Our wake up call was set for 4:00am. All of us were ready at 5:00am at the lobby when Jesus came to get us. He informed us that we will be going to the train station at Ollantaytambo to take the train to Machu Picchu. We had to make sure we brought sun screens, sun glasses, hats, bottle of water ( in case we get altitude sickness ), our passport and the most important item -- our cameras with lots of SD cards.
It was still dark when we arrived at the train station. I thought that I am going to be one of the lucky ones to get a SUNRISE shot in Machu Picchu.. I was wrong!! Our train left at 6:00am. The train ride to Agua Calientes was an hour and a half, and we had to take another bus ride ( 30 minutes -- on a narrow dirt road ) up to the site.
Aboard the train, Jesus explained to us that there was another way to get to Machu Picchu. Using the Inca Trail. There are 2 Inca trails to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 treks in the world. There are 2 Inca trails to Machu Picchu. One was a 4-day trek which would cover 26 miles ( or 43kms ) which manages to combine beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. Or you can opt for a shorter trek ( 7 hour trek ) to the site. Of course this shorter route to the site would largely depend on how fast you walk!
We passed several camp sites of the trekkers on our way to Agua Calientes.
We reached Aguas Calientes at 7:30am. According to Jesus, Agua Calientes is the closest access point to the historical site of Machu Picchu, which is 6 kilometres away or about an hour walk. The surroundings reminded me of Baguio.
The bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu takes about 20 minutes and costs US$8 each way ( US$16 return ). We expected that since it was still early -- there would be not much of a crowd ( the gate opens at 5:00am ), but we were wrong!! There was a gigantic line waiting for the buses! It didn't take all that long actually, and before I knew it we were heading on a very narrow uphill zig-zag road toward the site. The scenery you see as you ride up the mountain is a lush cloud forest with great views of the sacred mountain on the opposite side of the valley. The ride itself was spectacular as the narrow track winds its way up the mountainside. It can be a bit scary at times with almost vertical drops plunging down into the valley below especially when you meet a bus coming in the other direction! I kept being paranoid that the bus would veer off track and we'd tumble down the cliffs to our imminent death. Finally --- we arrived at our destination! I was so so excited!