Today we awoke at 6:45 to go eat the provided breakfast at our hotel at 7:15am (we had told them 7am, but were a bit late). We then relaxed in our room until the 9am checkout time. We were both sore and tired, and Katie’s right knee was especially sore from her tumble the previous day. We caught up on blogging and repacked our bags – one day pack (Katie’s) for today, one day pack (JT’s) for the night bus ride and the rest in our Llama Path red duffel bags.
Breakfast consisted of tea, coffee (cold and very strong), fresh papaya juice (blended for us when we got there), rolls, butter, and jam.
) was actually pretty nice. Booking.com said it would be $38.50 per night, but it actually ended up being only $35. The hostel was on a main avenue – just a block from the MP bus station – had a free internet terminal with fast internet, an included breakfast, private bathroom, was clean, provided towels and soap, had some chairs in a common area, and had an internet cafe connected with the lobby (under same ownership?). The people at the front desk were friendly and helpful regarding questions and baggage storage (no charge).
We then went to the bus station to buy expensive bus tickets – 52 soles round trip per person. JT tried to use two 100s bills to pay for the 104s bus tickets – hoping to get smaller bills – but the ticket counter lady balked. Unfortunately, the ATMs here only split out 100s bills and sometimes a couple 50s. So it is a constant battle to break bills. We then took the bus up to Machu Picchu. Originally Katie thought it might be possible to walk up to or down from Machu Picchu, but it really would be a very long, grueling, 700’+ climb, constantly crossing the bus road, and the trail ends a good bit away from Aguas Calientes (near the riverside campground).
Once at Machu Picchu we wandered towards Wayna Picchu and Huayna Picchu. We signed in to climb at 10:40am, and went up Wayna Picchu (taller peak) first. The climb up was tiring – especially with our fatigued muscles – and many parts had metal ropes to hold on to. There was even a part near the top where we had to climb through a cave that was too small to go through with a backpack!
The view at the top of Wayna Picchu was pretty spectacular. The last part of the climb included some steep steps and a ladder to the top of the peak. We decided to go back the “long” route via the cavern. However we found that the trail was closed. A few of the 7-8am hikers we had run across suggested we go back that way, so it seems the trail was open earlier in the day. We stopped and ate one of the snack packs from Day 4 of the Inca Trail near the top of the peak. The first part of the climb downward using very steep, small (smaller than JT’s foot is wide), no handrail/rope stairs was the most terrifying. We used a variety of methods to go down this part, usually trying to balance by holding onto a rock beside us or a step above us for support. We met a woman from Denver on the way down, and ended up talking with her the remainder of the way down – which made the decent much more pleasant.
Then we hiked up Huayna Picchu, which is a smaller peak by Machu Picchu that still requires one to buy entrance into Wayna Picchu. This climb was shorter, but more technical. We shimmied up a rock using a rope, scrambled up some rocks, and went through a tunnel. We saw no one else on this hike, until a worker found us at the top of Huayna Picchu and told us that they were closing soon. It seems we had to exit the area by 2pm. Hence, booking the 7-8am entrance might be better if you want to see the cavern or just really take your time.
We then slowly wandered around Machu Picchu towards the exit. We saw more llamas grazing, explored some of the building, and generally just relaxed.
We used the 1 sole bathrooms again and Katie cleaned and re-bandaged her hurt left hand. Then we took the bus back to Aguas Calientes, collected our belongings from Hostel Varayoc, JT bought more water and bandaids (5 for 1 sole) for Katie’s hand, and we went to eat at La Boulangerie de Paris. We planned to take our lunch to go (as we thought we needed to be at the train station 30 minutes early), but the Paris-originating owner convinced us we would be fine. We had a bruschetta sandwich, a ham and cheese sandwich, and a chocolate pastry. All were very good, and only cost 22.5 soles total.
Then we walked over to the train station. JT ran off to buy a buy a beer, and then we boarded the 4:20pm Expedition train.
