Getting to Machu Picchu is not straight forward but there are a few well known ways. The Inca Trail is the 4 day walk that is so popular and limited numbers per day that it sells out months in advance. As my primary reason to travel was to see Cuba I didn’t really want to fin dates to fit the Inca Trail in. So I had to take the other option and that isn’t train. Even then to get to the train station I had to catch a bus to Ollantaytambo where the train departs. Recently another company has added a mountain biking option. There is also the cheapskates way which is to catch a bus to a town the other side of Machu Picchu and then walk along the train tracks.
I decided to catch the Peru Rail Vistadome train #603 which was late arriving at departing from the station. All was forgotten when I realised carriage A seat 1 was by far the best seat you can have on this train. I had a front window view and to my right was the drivers compartment. This service also included a salad, orange and a drink. It took about 90 minutes to go 40kms, with frequent stopping at passing points on the track. My dad probably would enjoy this train ride especially as all the points are manually switched with guys jumping on and off the train to do so.
I had a nice room with a river view except it was dark when I arrived. The hotels here cater for the early buses to Machu Picchu by offering a 4:30am breakfast. I woke up at 4:30 and had a rather good breakfast (best so far in Peru) and made my way to the bus stop, where a queue of hundreds had already formed. I was on about the 7th bus up the hill and each bus holds about 40 people. So beating the hoards up here is probably not even possible.
Machu Picchu opens at 6am except there was a problem. The whole place is shrouded in most and cloud this morning. I walk up the steps to a good spot and wait an hour. Mist is still heavy, so I go for a walk to keep warm, but 2 hours after opening you can’t see a thing any further than 50 metres in front of me.
I walked to the inca bridge hoping by the time I returned the sky was clearing. The inca bridge is part stone construction with a wooden span in the middle. Unfortunately someone fell and died while crossing many years ago and it’s been closed ever since. I walk back and it’s still misty and quite cold. I wasn’t going to ring my jacket but glad I did now!
I start wandering Machu Picchu resigned to the fact it may not clear up at all. Lower down its a bit clearer so I keep walking around through the residential area. I’m certainly glad I didn’t do the inca trail now, four days of walking in sunshine to get to Machu Picchu in the mist.
The clouds part for a minute and I snap off a few photos, I can even see the mountains on the other side of the river, but the clouds return. I walk through the temple complex area and to the far end of Machu Picchu where the walk begins to the mountain behind, which I can’t see and am glad I didn’t buy a ticket for that now. It looks to be clearing up its only 10 am and my train leaves at 2:55 pm so I still have hope.
I look back up and can see the caretakers hut which is where the classic photo of Machu Picchu is taken from. I can also see a lot of flashes firing because they are brilliant at lighting up entire archaeological sites….
So I try and take a fairly direct route up but the whole place has a one way circuit to follow or else you will hear a whistle from afar and a guy waving his hands at you to go the other way. Even my direct route met with a dead end and done back tracking to the exit before ascending the steps back to the caretakers hit where’ll the photos are taken. I had to push my way past half a dozen selfie sticks, some wine got upset but she’d been standing there for 5 minutes. I got some photos, with Wayna Picchu the mountain behind Machu Picchu not visible but still it’s hard to say you’ve been there without seeing the classic view. Many people come just for the view and then leave!
My train back is unfortunately just an expedition class train and the #74 service gets me back to Ollantaytambo at 4:30 with a bus ride to follow to Cusco. The bus ride might have been cheap, but it was a bit uncomfortable and the driver took corners too quickly for my liking. Tomorrow I’m off to Puno on the shores of lake Titicaca.