Day three and four of our bike and trek to Machu Picchu saw us leave Santa Teresa and walk along the railway to Aguas Calientes before rising early on the final day to see the wonder that is Machu Picchu.
How Nathan woke up feeling ok after downing five shots of tequila is beyond me. The boys were slightly worse for wear and I was just tired. The alarm went off at 7am and breakfast was eaten before we got into a bus to take us to the zip lining element of our trip. This was optional and we hadn’t planned on doing it, but Nathan did it whilst I stayed behind. I saw them on one of the zip lines and they were hanging upside down! Then coming back they were soaring like a condor. After about an hour and a half we were back in the bus and on our way to the beginning of our hike.
Lunch was served first but at 1130. Firstly, it was too early for lunch and secondly it was fish so not the best food we’d had. I didn’t eat it and instead just had the ice cream they served for pudding! Then it was time to go. It was a less strenuous walk today. A mere 10 mile hike along the railway. I say it was less strenuous, it wasn’t uphill as much, although it was still 116 floors climbed, and it was constant walking. Literally constant. Fredy brought up the rear this time behind me and I just hiked along at my own pace taking in the most amazing scenery and avoiding the few trains that trundled along the tracks.
It was raining for quite a bit of the hike. The plastic ponchos just made me hotter but I was determined not to stop, no matter how much my thighs hurt. The views around were just amazing, even in the rain. As people passed walking in the opposite direction exchanges of ‘hola’ occurred. Our destination was Aguas Calientes and it took about two and a half hours to get there. The last half an hour saw me practically crawling on all fours. My legs were on fire. My back was killing me. It had rained so I was wet with rainwater and sweat.
Finally we reached the hotel but not before climbing another hill. Formalities done we headed to the room. I was in agony so tried to sleep for a bit. Tossing and turning and shivering but hot, I then threw up and proceeded to throw up for the rest of the evening and into the early hours of the morning. I missed dinner, which was Pizza 😩. I felt so unbelievably crap I think my body was just so completely not used to the amount of exertion over the last three days that it just decided to shut down. I didn’t even get to explore the town, luckily Nathan took some photos.
The alarm went off at 3am Tuesday and I was gutted that I still felt so unwell. My stomach was cramping and felt like I was permanently doing sit ups. I wouldn’t have been so annoyed with myself but it was the day we would finally get to Machu Picchu. Just after 330am we were in the queue to wait for the bus up to Machu Picchu. The busses didn’t leave until 530am. The queue went on for miles and miles. We were relatively close to the front so would probably be within the first hundred people to enter. Not bad considering in the high season Machu Picchu receives 6000-7000 people per day! No wonder it looks different to how it did twenty years ago. The busses started to arrive just before 530am and we were ushered onto them by some stewards whom I presume were there to keep a bit of order to the non single file queue. As soon as we got on the bus I fell asleep and in no time, we had stopped and were told to disembark.
The doors to Machu Picchu open at 6am so we had about a ten minute wait to get in. You need you passport to enter too and if you forget it you have to get a bus down and then pay for another one back up then another one down once you’ve finished exploring. Thankfully, we all had ours. Once we passed through we saw plaques on the wall.
Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911
Machu Picchu was built in 1450 as an estate for the Incan Emperor Pachacuti. A century later, Machu Picchu would be abandoned as the Spanish Civil War erupted. As you walk along the first boardwalk, the beautiful view of this Incan city appears before you and it is just magnificent. There are llamas just chilling out all over the estate. They have clearly got used to having so many visitors and even posing for that all important llama selfie.
After taking photos, we sat on the wall as Fredy gave us the history of the city. As we were listening, other groups were appearing and inquisitive llamas invaded our space. Machu Picchu has about 75 percent originality which is a lot compared to some other sites. The reason for this? The Spanish never actually found Machu Picchu! The Incan capital was Cusco, and Machu Picchu is about fifty miles from it. Built at 2450 metres above sea leave, it is also surrounded by towering mountains and below is a dense jungle. This jungle grew and grew and kept away anyone trying to locate it, until 1911 when Hiram Bingham was led there by a local farmer. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Temple of the Sun
The solstice is on the 21st June. That is when the sun will rise and shine directly through the window in the top of the Temple of the Sun. 21st June is also considered to be the Incan New Year. The ‘V’ shape in the mountains in front of the Temple is where the sun will shine through the window. Above, you can also see what would have been a bedroom, a doorway and also the difference in architecture between the Temple of the Sun to the right of the photo, and that of the other residence to the right of the photo. Below is the ‘V’ in the mountains.
