This was the one thing I was dreading on the trip. The possibility I would have to hike up to Machu Picchu again. I remember just how long it took me and how difficult it was four years ago. And then, no break, having to then climb even more steps for two hours as we had a guided tour of Machu Picchu!
However, this time I would know what to expect, I had James who would drag me up if necessary and I was not concerned about getting up for sunrise – not the end of the world if I didn’t make it.
We left at 3:45am from our hostel, plenty of time for a leisurely 30 minute walk to the park entrance – yep, you have to walk for half an hour before you even start the ascent! It was pitch-black, so my head-torch came in handy, but it wasn’t cold at all! I ended up just wearing a t-shirt and leggings – my jacket stuffed in my bag. It may have just been because I had acclimatised to the colder weather in Bolivia, as everyone else was wrapped up warm!
The gate doesn’t open until 5am, but when we arrived a little after 4am, we were already standing in a long queue! Queuing to hike up?! This isn’t something I remember from my first trip. After waiting around a while, an official checked our tickets and passports – make sure you have these otherwise you will be denied entry! Then we started moving. It wasn’t long until we were all slowly but surely climbing the steps.
After ten minutes, the line started to break up with people going further ahead while other people were taking it slower. I tried to keep a steady pace and for the first half of the ascent I did well.
After the first half was completed, the buses started to leave and get to the top of the mountain. It was around here that my stops were becoming longer and I was starting to struggle. J. wasn’t having it and was having to pep talk me all the way up after that – even though he was the one wearing the backpack and carrying all the water!
Eventually, we got to the top, somehow, and in record time! It took me 90-minutes last time. Our hostel receptionist said that it would take an hour – but this time we did it in 50 minutes which was amazing!
When we got to the top, it was all quite hectic, with bus groups arriving, people queuing to get in for sunrise, so we joined them.
I had wanted to change in the toilets into a new outfit as I was so sweaty and gross and didn’t want to look that way when I got in. Not the case, due to all the craziness, but I found somewhere nearby to change my t-shirt and put some make-up on. J. said it made me look like ‘I hadn’t just climbed a million steps’ which was the look I was ideally going for, so that was good!
We bumped into a few people we had met in Cusco and on the Sacred Valley tour – they had all got the bus but had arrived later than us – this was good, it means that we were very speedy!! They were impressed by our commitment to not spend a ridiculous amount on the bus…
Unfortunately the mist covered the mountains but it did make the views very atmospheric. It wasn’t long for the mist to lift and the sun flooded the Inca city. As we had arrived so early, the site was still very quiet and in some places we didn’t come across other people!
After taking plenty of photos and making the most of covering the entire place, we were getting hungry. There are no facilities for food/bathrooms once inside Machu Picchu – so it was time to leave.
There is a café and a restaurant by the entrance. We didn’t need a lot, but we had our eye on a massive slice of over-priced chocolate brownie which was the perfect reward for all that hard work!
Before we left we made sure we stamped our passports with the Machu Picchu stamp. We overheard a girl say there was one you could stamp in the Bolivian Salt Flats. J. flared his nostrils at me, as it was something we didn’t realise when we went there – oh well, next time?!
We were originally going to hike up and bus down, but we were feeling good, and the hike down wouldn’t be as difficult as the hike up, right? Plus it’s 12$ we could save. The hike was fine; it took us an hour, this was longer than the way up but we really took our time as we were in no rush, plus we had the sun beating down on us. Not many people hiked down with us.
The main issue we had was when we got to the bottom as we then had to hike the 45 mins back to Aguas Calientes. This was downhill on the way in, but it was now uphill on the way back – by this point we were so exhausted, it was hot, my feet were hurting and it was a struggle. I was tempted to beg the empty coaches going past to pick us up!
Anyway, we made it back, feeling rough, and a tasty, cold jug of lemonade was required, lunch and then sleep on the train.
However, sleep was not an option on the journey back to Cusco as it turned into the most exciting train journey imaginable – our train conductors treated us to a traditional dance show – of course I was the only one who was dragged into the aisle to join in the lively dance – very difficult to dance in walking boots, I learned that day.. and they also had to put on a fashion show, bless them.
Exhausted, we made it to Poroy station, and all I had to do was haggle for a 25 minute taxi back to Cusco before I could go to sleep! Very thankful I had paid extra to go there instead of Ollantaytambo which would have been another long, bumpy 1h30 mini-van journey.
We enjoyed two final lazy days in Cusco – lots of good food, an Inca massage which was the most painful massage I have ever had – but it stopped all my muscles from aching and meant I could walk up and down stairs normally again! The final day involved lots of bargain hunting in the markets!
Next and final stop….Lima.