At last the time arrived for the focal point of our trip, the one part that made everything else just warm up: Machu Picchu. Planes, trains, scary automobiles, sketchy hotels, all in service of getting to the Eighth Wonder of the World. We double checked our train tickets, paid the hotel bill in advance and scheduled a 4:30 AM wake up call for a 5:00 AM cab ride to the train station.
Naturally I got sick the night before. While brushing my teeth I zoned out, got absorbed in routine, and rinsed my mouth out with tap water. Apparently toothpaste does not have all the antibacterial qualities one might hope for. The results were unpleasant. You might call it "Manco Inca's Revenge." So I skipped the very nice spread Hostal Sauce set out for us, eschewing even coca tea, on the theory of "no garbage in, no garbage out." Then it was out to the cab in the cold dark of predawn, standing in at the ticket counter, fending off the early morning vendors and cramming our luggage into the overhead rack on the Backpacker to Aguas Calientes.
They say the train ride is breathtaking, that there's plenty to see: the Urubamba river tumbling over rapids, ancient ruins along the Inca Trail, rugged mountains. I wouldn't know, I didn't hardly look out the window. They also say the bus ride from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu itself is harrowing. I'll admit it has its share of switchbacks and it's a bit narrow in spots, especially for two way traffic, but I had full confidence in our safety. After all, they wouldn't invest in plush Mercedes buses, with air conditioning even, if they planned to let the drivers throw them off a mountain on a regular basis. Besides, those bus drivers didn't have half the guts of the Cusco cabbies. Nevertheless, Wendy chose to focus her attention on the uphill side of the bus ,where there were fewer steep drop offs to be found, until we arrived at the top.
While everyone else headed for the entrance we headed for our hotel. Oh, you thought there were no hotels at Machu Picchu? Not quite true, there is one, the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. It's a decent enough place, has its own charm, not too expensive. In the off season the nightly room rates even fall into the mere triple digits, and that'll be in American Dollars please, not Peruvian Soles.
Having allowed the hotel manager to fill out our check in forms for us, entrusted our gear to the staff, fortified ourselves with coca tea (and two Immodium for myself) and strapped on our photo gear we headed off to the park proper.
What, no pictures? Nah, you didn't want to see photos of any of that stuff anyway. Trust me on that. We'll have some pictures next time, I promise.