass so they meander around as they please. 2) There are a lot of people everywhere! You don't see it in the photos and we even went at in the off season, but there are still so many people around. We were so lucky to have Ayul as our guide. He knew the park like the back of his hand and skillfully navigated us around all the groups so that we had time at each site by ourselves for the most part. How he did it I don't know! All around, our experience at MP was a grand one. We felt like royalty with Ayul as our personal guide. We saw groups of 20-30 people walking around with their guides yelling for everyone to hear. Half the group wasn't paying attention and wandering off to take photos. Ayul also showed us the best vantage points to take some spectacular photos. We're so lucky!
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