The beauty of Machu Picchu is the shear height at which these ruins are carved into the mountains. At 8,000-plus feet one has to wonder how the Inca’s hauled up the stones, carved out stairs, and produced an aqueduct system to receive water.
Getting up there isn’t easy regardless of if you decide to hike for many days or take the train and then a 30-minute bus to the top. My group opted for the train and the bus. The train is a truly amazing visual experience (and for about $100-plus roundtrip it should be). The modern and comfortable cabins offer panoramic views of the Andean Mountain Range, the Urubamba River, and villages leading up to the Inca Trail. The cost of my train and bus tickets were included in my Friendly Planet package but I’ve read that train tickets sellout fast, so plan to book well in advance.
The bus, which zigzags up the mountainside, barely fits on the narrow road. Add to that a recent mudslide that left huge boulders on the path and the trip up left everyone thanking their lucky stars that we made it up with our lives. There was a moment when another bus needed to pass and the wheels of our bus teetered on the edge of the cliff. Literary, my heart skipped a beat. How they manage to fit two buses side-by-side on that thin strip is beyond my understanding.
But once you’re up on the mountain you will be greeted with all the modern comforts–bathrooms, a restaurant, and gift shop. And you’ll suddenly understand what all the fuss is about when you get your first unencumbered view. It is stunning. Just because you take a bus to the top don’t think you’re off the hook for climbing stairs–lots of stairs! It’s definitely a destination for the physically fit.
Something else you won’t be able to avoid–the hippies (tons of them), with their harem pants, sunburn, and cannabis. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll get to see one or more of them streak topless, a new trend at Machu Picchu. See a video here.
*In my previous post, I lamented about how I came down with the stomach flu in Cusco. There was a real chance I was not going to make to Machu Picchu! So, obviously I managed to make it up to Machu Picchu despite my stomach virus! Yes, I was weak and had to take breaks and move slow, but I made it and had an enjoyable experience without several trips to the latrine!