It was hardly how I had envisioned my first visit to Machu Picchu. When one is trapped on a tiny balcony behind a heavy wooden door worried about hypothermia, one tends to kick at the door rather hard trying to be heard. That might work well in steel toe boots. Unfortunately, while my Sketcher running shoes are brilliant for travel, they are super lightweight because they are mostly made of mesh…
So my toes looked like a battered housewife the entire time I was in Machu Picchu and I couldn’t take a step without pain. At least the mesh was stretchy so I had to wince to put them on but the mesh stretched over my swollen toes. The silver lining 🙂
I did indulge in a debate with myself regarding the day one game plan, especially since I had the luxury of three days at Machu Picchu. I had already signed up for a 4am wakeup call and 5:30am start before I realized how swollen and bruised my toes would be… I decided I needed to pretend I was a professional athlete and just suck it up.
Had my toes been in proper health, I could have likely seen it all in the five hours or so allotted by my g adventures tour so I would definitely recommend the independent tour if budget is more limited.
My guide had forgotten his ID so I took the bus from Aquas Caliente to Machu Picchu alone but it is an easy trip and there are lots of other tourists to follow. It is not a bus trip for the timid – all switchbacks on narrow mountain roads where the drivers almost stop so that they can pass. But the scenery is stunning – especially in the wee hours of the morning before the sun has woken up.
The big highlight of the first day was watching the sun rise. Wagner, my guide, positioned me in the optimal spot. My photography skills are not really up to shooting directly into the sun but it was spectacular to witness.
Since I had two more days to experience Machu Picchu I headed back to Aquas Caliente early and discovered a wonderful French bakery. Then it was back on the train to Ollantaytambo where Enrique collected me.
I felt bad because I didn’t see him at first and was worried I had been left to my own devices again. But David had told me Enrique was collecting me and they were both so amazing at their jobs it seemed unlikely…
The trip back to Cusco took quite a while so I sat in the front and we chatted while he told me more about Peru, his family and stopped or slowed down so that I could try and get photos. Connecting with locals makes all travel journeys so much more rewarding.
The official end of the tour struck the same note. I had left a bag at the hotel and it was already in my room! Then I went to the restaurant where I had my first meal in Cusco – Tupananchis. The food was excellent and they had promised me a free drink if I came back. I was very impressed that they remembered and the food was just as excellent the second time.
Establishing connections – and becoming part of the fabric of a place – is one of the greatest pleasures of travel. That theme will continue to be explored as we discover Machu Picchu from new perspectives…