Don't miss the first bus.
Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
12Trip End Jul 18, 2011
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Where I stayed
Casa de Luz / La Pequena Casita Hotel Aguas Calientes
Read my review - 3/5 stars
Read my review - 3/5 stars
The first bus doesn't actually leave until 6, but if you're not on it, you'll miss the chance to get your ticket stamped for Wayna Picchu, that rock structure jutting out of the earth behind Machu Picchu in all the pictures...
When I finally convinced my body to get out of bed, I dragged myself downstairs and out the door to complete middle of the night darkness and a line as long as a city block, quickly forming for the 6am bus. I was only about 15 minutes behind Mike, but there were at least 60 people already in line behind him by the time I actually located him in the darkness. The best part about La Pequena Casita was its location: Directly in front of the line for the bus to Machu Picchu. I took a seat in line and let Mike go find one of the women selling coca tea which we drank to warm us up and WAKE us up. So yummy.
At about 5am, Jose showed up and found us - He saved our space while we went to eat breakfast, which was actually better than I expected. At 6am, the line started moving and busses started filling up - We were probably on the 4th or 5th bus, so we thought for SURE we'd be one of the 400 Wayna Picchu climbers for the day. What they don't tell you is that those are not the only buses that go to MP and the line we waited in is not the only way you can have a chance to get your ticket stamped for Wayna Picchu. When we arrived at MP, it became very clear that we would not be one of the first 400 people in line. People walked from Aguas Calientes, private buses crowded the parking area, people got in line from the hotel located right at the entrance (cheaters)....
We didn't have a shot. Bummer. Jose disappeared for a while and re-emerged from the crowd. He pulled us out of line and we felt up to the front where his buddy was working - VICTORY (yes, we cheated)... 2 stamps for Wayna Picchu. Only one or two people noticed us cutting. I didn't feel bad about it. Survival of the fittest.
Jose showed us around MP for a couple of hours. We watched the sun rise over the ruins - Don't miss this. Even if you don't have any interest in a 1 hour vertical climb (why anyone would NOT want to put themselves through that torture is beyond me) - you MUST get to MP for sunrise. The crowds are relatively thin, people are quiet, the air is crisp.
At 10am, we said goodbye to Jose and passed our Wayna Picchu stamped papers over to the gatekeepers at the entrance. We signed our name in a book and headed up.
The climb was far more difficult - Straight up, sheer cliffs (no railings in most places), steps that were spaced far enough that they didn't feel like they were helping, lots of people to navigate. The people aspect was pretty cool - Everyone encouraged everyone else.
How did the residents of Wayna Picchu get their groceries up to their houses?
We chilled at the top for a half hour, took some great photos, chatted to the other VIPs of the day and then headed back down.
By the time we reached MP, we had had enough of the ruins. I'm sure many people stay for the day to walk around and relax and photograph, but we were really finished with the whole thing by noon. Starving, sweaty and exhausted, we caught a bus (I think they run every 10 minutes) back to Aguas Calientes.
FYI, if you want to head out of Aguas Calientes before night, make sure to explicitly state that when booking a tour. Our tour ended at 10am (another annoyance, considering we paid for a 2 day tour..we got about 26 hours) and we didn't have a train back until 6pm. We wandered around Aguas Calientes, ate nachos (it was a good idea at the time) and bought some silly things - magnets, alpaca stuffed animals, cheesy things.
We were pretty sick of Aguas Calientes by 6pm - The train ride back was ridiculous: The poor PeruRail employees had to serve us tea and coffee and snacks AND put on a fashion show, making quick changes in the teenie bathrooms. This was the weirdest part of the trip - They were selling fine alpaca scarves and shawls and sweaters, modeled by the train staff. There was a pre-recorded history lesson on an upcoming festival and some dancing... It was all a blur, really.
I was so happy to return to Hostal Iskay for one more night. I don't think I could have made it all the way to Cusco. Having one more night and day in slow-paced, quiet Ollantaytambo was just what we needed.
We finished our long and incredible day at Heart's Cafe. The food was delicious- We inhaled our dinner and went straight to bed.