We were not very enthusiastic about going to Machu Picchu, as it is the most touristy spot in South America. However, it still managed to positively surprise us: it is very photogenic and surrounded by beautiful mountains.
We started in the early morning in Santa Tereza. The owner of our hostel organized a shared taxi to Hidroelectrica for us, and from there we hiked around the railroad to Aquas Calientes. The trail was surrounded by plants with beautiful flowers and many other interesting things.
|Abandoned railway chassis|
|Laura and flowers|
We were originally thinking about camping in order to be closer to Machu Picchu, but a nice couple we met on the way recommended a good and cheap hostel to us, so we decided to go there instead. After we had settled in our room in Aguas Calientes and bought tickets for Machu Picchu, we climbed the Putucusi mountain (= the Mountain of Joy). The climb consisted of a couple of ladders that were quite straightforward, and of an easy section close to the top. It started to rain near the top, but it was just a short shower.
|Laura climbing one of the leaders|
|Rainbow above Aguas Calientes|
Thanks to the rain we were completely alone at the top for a while and enjoyed observing Machu Picchu with our binoculars.
|Binoculars gave us much closer view than the maximum zoom on our camera|
Eventually, Marco from Venezuela arrived to the top. He has Swiss and Italian roots, seemed well-educated and was very interesting to speak with. We found many similarities between Czechoslovakia before 1989 and the current situation in Venezuela. We walked together to Aquas Calientes, conversing the whole time.
The next morning we woke up at around 4:30 to be on one of the first buses to Machu Picchu. We had our breakfast while queuing for the bus, and were on the fourth one. Going so early was completely worth it, as we managed to take really nice pictures during the sunrise.
|Llamas - not only for tourists, but also natural lawn mowers|
|Machu Picchu ruins and Wayna Picchu hill during sunrise|
As the place started to fill up with other tourists, we headed up to Machu Picchu mountain. It is much less crowded than the popular Wayna Picchu and also higher. It provided us with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and of Machu Picchu itself.
|Machu Picchu from a bird's-eye view|
We descended down and almost immediately went to the entrance gate. It took us a while, but eventually we managed to find a group for a guided tour. Unfortunately the tour was not very good.
|The Incas thought quite economically - only the bottom of the building was constructed using their fancy stone cutting technique|
|Replanted flowers from Inca's time|
|This looks cool, but I still prefer Google Calendar|
Laura was feeling very sleepy and decided she had had enough and went back to our hostel to relax. I had a short nap between the ruins and then decided to hike to the Sun Gate. Well acclimatized from Salkantay Trek, I was quickly overtaking groups of Japanese tourists. The Sun Gate itself was not very spectacular, but it provided a view of Machu Picchu from a different angle.
|Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate|
I returned back, had another nap and wandered around a bit. Tourists were slowly disappearing and at close to five there were maybe just 100 people there, well spread out around the site.
|Machu Picchu in the afternoon|
I left the site at exactly 16:59 and then just walked back down to our hostel. Laura had already had dinner, so I went to one local restaurant and had a delicious lomo saltado.
The next morning we took it easy, packed our things and started walking back to Hidroelectrica. We met two nice French girls on the way (Anouk and Anaïs), and might visit them in Rio, where they are on an exchange year. From Hidroelectrica we took taxi to Santa Maria. There we had to wait for a while. It was a bit chaotic, but we managed to find a van that took us back to Cusco.