There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu, and all of them sound like great options. We can ride the bikes out to Santa Teresa and then either ride or hike or take a taxi to the Hydroelectric dam and walk the last several miles to Machu Picchu Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes). We can ride bike or take a bus to Ollantaytambo about an hour and a half from Cusco and then take the train through the Sacred Valley to A.C. or you can do some major hiking if that’s more your cup of tea. You can’t drive/ride any closer to Machu Picchu than to the hydroelectric dam about 9 miles up the river valley.
After a few days of mulling over the options, our schedule and current physical condition – bus and train it is. We’ve both been a little worn out and Cusco means a bug for each of us, not that it’s got anything to do with Cusco but it just works out that way. So we book train tickets and tickets to get into Machu Picchu and leave Cusco on a collective on a Sunday and take the drive to Ollantaytambo.
The view from the windows of the bus is incredible as we drop down into Urubamba…we can see snow=capped peaks along the mountain range. And part of me wishes we had ridden, but I also know I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the view as much if I’d been riding, so it’s a trade off. We catch the train within 30 minutes of arriving in Ollantaytambo and are off for the 1 hour and 40 minute ride to Aguas Calientes.
We arrive in A.C. and walk over the footbridge (there are no private cars in this town, it’s really a walking town) to go find our hostel and settle in.
We have dinner and drinks with Toby and Chloe, friends who drove to Santa Teresa and did the hike with their dog today. And we check out the town square.
We buy our bus tickets ($10 each way or $19 for a round trip) at the bus station and the next morning we line up at 4:10am to catch the first bus of the day at 5:30. We are the first people there but within a few minutes other people arrive and start to line up behind us. And by the time the bus is ready to go there are enough people to fill a few buses.
We get to the top after a 20-minute ride up gravel switchbacks on the private park road, only to line up behind a hundred or so sweaty, smelly runners and athletes who have either run or hiked up the mountain. It’s impressive. The gates open at 6am and off we go into Machu Picchu.
There are clouds over the main ruins but they are breaking up as the sun rises higher in the sky, hiding and then releasing the ruins.
We hike to the Inka Bridge, which is a narrow trail that hugs the mountain wall and includes a stone and wooden bridge over a part of the trail where the ledge is too narrow to walk on. It’s in the photo behind me.
From this trail we can see the hydroelectric dam to our west down in the river valley.
Then we hike back up the trail to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The sun has dissolved most of the clouds and is casting deep shadows from its low vantage point just over Machu Picchu Mountain.
There really aren’t words for how beautiful it all is.