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South America Overland Day 3 - Machu Picchu

The money shot, crossing the tracks for lunch and a rolling fashion show

semi-overcast 24 °C

The big day of our overland trip had arrived! After an early breakfast (during which I came face to lycra with an exuberance of middle-aged German cyclists) we headed down the road to the train station to begin our trip to Machu Picchu.

We walked down the road following Luis like ducklings with Jamie following behind to ensure we were all together. At the station, we saw a local train arrive and disgorge a wave of local workers who live elsewhere in the Valley or even in Cusco and commute to the tourist towns for work. Were given our tickets and then boarded the Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu. This was a panoramic carriage with windows in the roof to help view the mountains and valleys as we followed the Urubamba River down to the base pueblo at Machu Picchu.

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After an hour and a half, we arrived at the town at the base of the mountain at an elevation of 6,700 feet. (2042m or about the same as the top station at Perisher)

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From there we had a short walk to the bus station, we were issued our bus tickets and entrance tickets to the site and joined the queue for the white knuckle bus ride to the top. While there did seem to be an over-reliance on checking and double-checking tickets throughout our journey it must be said that the whole operation ran pretty smoothly. During COVID I believe there was some reorganisation at the site with a limit of 4,000 people per day being set (there were only around 2,000 on the day we visited) and a circular route being set up for all guides and tourists to follow rather than allowing everybody to wander freely around the site. The queues for the bus up and down were well regulated and moved quickly with many busses in operation.

The ride up the switchbacks was spectacular with huge drops and no guard rails but the drivers seemed to operate with a sixth sense to forsee busses in the other direction and to pull over at specific spots to let them pass. We did find out later that the drivers were in constant radio communication. An invigorating ride.

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At the top bus station, we pass through the park entry (more checking of tickets) and then the walking starts. We did not know at that point that we were actually just around the corner from the site at about the mid-way point of around 7,700 feet. Other groups, we have spoken to since have said they were given the option of just walking around the corner and viewing the site from there. Our group however was ushered onto the path to climb the last few hundred feet to emerge at the top of the site for the money shot of the whole of Machu Picchu laid out before us. The climb was tough but all of our group managed to make it to the top for the Iconic view. Kathy and I both used walking poles that day and found them to be a great help and almost worth carting them right around the world for. We could have purchased or hired poles on the day.

Once again our luck with the weather prevailed and we could see the whole site before us as we headed through the gate and onto the circuit back down to the middle station.

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After the exertion of the climb I was in need of a rest so Jamie escorted me via the shortest route down to the midpoint where I had a comfortable seat to watch and wait as the rest of the group was escorted by Luis on the trip around the site. Kathy has yet to forgive me as she ended up walking the long way around. I did manage to get some good video footage of our group and others during the descent.

When the rest of the group had completed their tour and rejoined Jamie and I we headed back around the corner to the hidden bus terminal. Once again the queue was well managed and moved fast with seating being set aside for those who needed it where we (I took advantage of this option) could sit and wait for our group to reach the front of the line. Back down the hairpin bends feeling tired but exhilarated at the sights we had seen and photographed.

Back in the town, we had a walk to the restaurant for Lunch. Once again there was a delicious selection of local dishes, this time supplemented by a local beer. Since I had already bought the branded T-Shirt I had to have one of the beers. To get to the restaurant we had to literally walk across the railway tracks and it was located between the two sets of tracks leading into and out of the station. At this stage, we were all tired from the days' exertions and there was some disappointment that the restrooms were down another set of stairs. I was also too tired to bother taking any photos so here is a link to the Cafe Inkaterra Restaurant.

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g304036-d2424851-Reviews-Cafe_Inkaterra-Aguas_Calientes_Machu_Picchu_Sacred_Valley_Cusco_Region.html

After Lunch there was around an hour to kill before our return train. Some opted for more shopping, others just piled into the waiting room at the station. It was still light when we boarded the train but as we made our way back up the valley darkness closed in as we were served tea and biscuits from a trolly aircraft style.

Once everybody had been served the staff disappeared into the kitchen and then we were treated to a visit from a local She-Devil followed by a fashion show featuring local designs in ALpaka wool. Certainly, something I have never experienced on a train before and something that NSW Rail should consider.

On returning to Ollantaytambo we could just about muster the energy to walk back to the hotel. Past the queues of locals getting onto busses for their return commute back to their homes. Kathy and I did not have the energy to go out for dinner so had an early night and munched on emergency chocolate rations.

A fantastic day and a major bucket list item completed! I feel there is much more to explore in South America but it may not be necessary to venture again into the high mountains.

Posted by StephenJBrown 17:49 Archived in Peru Tagged food train machu_picchu fashion

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