We had all dedided that every town we visited was better than the first and we had not yet arrived at Machu Picchu! What this day would bring, we just couldn't imagine.
We joined our group and hopped in the motorcycle taxi down to the train station, which is the preferred (and possibly only ) way to navigate the final miles into the town of Aguas Calientes.
Our train was another experience that was better than expected. Riding down the river valley, the view was fantastic. Passing ruins, walls, and the Inca trail, we finally passed the tree line. Not vertical, horizontal. We turned a corner and then all of a sudden the steep hills were covered in lush vegetation. Ah, we must be getting close; starting to look like the pictures. About a 2 hour trip.
Arriving in ''Hot Springs'' Peru, we emptied directly into the market. Capitalism is alive and well in Peru! Teddy told us to keep our head down and keep walking, lol. Here we did see the famous hairless dog, donning a dapper sweater. Covering up that bald back, I suppose. Our hotel was just across the street, and after passing a few kittens and a couple of more dogs, we were in our room.
After dropping our luggage, we were across the street to the bus pickup, the bus that takes you the last 25 minutes up the mountain. Being from the mountains ourselves, we have been on many roads like this. If you are from Florida or Iowa, this was probably pretty traumatic. Gravel road with lots of swithbacks and 2 way traffic on a one lane road. Probably ten buses on the road at all times. Our bus was full of people from literally around the world. The people next to us were from Australia. This bus was also full of anticipation and excitement, as I suppose this was a life long dream for almost all of us on board.
At the top, the entrance was very well organized and reminded me of going into a very nice zoo. Taking tickets, showing passports and such with local guides readily available for those who were not on a tour.
Teddy whisked us away to the top of the ruins and quickly suggested we go ahead and hike to the top of the trail to the Sun Gate while still morning. We would then come back to the ruins in the afternoon, as the crowds would be thinned out by then. Another great idea. The boys ran ahead, and Mario and Betty stayed behind, but it was a fairly easy walk of about a mile and a half up to the top. This was on the original Inca Trail, and if you charter for the Inca Trail, this is your approach to the ruins.
The views at the top were definitely worth the effort and we returned to the entrance in time for lunch.
You had to exit the park to use the restroom and the cafeteria, but this was very easy to do and we again found the food to be very good and very reasonable. We had chicken wraps!
Back in after lunch and the crowds had begun to thin and the sun had begun to throw some marvelous light, making for some beautiful pictures.
At this point, I was thinking on how to describe the experience of sitting, standing, walking all around this magnificent place, and really the only word I came up with was INDESCRIBABLE. Just a once in a lifetime experience. The scale, the steepness, the light, the vegetation, the river, the llamas, were just all part of this thing called Machu Picchu.
As dark comes early here, we left around five, knowing that we would be able to be back here tomorrow for another look. So we drug our tired legs back on the bus and down we went back to the little ''wild west'' town that is also called Machu Picchu Puebla.
Supper that night was a great restaurant next door to our hotel, and featured a full menu cooked on an open grill in the center of the room and live music.
In our room that night, we all fell off to sleep with the sound of the river singing in our ears.
CONCERNS: Climbing the last leg on those buses on that steep road. We road up and back twice, and really had complete confidence in their system. Very easy.
Amenities: Full amenities here. My favorite place we stayed. I loved this little berg built at the foot of the mountain at the congruence of two rivers. We never got to the hot springs.
Altitude: no problem here.
Highs: Well, you know...duh .. the ruins, and probably the weather, because we just had perfect skies.
Lows: Having to leave the mountain at dusk. Made up for that by getting to go back to the village and walk around there.