Especially now that we’re back in the States for a short time, this trip to the most sacred of bucket list sights seems like it happened years ago, when in fact it’s only been three weeks. Of course we’re behind on our blog entries — we had no idea the website would actually take up so much time — but we’re catching up slowly and steadily (or at least slowly). So Machu Picchu. This little adventure was just following the three days in the Bolivian salt flats and directly after the Bolivian overnight bus ride from hell, which we booked in the first place because we were determined to fit Machu Picchu in. To be honest, I never cared about seeing the place. It wasn’t on our original list of places to hit up in South America. Thought it was a giant tourist trap in the middle of Peru. Why am I going to kill myself to get to ruins that are 600 years old when I could be somewhere else more interesting?? With music like the guys with the wooden flutes playing the Titanic soundtrack in the subway? But the husband wanted to see it. So we went. To Peru. For 48 hours. And I am so glad we did. I am an idiot and I now see the error of my ways. It was astounding.
For starters everything is so GREEN, which I know, great, yay rain, but it’s beyond that. The entire area looks like a movie set. Terraces and stairs and even giant faces of ancient priests carved into ROCK in the sides of mountains. Ruins all around the Sacred Valley, or La Valle Sagrado, where we stayed in the spooky little dusty town of Ollantaytambo, just outside of the main event. Our lodge was called Casa de Wow, and was a perfect mix of hippie-earthy-crunchy, fitting for the area and undertaking. Restaurants and little shops filled the square and dotted the side streets. We even found a bar (I think it was the only one in town) with a firemen’s pole, making it that much easier to get from your swing seat upstairs (people in latin america love swings for seats) to the bar downstairs. But I digress. The only way to get to Machu Picchu is through the town of Aguas Calientes, at the base of the mountain, and the only way to get there is by taking a 90-minute train ride from where we stayed or by walking — no cars or buses allowed in or out — and then from Aguas Calientes you take a 20-minute shuttle up the side of the mountain on a windy narrow road made of tight turns and steep dropoffs. When you arrive and see the Inca city from above for the first time, half-covered in fog and you’re above the clouds and the whole thing looks so mysterious, WOW. It’s startling how big it is. And how intricate. There are lots of hikes you can do on the mountain, which we did, and then you walk around the actual place where the Incas lived and worshipped (what you see in pictures) and it’s pretty effing cool. That the Incas built this whole place by hand, stone by stone, on this mountain, is incredible. That the Spaniards never found it when they were in Peru in the 1500s and it wasn’t discovered until nearly 400 years later, increible. No one really knows for what Machu Picchu was actually used — a summer home for Inca royalty, a place of worship and/or sacrifice, a small city of a select few. I didn’t appreciate it until I’d actually seen it for myself but now that I have, I’m a little obsessed. Also the train that takes you there, with its beautiful panoramic glass ceiling and full meal and beverage service, is the most expensive tourist one in the world, owned by the Orient Express, but as the only other way to get there is a 4-day hike, the train it was. I look like a Peruvian sheep herder at this point, and Anthony looks like he’s about to be rescued off an island after talking to a volleyball for six years. Also he has a gimp ankle and knee. So a multi-day hike was not in the cards for us. We would probably have been put to work in the fields somewhere along the way. And aside from the flute music playing the entire train ride (they take that music very seriously, and I really thought they only played that in the subways around the world, I didn’t realize it was an actual THING), there is also a fashion show of items made from llama wool (actually they are really cute and I wanted to buy all of the guy’s things) and a weird dance number for entertainment, inexplicably starring a man in a rat costume. I didn’t question it and just enjoyed both. My only advice if you do this trip: take a Xanax before the bus ride up the mountain and don’t look out the windows (on the way down you’ll be too tired to care that the bus is so close to the side of the road).
And that wraps up our 7 weeks in South America — Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Up next: Panama, baby, and nothing but beach. It’s time to do nada for a while. I’m ready. Bring it.
Where we stayed in Machu Picchu:
Casa de Wow, in Ollantaytambo