The most obvious reason people visit Peru is to visit the Ancient Incan City of Machu Picchu. After all was said and done that is what the seventh day of my trip to Peru was all about.
The day began at 3:30 am with the porters and the cook waking us up. To say I was tired would be a gross understatement.
The reason we were getting up so early was because we wanted to get to Machu Picchu as early as possible and we still had about three hours of hiking before we got there.
I have to say that I was not a fan of the way things went that morning. We all felt very rushed and after eight great meals on the trek our final meal was nothing but bread, jelly and butter. I was so tired that I could barely eat. Looking back I wish I had made myself eat more but I just couldn’t. The porters needed to get going because they had to pack all of our stuff up so that they could go to the town near Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, to head back to Cuzco.
I managed to get going pretty quickly but my mom was struggling, she did have a significantly injured tailbone after all.
Then came the time to tip the porters and the cook…My mom and I had both asked Marco multiple times what an appropriate amount to tip was. He never really gave a straight answer. That left us each to make the decision for ourselves. I was utterly disgusted when our travel companion, Kees, only tipped a total of fifty Sols. If you break that down per person that means he was only tipped each porter and the cook roughly $3.40 each for hauling our stuff across a mountain range and making food for us. I get that it is their job but if you were in the United States or Europe and you only tipped that much then you would come across as a miser. My mom tipped them a total of 100 sols and I tipped a total of 200 sols. I actually felt guilty about only tipping that much. If Marco had given us a guideline before the trek began about how much to tip I would have brought more cash (we asked and all he said was “good question). So in the end the porters and cook split a total of 350 sols from us which meant that each one of them got about $25. Looking back I still feel bad that they only got that much. The trip wouldn’t have been possible without them.
After we said good-bye to the porters and the cooks we were off again, but only for a couple minutes. Before we could go back onto the last bit of the Inca Trail we had to go through a check point but the check point didn’t open until 5:30 am. We arrived at the gates of the check point at about 4:40 which meant we had almost an hour to wait.
It seemed silly to get up at 3:30 and rush so we could get to the check point and wait for almost an hour. By that point I was awake because of an energy shot, so I listened to my I-Pod to pass the time.
At long last the check point opened and we were back on the Inca Trail. I’ve never hiked in the middle of the night before and I never want to again. It’s not that I really had a problem hiking in dark with a flashlight to lead the way. It was that I had to get up so early after having already spend three days of hiking.
Although the fourth and final day of the Inca Trail involved the least amount of hiking it was the hardest day in a way. It was the hardest day because we had gotten up so early and because of the cumulative effect of hiking so much already.
There were, of course, more stairs. Including the hardest set of stairs we faced on the entire trek.
I was the first one up, followed by my mom. We then waited for Marco and Kees. While we were waiting we saw other people climb this set of stairs from hell, some of them basically crawled up them which in retrospect was the easier was to attack them.
Once Marco and Kees were up I found that we were literally a couple minutes away from where we hoped to get our first glance of Machu Picchu. We reached the Sun Gate a.k.a.Intipunku.
This was a big part of the reason we got up at 3:30 am. We hoped to be at Intipunku so that when the fog lifted we would get to see the majesty of Machu Picchu for the first time from above.
We, and lots of other tourists, grabbed our stops and anxiously waited for the fog to lift.
It seemed as though it would happen at any moment…but it didn’t.
After being at Intipunku for about thirty minutes it became clear that we could end up waiting for a long time and it might in our best interests to just head down to Machu Picchu. My mom seemed a little reluctant to leave, which I understood. It would have been great to see Machu Picchu for the first time in a big moment of natural reveal but it just wasn’t meant to be.
So we headed down, more stairs, but we expected that after the two previous days. Finally, as we went down our last hill we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
For me it was a moment of disappointment. For me the entire Inca Trail had been about the destination of reaching Machu Picchu so to arrive tired and dirty and hungry wasn’t the magic I wanted it to be.
Still we made it!
For some reason we were required to exit the gates and then go back in. This did not make sense since we were already inside of Machu Picchu but rules are rules. So we exited. My mom and I put our backpacks and hiking poles (my hiking pole we on its last leg and I was planning on throwing it away) in to a storage. It was great to be able to use a real restroom though.
I didn’t eating one of the energy bars I had left. This turned out to be a big mistake. Once we went back through the gates of Machu Picchu (after Marco and Kess were forced to check their hiking poles even though other people were allowed to keep their poles with them) I started to get hungry, REALLY hungry…Keep in mind it was about 9 and we had already been up for almost six hours and had hiked for three of them and I had only eaten toast and one energy bar.
Marco took us around a fair amount of Machu Picchu giving us tons of great information about specific locations.
The problem was I was so hungry that I didn’t care. My mom seemed tired too. Kees was in so much pain with his knees that he seemed like he was about to fall over and Marco seemed like he just wanted to get away from us. That isn’t to say Marco wasn’t a great guide but I could tell he was tired too. I really wish that once we reached Machu Picchu we had all just separated. I appreciated Marco’s effort but I was over it.
