Day twenty nine: Machu Pichu

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Today is Machu Pichu day and we are all excited. The anticipation of seeing the iconic city of Machu Pichu is high as it’s expected to be one of the highlights of our South American trip. For one of us, this is their second time in Machu Pichu – this time around perhaps made even more special as they share the experience with their children.

We start the day here just outside Ollantaytambu. We’re on the vistadome, a gorgeous train with big windows, glass ceilings and breathtaking views.

We travel from the Andean highlands to the beginnings of the jungle before finally arriving at the town of Aguas Calientes – an odd little town. The train follows the path of a river almost all the way and we see rapids, boulders, mountains, snow, villages, churches, but most breathtaking are the pure, simple, untouched landscapes. The weather is clear and the whole experience is impressive and the service seamless.

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Today’s school task is simply… write an interesting list of all the things you can see out of the window. Even our reluctant writer writes reams of notes and ends up with a comprehensive list of over fifty things.

Just under two hours later we are met at the station, ditch our bags and are taken straight away to the gates of Machu Pichu. Today ‘Jimmy’ is our tour guide and we only have two others in our group (bizarrely, one is from Kingston, only a few miles from our home town).

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We learn all about the lost city from our guide and are advised how to hike up to higher ground to get ‘the money shot’. Jimmy gives us the history and a tour around the old buildings and then we’re left to our own devices to explore the city ourselves. The gates close at 4.30pm and we’re told a whistle will be blown to tell us when to make our way out.

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Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu (official name) is truly stunning, however I find the mountains opposite the city equally as stunning. They are green, lush and thick with trees all the way to the top with little sign of snow or rocky terrain – we are at 2,430 metres above sea level.

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We’re allowed to walk amongst the ruins, touch them, lean on them, sit on them, we’re even invited to try and move them. I think back to Stonehenge in the UK and how it is now roped off, out of reach. I recall stories from my mum’s childhood and of her being able to run between the stones and touch them. Surely the day will come when the Machu Pichu ruins will be roped off too? For now…. we continue to enjoy them, up close and personal.

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We have a wonderful day up there and try to ditch the reliance on cameras and take it all in – consciously trying to engrain this view into our memories.

When it’s time to leave, we catch the bus back down to Aguas Calientes. We stay here and later that evening share Pisco Sours with our new friends we met in Cusco. A little worse for wear, we make arrangements to meet up again in a couple of days time… the boys are ecstatic!

Tips: 

– The amount of luggage you can bring into Machu Pichu via the train is restricted, so you may need to take a subset of your luggage with you. They advise one small backpack per person.

– Try to book tickets on the left hand side (direction of travel) of the vistadome as it has a better view than the right – as you are immediately next to the river.

2 comments

  1. Oh! Hubby and I dream of doing this trip with the kids one day. That scenery is beyond words, and I love that you can still get close up and personal with the ruins. I have an old photograph of my Grandmother sitting on one of the stones at Stonehenge, so it was disappointing to walk along the roped off path, but I guess I can understand why. These monuments of history just might not be around in another 1000 years if we all sit on them today. One of the fabulous things about our current travel around Ireland however, has been the abundance of history at our fingertips. I am certain that the kinesthetic experience will help etch memories in our children’s minds, as I’m sure that your Machu Pichu experience will be etched into your children’s minds now 🙂

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