Embracing Cliche in Machu Picchu

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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’.

Machu_Picchu-29We 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.

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Standing amongst the ancient ruins, touching the meticulously carved stones, the majesty of Waynu Picchu…

Indescribable, and life changing.

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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.

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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.

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38 Responses to “Embracing Cliche in Machu Picchu”

  1. Terri February 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Gorgeous pictures, you two!

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      @Terri: Thank you! One of my favorite sets for sure!

  2. Emily in Chile March 1, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    I felt exactly the same way at Machu Picchu – I honestly thought it was going to feel over-hyped, but just being there is NOT the same as seeing pictures. You guys had a great view!

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      @Emily: The energy there is just something else for sure! Surprised the hell out of us!

  3. Bethany ~ twoOregonians March 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Wow! Only ten people climbed that day? That’s incredible. Ted and I were just there in January, and the visit was everything we had hoped and more… Thanks for sharing your impressions and pictures. PS – Your llama picture cracks me up every time.

    Here are some of our favorites Machu Picchu photos from January (we need travel/baseball-cards or something – so much more fun to swap!): http://twooregonians.com/2012/01/reaching-machu-picchu/

    Happy adventuring!

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      @Bethany: Yeah! It was super special because not many people had been up there (and you can tell by the trail). I am not curious about Waynu Picchu but I can’t imagine that we will be returning any time soon.

  4. Zoe March 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Your photobombing llama is a big hit on Pinterest :)

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      @Zoe: I saw that! LOVE IT!

  5. Hai March 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    I love Machu Picchu.Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures.

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      @Hai: Thank you for dropping by the blog! 😀

  6. Claire March 2, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    This brings back such wonderful memories! Peru is still my favourite trip that I’ve done and Machu Picchu does not disappoint! Beautiful photos!

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      @Claire: Machu Picchu is my favorite set of ruins that we’ve seen on this trip (or ever). I can’t imagine anything coming close to this!

  7. Kieu ~ GQ trippin March 3, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    If ever cliche has it’s place, this is it! We’re dying to embrace Machu Picchu ourselves. Hoping some time this year once we’re through with Asia. Is Waynu Picchu the one where people say it takes time climb up but no time to come down because most people fall? lol. I heard that recently..

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      @Kieu: Waynu Picchu is that place! I’ve seen how steep it is! GOOD LORD!

  8. Duncan @ Travelistic March 5, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    I was initially lured in by the hilarious llama picture, but i must say Machu Picchu looks wonderful.

    I’ve never managed to make it out to that side of the world before, but definitely one for the ‘bucket list’ :-)

    All the best

    Duncan

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      @Duncan: The llama draws everyone in!

      South America has definitely been surprising for us. LOVE IT HERE.

  9. Ayngelina March 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Amazingly I did WaynaPicchu but only because it takes just an hour to get to the top and I’m lazy but an hour is okay for me.

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      @Ayngelina: I’m lazy too and made a sad face all the way to the top of the mountain.

  10. Pete March 6, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    It’s still on our list as we couldn’t do to the flooding 2 years ago. I could look at photos of MP all day. It’s just one of those places you don’t get tired of reading about or looking at. Being there must multiply this feeling by a million. Oh and too funny about the LATE in the Latin American Time. We learned when a time is posted, it’s just a suggestion 😉

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      @Pete: That would have killed me to not be able to go if I was there. And about the time, you have no clue how much patience I have learned on this trip lol!

  11. Federico March 6, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    I have great memories of being there, there wasn’t many people at all, though I did not climb ay of the mountains.

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      @Fede: The mountains give you a spectacular view, but to be honest, you can also get good pics from the actual grounds. 😛

  12. Stephanie - The Travel Chica March 8, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    It is such a big deal to visit this site. I cannot decide how I want to see it or what I want to climb…. it’s stressing me out, and I’m months away from getting to Peru :-)

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      @Stephanie: Just plan to be there all day. Worst case scenario is that you can buy admission to all the sites and make a decision later!

  13. Emily March 11, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    These pics are just stunning. I especially love the one of the llama :) Really, though–I know it’s got to be more stunning in person, but these pics do a great job of capturing the beauty. Machu Picchu is totally on my bucket list!

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      @Emily: Thank you! It is hard to get people to look at Machu Picchu pics because so many people have seen iconic pictures before.

  14. Audrey | That Backpacker March 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Nice shots! I loved exploring Machu Picchu. 😀 I didn’t manage to get that close to the llamas, but man the eyelashes on that first one are cute!

    • Erica March 20, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      @Audrey: We were a little concerned about how the llamas would react but… when in Rome, right?

  15. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures March 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Wow that sounds pretty amazing! I took some similar opportunities to attempt some difficult hikes to have solitary viewpoints and Petra and it was just an incredible experience! Hahaha and I love the acronym you came up with for “LATE!” And isn’t Machu Picchu town called Augas Calientes?

    • Erica March 20, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      @Aaron: Yeah, I give Shaun the major props for noticing LATE lol. I can’t wait to have Petra to ourselves… looks so amazing. Also, yeah it is Aguas Calientes but it looks like they are trying to change it for tourism purposes.

  16. Sebastian March 22, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list since years and it just jumped even higher on my list… great photos too!!!

    • Erica April 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

      @Seb: Thanks man! It was pretty much number one and completely blew me away. There is nothing in the world like it.

  17. Erin May 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Just happened upon your blog and wanted to say thank you for the beautiful pics and great musings!!

    • Erica May 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Why thank you for stopping by Erin! You made me blush there.

  18. Hogga January 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    i cannot express how much i love that last pic. LOVE!

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