How does the saying go ‘Getting there is half the fun.’? That was certainly true of our trip to Machu Picchu.
To get to Machu Picchu from Sillacancha, we had a one hour drive to Ollyantatambo, where you catch the train to Aguas Calientas (1 hour 40 minutes), or Machu Picchu Pueblo as it’s known to the locals. From there, you have to catch a bus to take you up the mountain to Machu Picchu (40 minutes). The only other way to get to Machu Picchu is to hike in on the Inca trail. Given that we’re traveling with kids, we chose the former.
First of all, it is generally advisable to book your trip to Machu Picchu 6-12 months in advance, as 2,500 tourist visit the site daily in high season (June-August). It is expensive to get there, so we didn’t make the final decision to go until about 2 weeks before our trip. Our AirBNB hosts didn’t book it until they had cash in hand, so it literally wasn’t arranged until the week before we went.
Given the last minute nature of the booking, there were few train times left to choose from. This is how we ended up on a 4:30pm train there and a 7:00pm train back. We had been told our train left at 3:00pm and didn’t check our tickets until we got to the station, so ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting area. The girls were amused by a dog who would pick our chip bags out of the garbage and run around with it. On the way back, the girls passed the time by listening and singing to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album (I think they know the words to the whole album by now!)🎶
We were supposed to be met at the Aguas Calientas train station, but were not (possibly because of the train time mix-up). We found our way to the hostal and our room with 5 beds (weren’t expecting to stay in a hostal).
The town basically caters to backpackers, hence the cheap lodging. The restaurants, on the other hand, charge three times what you would pay elsewhere. We had a late dinner and due to language issues, Hannah didn’t get her spaghetti until after everyone else was finished dinner.
Our Machu Picchu guide was supposed to meet us at the hostal to agree upon a time to leave the next morning. He was there but had my name and the hostal only had Anthony’s name. About an hour and a half after we were supposed to meet we finally connected.
We agreed to leave at 5:30am the next morning. When we got to the bus station, there was a long line already (apparently high season extended into September this year). We waited about an hour to catch the bus, so by the time we got there, the sun had already risen. It was cloudy, so we wouldn’t have seen it anyway.
The first 2 hours with the guide was ok, but hard on the girls because of the early hour, the fact that Amy hadn’t eaten breakfast, and that Hannah had use the bathroom, which is outside the actual ruins. Your ticket allows you three entrances into the ruins.
Once we had a bathroom and snack break, everyone was good to go. The girls enjoyed the second 2 hours more because they ran into a handful of llamas, including a couple of babies. The girls practically adopted a couple of llamas and would follow them around.
The ruins themselves are magnificent. Unlike other areas, which were inhabited by pre-Incas, Incas, and Spaniards, this site was only ever occupied by the Incas.
It is quite amazing what they built in just over 100 years. The site has many different building styles, with the best reserved for the sacred areas (temples) and the worst for the commoners area.
We covered most of the ruins and I must say, the girls were real troopers. These ruins were a bit easier to climb as Machu Picchu is not as high up as the ruins at Pisac. They are also the best preserved. It was good that we went so early, as we avoided the hot sun.
Although we grumbled a bit about the timing of the trains and waiting for the buses, we were extremely grateful that our AirBNB hosts could arrange the trip on such short notice. And although Machu Picchu is packed with tourists, I still highly recommend visiting it. After all, just getting there is half the adventure😀