The train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes was excellent, especially after spending so many days hiking. The train ride was about an hour-long, just enough time for a quick bite to eat and drink, which was complimentary on Peru Rail.
Arriving in Aquas Calientes, there was a lot of commotion, being a massive tourist area. I made my way through the crowd of people who travled from all over the world, speaking a myriad of languages to my hotel, located in the center of town.
Aguas Calientes is a town in the Urubamba River Valley in southeast Peru that sits at around 6,700 feet. It’s known for its thermal baths and as a gateway to the nearby Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. The town center is full of eateries and shops, anchored by the central Mercado artisanal, and a craft market.
After checking in, I headed up to my room. It felt good to have some time to relax, unpack, get a shower, and take a nap. My room had a nice view of the mountains surrounding the town. I collected my laundry and headed out to find a laundromat and explore Aquas Calientes. While looking for a laundry mat, I ran into the most beautiful Napoleon mastiff. The local people assured me he was well taken care of. After dropping off laundry, I headed to the town square.
The local church was beautiful, depicting the negro Jesus on a cross and many non-traditional catholic ornamentations, which was nice to see the diversity. After inserting a quarter to light a bulb and saying a prayer, I headed to local restraint to meet some of the group for dinner. Some of us were getting up extra early to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu, so we needed to get up early. My grandma used to say the early bird catches the worm, and for the most part, that has been true in life.
After dinner and a few drinks, I walked around Aquas Calientes awhile longer, exploring the markets and shops. It is an energetic town with a lot going on and an endless variety of entertainment. I stayed out later than I should have, but it was my only night in Aquas Calientes, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. I eventually made it back to my hotel and passed out. Luckily, I had previously gotten my pack and everything ready for the next morning, so I would be ready to go when I woke up.
The next morning I got up around 4:00, grabbed my things, and headed downstairs. The group was waiting, so I grabbed some coffee, and we headed for the bus. When we got there around 5:00, there was a line about 50 yards long, but by 5:30, it was around 200 yards long. The energy in the atmosphere was electric, considering that it is a lifelong dream to visit Machu Picchu for most people.
Once the bus arrived, we all huddled inside. The bus was cramped, and the ride consisted entirely of switchbacks up the mountain’s side for about 30 minutes. Once at the top, buses are dropping people off as they exit and get in line to enter Machu Picchu. Since we were one of the first busses, the lines were not long, and when we got into Machu Picchu, we decided to hike an hour up to the Sun Gate, where the view of Machu Picchu is incredible. Hiking along the ancient trail, we ran into hikers and Alpacas. When we got to the top, you could not see the ruins because of the dense fog. At the top, many people were sitting along the wall of the sun gate waiting to catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu, praying that the fog would dissipate. Eventually, as the sun got brighter, the fog moved on, and we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Machu Picchu. Everyone cheered and stared in ah at the magnificent view.
After taking some pictures and absorbing the energy, we hiked back down to the ruins to meet the rest of the group and Hugo, who would be giving a tour of the ancient Inca ruins. Once back down at the ruins, many more people had arrived, and it was getting crowded. After making my way to Hugo and the rest of the group, he explained everything he knew about Machu Picchu.
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Binghambrought it to international attention in 1911.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
What fascinates me is that the older pre-Inca structure that existed before the Inca civilization is far more complex and advanced. You can see in the pictures the distinct difference between the two. Even with today’s technology, we would have a tough time replicated what the pre-Inca civilization maybe thousands of years ago,
I spent about 4 hours at the historical sight, and once you get into the line, they sort of force you through. I have to say Machu Picchu is a magical place with an energy I have never experienced. Words really can’t describe the experience, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. In all honestly if your interested go and visit Peru and I promise it will be an experience of a lifetime.
After getting many more pictures, we exited Machu Picchu loaded on the bus to go back to Aqua Calientes and then onto Ollantaytambo and then onto Cusco but not before celebrating a little too much the last night in Aquas Calientes. I imagine stories of the wild and wonderful fellow from West Virginia will be told for some time to come.
I will go back to Machu Picchu without a doubt and hope to hike all trails leading to the ancient Inca ruins eventually and even onto Choquequirao. Maybe in March 2019, anyone interested in going let me know you will learn more about yourself and find answers to questions you never thought to ask. Little did I know at this time I would return to Peru two months later.
GoPro Video coming soon……