Day 5 & 6: Aguas Calientes and Machupicchu

Five days in and I have yet to get a good nights sleep. Arriving on a Saturday night, the city was filled with noise and music, but I still managed to get up energized and get ready to leave for Aguas Calientes in the morning. After a taxi ride to the bus station, a bus ride to the train station, and a 2 hour train ride, I was finally in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. I settled into my hostel, picked up some food for lunch the next day, and tried to get some sleep. With about 5 hours of light sleep under my belt, I was back up at 4:30am. Had a quick tea and caught the bus up to Machu Picchu. At this point it was still completely dark out and all I could hear was the river running through the town and around the mountain as we drove up. Once in awhile our headlights would catch people on their way hiking up to Machu Picchu. Having climbed down the same path at the end of the day I can honestly say there is no way I would ever attempt it going upwards. Upon arrival, around 6am, it was still pretty dark. My first observation: Machu Picchu is huge! I had no idea where to go first, where I was, or how to get from area to area. Somehow I ended up on the trail to the Inkan Bridge around the side of the mountain, hiked back, and conveniently found myself at the entrance to Mount Machu Picchu around 7am. I saw I was the 7th person to register and decided I should get up as early as possible, before the sun comes out and it’s super hot. Having gone backpacking many times in the past, I assumed it would be a mix of switchbacks and steps – it was all steps going upwards. And not just steps, gigantic steps. For many parts I found myself either clinging to the side of the cliff to steady myself or climbing on my hands and knees. After a couple water breaks, 90 minutes of stairs, and an awkward encounter with a Spanish man who relentlessly tried hiking the mountain by my side: I made it to the top! Mount Machu Picchu is hands down in my top 5 best mountain views of my life. Absolutely breathtaking. From the top of Mount Machu Picchu I had a perfect view of Huaynu Picchu and Machu Picchu. Very “spiritual”, as the Spanish man made sure to keep reminding me. Assuming the decent would be a breeze was a mistake. When your knees are trembling and your legs are sore, climbing down those huge steps is horrible, but after falling twice I finally made it down at around 10am. I explored the Machu Picchu ruins for the rest of the day, trying my best to avoid the many stairs that make up the site. When it was time to come down, I saw the line for the buses and thought I could save myself some time and $10 and just climb down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes. This was also not the smartest decision I’ve ever made. I would equate this decent with opting to take the stairs down a 175 story building. Any time I stopped to take a break my knees were literally shaking and when I would try climbing down, my knees would sometimes lock. Needless to say, I took a couple more falls. Once in Aguas Calientes, I had some lunch and waited for a couple hours for my 6:45 train. On the verge of going into a sleep coma and unable to walk without looking like a fool, I discovered that the train was having “technical difficulties” and I would be waiting until 9pm to leave. Once in Ollantaytambo around 11pm, I searched for my name on the group bus signs, found “Brake Kein”, was too tired to question it, and boarded the bus. At 1am I was back in Cusco. After climbing another 30 cobblestone steps to my hostel, I was finally able to get some “sleep”. Quite an adventure.

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