After about two hours Marco headed into Aguas Calientes where we would meet him later so we could pick up our bags. All I wanted to do was get away from Kees and eat something so that I could go back into Machu Picchu and explore on my own without being so hungry.
Unfortunately, my mom invited Kees to eat with us which I was not happy about. I think she was just being nice and I think he accepted just to be nice but sometimes you don’t need to be nice. Sometimes you just need to do your own thing.
I was a little amused that at Machu Picchu my mom got a hot dog and a coke. She said she was trying to spend as little money as possible but I was a little more adventurous having an empanada and an Inca Kola.
Kees, actually ended up meeting up with his friends from Holland and we said bye…at least for the next couple hours. I also got ice cream and then my mom and I went back through the gates of Machu Picchu to explore on our own.
The two hours my mom and I had inside of Machu Picchu by ourselves were great.
We decided that we wanted to go see the Inca Bridge. Unfortunately, for our poor bodies this involved a lot more climbing but we pushed on. When are we ever going to be back there again? The Inca Bridge was pretty intriguing.
I felt satisfied that we got to do our own thing in Machu Picchu.
As we explored Machu Picchu on our own we talked about the sudden change from being on the Inca Trail. For three days we had been away from civilization then all of sudden we are around a lot of tourists. It is quite a disparity to go from the middle of nowhere in the Andes to what in a way is like Mount Rushmore…or really another world famous tourist attraction.
After seeing the Inca Bridge we said to good-bye to Machu Picchu.
We then picked our stuff up from storage and waited to get on the bus to take us into Aguas Calientes. The bus ride was a little intense because there were at least two times as we made our way down the hill to Aguas Calientes where we came head to head with a bus that was going up on a narrow roadway that really only has room for one bus. When that happened we had to back up to a wider spot so that both buses could make their way. My mom and I joked that it was like something out of “Romancing the Stone”.
When we got into Aguas Calientes we found the restaurant where Marcos was waiting for us with the bags the porters had carried with us for duration of the Inca Trail. Also at the restaurant was Kees. We said our good-bye to Marcos. My mom tipped him a hundred sols and I tipped him sixty. We have no idea how much Kees tipped him but based on how much he tipped he Porters I can’t imagine it was much. Even now after several weeks I am so grateful to Marco. After my mom suffered her fall at camp the second day she was in a lot of pain. Marco carrying her backpack on the third day of the trek really made it possible for my mom to complete her dream trip.
Before he left Marco gave us our tickets for the train back to Cuzco and instructions on how to find our ride from the train station back to our hotel. The ink was very faint on the tickets but Marco assured us it would be okay.
After Marco left we found ourselves alone at the restaurant with Kees. Once again my mom’s desire to be nice outweighed common sense. Even though she had said she didn’t know what to say to him she kept trying to make conversation. I was hungry again so I ordered a pizza.
After I was done eating we had about two hours to kill before our train ride back to Cuzco. My mom, of course, asked Kees if he wanted to walk around and explore Aguas Calientes with us. Thankfully he said no.
I really wish our trip had been arranged differently so that once we arrived in Aguas Calientes we could have checked into a hotel there, showered and enjoyed the little town. Instead we had two hours where we were dirty, tired and smelly. We also had two bags the haul around. We tried to do a little exploring and shopping.
However, after too long we just gave up and went to wait at the train station.
We waited at the train station for almost an hour and then almost ended up missing our train. Why you may ask, well because I didn’t trust my instincts. When Marco had given us our train tickets the ink was so faint you could barely read it but I made the mistake of trusting him when he said it would be fine. Well, it wasn’t fine. When we went to board the train the electronic scanners couldn’t read the bar code so we found ourselves running to get them reprinted with just ten minutes before the train left. Thankfully we made it.
Once we were on the train we found ourselves sitting with…Kees. It totally made sense since we did everything else with him but we all were ready to be done with each other. I normally love riding a train but the Peru Rail train was not like riding a high speed train in Europe. It was much slower and much bumpier. If our train ride had been during the day I would have sat back in enjoyed the scenery but it got dark pretty early into our ride. When the battery in both my I-Pods was completely dead my mom and I tried to pass the time by playing cards. The train car was rocking too much to let us play Rummy so we played Blackjack.
Being on that train was just too much after all we did on the trail. Again, if we had spent the night in Aguas Calientes and ridden the train the next day it would have been much more enjoyable but we didn’t.
After three plus hours on the train we were finally almost back to our hotel in Cuzco, we found our ride and checked back into our hotel.
Once we were settled into our new room (thank goodness we weren’t back in our first room) then we couldn’t wait to shower and change into some clean clothes. Once we were showered and changed we were hungry again. Thankfully we were able to eat at the restaurant inside the restaurant right before it closed.
It had been such a long day but we were back in Cuzco and our Inca Trial adventure was over. Thankfully, we still had one more stop left on our trip. We had a day and half in Lima planned. It wasn’t time to be sad yet because we still had another city to explore.
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