I had mixed feelings about going to Machu Picchu. Part of me was really looking forward to seeing one of the most famous archeological sites on earth. But I was also quite fearful it would be a bit disappointing. Travelling from Ollantaytambu to Aguas Calientes by train was a real delight. The train itself was very luxurious - something we didn't pay any extra for, which is always a bonus - but the scenery was spectacular. Sheer rock walls on either side leading up thousands of feet. Below us were rapids that not even the most gifted rafters would have ever dared tackle. They thundered past angrily all the way to Aguas Calientes and we were in awe every breathtaking second. We arrived just before dark giving us enough time to find our hostel and arrange tickets for the bus in the morning. I was horrified that we had to be there at 6am due to the inevitable queue, even though the bus didn't leave until 7. Thinking we wouldn't have time for breakfast we thought we should get a hot meal in us now just in case. We went out in the dry but came back in a torrential down pour so we were feeling rather sorry for ourselves. That was until the whole town lost power just as we stepped out of the rain! All those poor people eating their dinning in the dark - Lucky us as it turned out! So we fumbled around for our head torches then settled down for another episode of breaking bad. We are completely addicted!
At 6am Faye joined the queue and I went for breakfast and like a good fiance I made her a banana and jam sandwich and took it to her once I was done. I'm nice like that! One hour on and we were herded on to the buses like cattle and away we went! Another rainy morning and very hairy ride up the mountain side. There had been a land slide days before which had blocked off the road only one turn from the top so here we had to get off one bus, climb a steep flight of stairs, then get back on another bus which would take us the rest of the way.
We also had tickets for Wayna Picchu (the tall mountain behind Machu Picchu) and due to the longer bus journey our allotted time was drawing near. We scurried in and made our way to the entrance as quick as possible, making it in the nick of time. Only an hour to go before we'd reach the top! Now this is always been a contentious issue for us - as I have my camera bag, Faye will normally carry a small day sack with the rest of our bits in. This always ends up being heavier than my camera bag so I generally feel unchivalrous at the best of times, but boy she made me feel it badly that morning. Faye is generally much fitter than me, but for whatever reason she was not at her best that morning and was clearly very tired right from the start. I was flying, so, to assist my loved one (and to relieve some of my guilt) I offered to take the rucksack. But If you know Faye well then you'll what came next. She point blank refused!! I spend the whole ascent trying to convince her to let me have it but the stubborn mare would not budge. She huffed and puffed all the way up but would not relinquish that bloody bag. I tell you, I do love her but Jesus she can be stubborn at times!! An hour twenty later we made the summit but due to the mist we had absolutely no clue which side Machu Picchu would reveal itself. Different groups were pointing in all directions so we used our logic and stood on the lookout tower. What clever clogs we are! Another hour passed before it finally broke through! What a site. Further away than I expected due to the deceiving height of Wayna Picchu but breathtaking nonetheless. Melting over the plateau below you can only marvel at the work that was needed to build such a wonder! I took at least 100 shots trying to get it 'just right' so once achieved we decided to tackle the descent, which was by far the most treacherous part! The steps were so steep and narrow that one false move would definitely result in a fall to your death. I was flabbergasted that there was no hand rail just in case you slipped (god I sound old!). Stress over, we made our way down and back to the ticket office to find a guide to give us a true understanding of its history.
Armed with our guide 'Kenny' we made our way to the entrance for my first glimpse of the famous picture postcard view. I can not begin to explain the feeling that washed over me when I first saw it! Since our descent the sun had made an appearance so the ancient site was bathed in beautiful sunlight, plus the cloud had lifted so you could see far and wide in all directions. Not only are the ruins breathtaking, but the surrounding mountains are stunning also. So unique that being there is only way you can you get a true understanding why the Incas chose this particular site to build it! On almost every side there are impenetrable mountain walls, covered with thick lush green vegetation, spread out like velvet across the landscape. With my eyes filled with tears we began our tour and Kenny was the perfect host. Clearly a man who loved his job and certainly very knowledgable! He gave us a real insight into the reason it was so sacred and why the Incas decided to leave and to close off all trails that led in, just so it would remain protected and never fall in to the hands of the conquistadores! He took us to all corners of the ruins and explained to us the purpose and meaning as he went. From the peasant dwellings and noble areas, to the stone carving grounds and temples. The farming terraces, the schools, the sun dial, and lastly to the whispering gallery. There is so much more to Machu Picchu than meets the eye and Faye certainly admitted that you don't truly "get it" unless you have a guide. Tour over and a healthy tip for Kenny we spent another hour wondering around before the heavens opened. Perfect timing for us as our train would be leaving soon so we made our way out to catch the exciting bus back to Aguas Calientes. We boarded the train exhausted from our trip and spend a great journey chatting to Michael (I told you we would mention you) and Hilary; a lovely couple from the UK that had spent the last 30 years living in Los Angeles raising a family whilst building a successful clothing company. We exchanged stories about our day and reminisced on past experiences. We've met so many older couples on our travels that have such a wealth of experience who've been such an inspiration to us. Faye always says after we leave their company "I so want us to be like that when we're older!" I hope so too!
Being a bit of an adrenaline junky I was always fearful I'd find it a bit boring but nothing could have been further from the truth. Machu Picchu is a magical place that has to be seen to seen to be believed. We have since met a few travellers who said it was a bit dull, but none of them could have really 'got it.' If you can see it through the eye of the Incas who built it and lived there then you can feel no other way than how we did once we left. It's a place of true wonder and deserves it's place as the number one attraction in Peru. Don't miss it for anything!