Machu Picchu has three sections, the urban sector, agricultural sector and industrial sector. It took 20,000 people to build the city of Machu Picchu. Many did it for reciprocity. We walked through the residential sector of the city which showed triangular shaped buildings which would have been used to tie the roofs down in the windiest month, which is August.
Some of the plants that grew in the agricultural sector, many of which we passed growing in plantations on day two of this adventure
The Temple of The Three Windows
The Temple of The Three Windows faces North East. There are only three of the original five windows that remain. These three windows represent the underground, the current middle world, and the upper world, or heaven. In front of the windows stands one stone shaped like the top half of the Andean cross and next to it is a stone altar. Why only one half of the Andean cross? As the sun rises and shines through the three windows, the shadow created forms the other half, as demonstrated by the drawing on the ground above. Everything in the Incan world resorts ack to the three layers. Around this stone you can see the snake, repressing the underground, the puma for the middle world and the cross itself has three layers on the upper part and the shadow. It is fascinating to learn. There is also the theory surrounding the two parts, such as the white upper half and the black shadow. Sort of like the Japanese Yin and Yang. There has to be a balance. Male, female, wrong, right etc.
Near to the windows is another room which remains unfinished. They have holes which would have housed wooden beams to support the structure and there is also a huge rock which should have been situated in the centre of the room. Because it isn’t where it was supposed to be, it supports the theory that Machu Picchu remains unfinished. From the top, we could see the route we had walked the previous day. The view, as with many places we had been lucky enough to stop at over the past three days, was amazing.
The QuarryStorage Room with large doors to account for the humidityIn this selection of rocks, you can see a llama sat downFestivities would have taken place and there’d be no need for megaphones or microphones. The area had an echo so you wouldn’t miss out on anything!Sacred rock, mirrors the mountains behind it. Another part of Machu Picchu that remains unfinished
The Temple of the Condor is located in the South East of the city. As the sun beams, it casts a figure of the condor in the shape of the rocks that this temple was built to reflect. Why a condor? A condors wing span can be up to three metres and they can be 1.7 to 2 metres long. They are found soaring at heights above 7000m. Because of this, the condor is thought to have taken the souls of those passed up to the heavens. That’s quite a nice sentiment to think of really. Our two hour tour of Machu Picchu had come to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Fredy. It was his birthday and the boys got him a card the night before. We gave him some money and he went in his way. We followed him out to use the bathrooms and get our passports stamped and our tickets allowed us one re-entry, this time to climb Machu Picchu Mountain.
The climb up to the cottage was steep but relatively quick. Here was the postcard view of Machu Picchu. Needless to say we took lots of photos. It started to get very warm too and the sun began to make an appearance.
The cottage at the top with Machu Picchu mountain next to itPossibly the best view in the world.
There was a greenery at the viewpoint which is where I took a seat and looked after the bags as the boys climbed the mountain. I was disappointed I wasn’t well enough to do it, but after seeing how hot and sweaty they were when they came back down, I knew I’d made the right choice. Their view was pretty epic though.
It was a great view of Machu Picchu with the famous Huyana Picchu mountain in the background. People watching also passed the time. I mean there was a woman dancing whilst her son and friend filmed it. There was a woman with dozens of cards surrounding her having her photo taken, which wasn’t the most successful thanks to the gusts of winds. People took the most amount of photos of themselves that I had seen being taken anywhere. It was highly amusing. The boys rejoined me and we headed back out to join the long bus queue back down to Aguas Calientes. The busses were incredibly frequent and we hardly had to wait.
The bus ride down took about thirty minutes and the whole journey was winding down the mountain. It dropped us off in town, three of the guys had to get their bags from the hotel and then we found somewhere for lunch. It’s safe to say by this time, everyone was exhausted. We were due to catch the Inca Rail train at 230pm, back to Ollantaytambo, from there we would get a minibus back to Cusco.
The view from the train window
The train was hot and stuffy. The minibus has no air con but we managed to nod off still. We had arrived back in Cusco around 6pm and were dropped off in San Francisco Square, where we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hostels.
The Jungle Trek with Bamba Experience has been truly an amazing and unforgettable experience. It was absolutely exhausting, but to finally reach Machu Picchu, a bucket list destination, was just incredible. The history, the city, the views were all breathtaking. I even got the souvenir book to brush up on my Incan History. We met a great group of people and Fredy, our guide was so passionate and especially patient with me and made the whole experience fantastic. If anyone is thinking about doing the Inca Trail, I highly recommend him and know he is starting his own business so drop a comment and I can give you his details.
Until next time…