I woke up at 4:30 knowing I needed to start moving. I had initially thought I’d walk up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, it’s about a 2 km walk with another 2km altitude gain but everyone kept telling me to take the bus up and walk down. My independent, adventurous self was mad at my other self for not strapping on the headlamp and climbing the mountain.
I went downstairs to breakfast. I was the only person in the breakfast room. I had café con leche, breakfast, and packed myself a couple small sandwiches for the day.
It was still pitch black outside. I walked to the bus stop which was just about 3-4 blocks up the street and found the line. Then I walked about a quarter of a mile to the end of the line!
The guy who got behind me in line had been sitting across the aisle from me on the train yesterday. We struck up a conversation, he was also traveling alone.
We only waited about 15-20 minutes in line until we got on board the bus and started the incline up the mountain to Machu Picchu. We were dropped off at the entry also the front entrance to Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel on the grounds of Machu Picchu and sells for $1700/night in the off season.
There are so many people here it’s unnerving. I was recently at Zion National Park and I felt the same way. It makes me think of when Kramer (from Seinfeld) quits swimming at the gym because it’s like a “flabby arm spanking machine.” That’s how this feels, wading through thousands of tourists from all over the world. And it’s unfortunate that Americans have such a bad rep because I have met obnoxious people from everywhere. There was a group of Australians taking photos with the ruins in the background and they were jumping, you know, like those photos for social media. A tour guide said “please sir no jumping” to one of them. You know what he responded?
“That’s stupid. Why not?”
There were obnoxious Koreans, Brazilians, Spaniards, British, Canadians, etc. The common denominator is that there are obnoxious people. There are also really lovely people from everywhere so let’s not stereotype. And let’s not be obnoxious when we travel…or ever.
I hiked down the mountain passing many people on my way down. It was basically all stairs and predominately switchbacks. I crossed the bridge and found “Casa de la Mariposa, ABIERTA” (house of butterflies, OPEN). So I walked through the garden and found a sign for a coffee shop. Woohoo! An old man unlatched the gate for me and we chatted about plants and he told me the patio here was a good place to watch birds.
By this point it was pouring rain so I sat under the tin roof and he brought me a book about the birds of Machu Picchu. He brought me a menu and I ordered a pisco sour. He told me they were out of pisco. So I ordered a passionfruit juice and read through the book while looking out over the river at the birds. I recognized the swallows and the hummingbirds but there were many I didn’t. Several colorful ones perched at the bird feeder the old gentleman had built. Another bigger white bird with a black head flew over the river and landed on the rocks. It continued to pour. I got hungry and went to order something to eat. The young man behind the counter hadn’t stopped cooking since I had walked in. I asked him what the empanadas were, he told me pork, cheese, and pineapple. Like Hawaiian pizza…without the tomato sauce.