The sun was setting behind the Andes, filling the sky with beautiful orange and pink hues but I barely noticed. I stood at the fence, anxiously peering down the tracks waiting for our train to come into view. Not an ideal way to pass the time, but it helped keep my excited fidgeting down to a minimum.
Running on Latin American TimE, the train finally appeared. It slowed to a screechy halt at the Ollantaytambo station and the other eager passengers began to stir and line up. We piled on and found our seats across the table from another couple. They were lucky to avoid the awkwardness of staring into our faces for the duration of the ride as I was already rudely ignoring them, glued to the window.
The train roared through the darkness. The only visible light came from the engine as we went around corners, surrealistically illuminating the winding tracks and mountain walls. We continued for another hour, following the path carved by the powerful river running alongside us, until arriving at ‘Machu Picchu Town’.
We wandered out of the station and through a market full of closed shops before coming to our hostel on the main street- a street built around the old train tracks running through town. Upon entering our room in the back of the building we were greeted by the now-familiar river raging outside our window at a near-deafening level. At first the sheer volume almost drove us away but knowing we were going to sleep about as well as kids going to Disneyland in the morning, we crawled into bed.
A few winks later the alarm was going off. Still dark outside, we groggily headed to the bus station in hopes of beating the crowds. The excitement started surging again as the bus crept up the switchbacks towards the entrance. We were conquering another item on our bucket list. Stopping at the end of the road, we sprinted off the bus and through the dust cloud. A minute later we were reminded of the altitude but that didn’t deter us… much. We huffed and puffed past the other groups as fast as we could on the narrow paths.
As we scrambled up the final leg of the path, what little breath we still had in our lungs was taken away. The view was incredible. Even having seen hundreds of pictures taken from this vantage point, none of them could capture the experience of actually being here.
It was indescribable. Everything was just, wow.
Standing amongst the ancient ruins, touching the meticulously carved stones, the majesty of Waynu Picchu…
Indescribable, and life changing.
We could have wandered the ruins all day, exploring every nook and cranny in the company of the llamas and chinchillas that call Machu Picchu home, but we had business to attend to- business that we paid a lot of money to have the opportunity to attend to. And at this point in the day the crowds were getting quite large and noisy so it seemed like a great time to get away.
When we purchased our tickets, we told the agent that we were going to opt out of climbing Waynu Picchu due to the difficulty and other random excuses (we’re gamers, give us a break). This apparently put him in a trolling mood as he then convinced us that we wanted tickets to Machu Picchu Mountain- a much, much more difficult climb as we learned on our way to the top.
This hike requires you to sign in and out, listing your start and end times as well. At first we assumed this was just for their records, but no- this is so they know if they need to send a search party to rescue you. Waynu Picchu sells out every day, usually in advance too. On this specific day, only ten people attempted to climb this beastly mountain– including us.
On the hike up we wondered if we’d regret not climbing Waynu Picchu while here but when we reached the top of Machu Picchu Mountain we knew we’d never give it a second thought again. We had the entire mountaintop to ourselves. There were no people. In fact, we were so high up that we couldn’t even see the people in the ruins. It was ours, and only ours- something that seemed impossible to achieve due to the number of visitors that flock to these ruins every day.
We ended the day in the most perfect way possible, alone in the grandeur of this incredible location.