My Machu Picchu trip was saved after The Cusco Incident.
Machu Picchu was the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. The view above Rio de Janeiro from Christ the Redeemer previously held the title, but has been dethroned.
Machu Picchu is removed from Cusco. The Incas never told the Spanish about it so it was unknown for 500 years until Hiram Bingham, a Yale historian, re-discovered it to the outside world in 1901. A German businessman found it in 1867 but kept it a secret in order to loot the artifacts. Now Machu Picchu sees over 2000 tourists / day.
Most take a 4-hour train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the tiny town at the base of the mountain where Machu Picchu sits. From Aguas Calientes they take a bus to the top of the mountain. Real enthusiasts can take the Inca Trail, a four-day hike from Cusco which was how the Incas got to Machu Picchu pre-Colombus. There’s also a two-day option.
As soon as you arrive to Aguas Calientes, you can’t help noticing the natural beauty of the area. The forested Andes create a view of plush, green mountains in every direction. Waterfalls are everywhere. The local culture is very traditional. Aguas Calientes is a pure tourist economy, offering everything from chullos and sweaters to hotels and restaurants to any knick-knack you could possibly sell to the 2000+ daily visitors to Machu Picchu.
My idea of hiking was to skip the bus from Aguas Calientes. This is a terrible idea. There’s not much to see, and you’re climbing a mountain. Take the bus. I’d also recommend not having three beers at lunch if you ignore my advice.
The train from Cusco drops off around 11 am. I killed an hour in Aguas Calientes for lunch. By the time I arrived at Machu Picchu I only had 2 hours or so to hang out. I could’ve spent the whole day there. It’s that cool. I recommend arriving to the ruins first thing in the morning.
I bought a small quantity of marijuana in Cusco with the intention of burning one just before entering the ruins, which I did. This may have enhanced my experience. If you’re going to hike up the mountain, don’t puff until you’re at the top. I’m glad I waited.
I rarely spend much time thinking about the Incas and Inca culture, but you can’t help it once you arrive at Machu Picchu. What were those people thinking when they built this? How were they able to build something more beautiful than any other civilization in history? They built it as a resort.
Being alone, I had strangers take pictures of me. When I asked an American girl to take a picture of me, her father came out of nowhere and said, “Hey, you’re that crazy guy from the bar last night.”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
Him: “You don’t remember me?”
Him: “Ha ha. You were having a good time.”
Me: “Are you serious? I met you?”
(See The Cusco Incident)
It’s very important to go to Machu Picchu at the right time of year. If you go during the rainy season like Nicolas did, you may also say something stupid like “You don’t have to see Machu Picchu” (the last pic is his – sucka!).
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