It was much nicer than we expected. It had leather seats, windows in the roof, had a selection of snacks and drinks for sale, and then they came through with a free selection of drinks and snacks. We were seated in a section including the 6 Llama Path people who finished today (how interesting that they had such a small group!) and the two Brazilian girls from our group who also stayed an extra night in Aguas Calientes. Three of the six Llama Path group were a mother and her two daughters – one who just graduated college and started working and the other in school in Dublin. Ends up they did not hire any porters and brought all of their own stuff. So, they were pretty exhausted from the trip. The interactions between the older daughter and the Mom reminded JT of how his sister and mom interact (in a good way!). 🙂
When the 2 hour train ride finished in Ollantaytambo, we found a driver holding a Llama Path sign, since they said during our pre-trek briefing that they would pick us up. We assumed we would be riding in a bus with the 6-person group finishing today, but the two Brazilian girls and us actually got our own Llama Path van and driver and had plenty of room to spread out! JT had a fascinating chat with Daniella about the new juice shop she is opening in Miami – which reminded him of the days working for the startup coffee shop Indigo Coffee in Tampa and all the little details and excitement about opening such a business.
We were dropped off a few blocks from Llama Path, where JT eventually exchanged his medium shirt for a large. They originally said no, since it was not in the original packaging. But they eventually caved after talking to a manager when JT inquired how much it would be to buy one and noted that our guide Miguel had said we could wear it for the group picture and then exchange it.
Then we walked to our previous hotel, Hatun Quilla
), and collected our larger bags that we had left there and repacked them. They were very friendly, especially after the 20 soles tip we gave them. It is so refreshing working with hotels that are not “spoiled” by ‘typical’ tourists and appreciate the experience interacting with foreigners.
Then we carried our four backpacks to Mr. Soup, where we ordered the last bowl of the soup of the day (vegetarian quinoa) and pumpkin. We also asked the manager/owner lady (who was also working there the last two times we went) to call us a trusted taxi. It seems like she called one of her friends who runs an unofficial taxi, but he charged us the standard 10 sole rate to travel from near Plaza de Armas to the Cruz del Sur bus station and drove safely.
The Cusco Cruz del Sur
bus station was actually really nice. Plenty of power outlets, free bathrooms with toilet paper, televisions, and brightly lit. JT was surprised that they were the only bus company going out of this “station” – and only about 5 buses leave from there per day.
We boarded the bus after going through an extremely light security check. Once on the bus, they went around with a video camera to record who was in each seat, supposedly for security. We sat in the downstairs VIP seats on a ‘Cruzero Tour Peru’ style bus (80 soles each for the 6.5 hour overnight bus from Cusco to Puno). The VIP seats, which were `extra-wide’ and reclined 160 degrees, were pretty comfortable. They provided each of us a small pillow and a blanket. They quickly served dinner (a cold cheese sandwich and a fruit pudding) with tea. Then they played a short safety video and then started a loud movie (that we could still hear through our earplugs). We eventually fell asleep, although we were woken multiple times by the family with 2-3 kids ahead of us who loved to yell or cry randomly, as well as by the sometimes curvy and/or unpaved road.
Included breakfast at Hostel Varayoc.
Good morning Machu Picchu!
A small section of Machu Picchu has collapsed.
Climbing up Wayna Picchu
The view from the first terraces at the top of Wayna Picchu
On one of these first terraces
One of the first terraces
On one of the terraces at the top of Wayna Picchu
Katie looking over the cliff on the top of Wayna Picchu
There was a small tunnel you had to go through on the top of Wayna Picchu
Climbing yet higher on Wayna Picchu
Now we’re actually at the top of Wayna Picchu
There was an interesting little rock seat on the top of Wayna Picchu
Some of the stairs were really small on the way back down from the top of Wayna Picchu
Climbing up Huayna Picchu
View of Wayna Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu
The llamas really have the run of Machu Picchu
On the Expedition Train back to Ollantaytambo