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Machu Picchu

2011 Incan Empires Cruise

Monday, December 05, 2011 – Day 15 – Machu Picchu, Peru

Today promises to be the highlight of the whole trip. Rocio and Felix arrive at 5:50AM to transfer us to the Poroy train station, a few kilometers outside the city. Cusco has a train station dedicated to Machu Picchu, but the residents in the area had it closed down because of noise problems from the train running up a series of switchbacks to climb out of Cusco. I can sympathize with their concerns. Of course the city now fills up with all the tourist buses and taxis heading to Poroy station, but at least they are quieter than the train, although they cause much more pollution.

JoeTourist: Machu Picchu &emdash; Train running through the valley below

The PeruRail Vistadome train leaves Poroy station at 6:40AM, traveling through the agricultural valley of the Rio Cachimayo through several small towns. Once it passes through the town of Huarocondo, it starts to descend down the steep valley carved by the Rio Huarocondo. We are served a very nice continental breakfast snack, including good Peruvian coffee or soft drinks. At the half way mark down this valley, the train carefully negotiates a switchback built on the steep sides of the valley before traveling down to the junction of the Rio Huarocondo and the Rio Urubamba. We are now in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and the train soon arrives at Ollantaytambo station, where it makes its only stop for five minutes.

JoeTourist: Machu Picchu &emdash; Peruvians pose for us

We arrive at Aguas Calientes on time at 10AM. This small community is jammed in a narrow valley where the only road is to Machu Picchu. Our guide Grimaldo meets us in the train station, and we then take a transfer bus to Machu Picchu. The bus climbs to the top of the hill on a gravel road with many switchbacks, some 800 metres above the valley below. We soon catch our first glimpses of Machu Picchu – it’s hard to describe using words or photos. It is a wonderful feat of engineering if you consider it has survived virtually intact for centuries through countless tropical rainstorms, hot sun, fierce winds, and yes…the onslaught of tourists.

John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial
John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial

We spend two hours walking the site, learning all the fascinating concepts, which Grimaldo so skilfully conveys to us. I would not want to see Machu Picchu without a guide, at least for a first visit. I can see where it would be wonderful to just go up there to sit and soak up the ambience of this sacred place on my next visit, which would require staying in a hotel in Aguas Calientes for several nights. We see the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows in the Sacred District. We also see a sundial, which still has perfect alignment with the cardinal directions.

There is a single hotel right at the entrance to Machu Picchu, where we have a nice buffet lunch after our walking tour of the site. I expect the rates to stay there would be very high. There are several hotel and hostels in Aguas Calientes, which no doubt offer less expensive options. We take the bus to the bottom then board the Vistadome train from Aguas Calientes back to Poroy Station near Cusco. As the train makes its way back, the crew put on a fashion show and dragon dance. Of course they then come down the isle to sell the alpaca clothing they modelled.

Our trusty driver Felix and tour coordinator Rocio are waiting at the Poroy train station to transfer us back to Cusco and the hotel. By then it is 8PM, so we decide to skip dinner and go to bed since it was such a full day.

Machu Picchu
47 photos
Machupicchu-Cusco sign on train coach
Machupicchu-Cusco sign on train coach
Boarding the train
Boarding the train
Cows, farmers and crops
Cows, farmers and crops
People and horse looking at the passing train
People and horse looking at the passing train
Breakfast snack & Inca Kola
Breakfast snack & Inca Kola
In-coach service
In-coach service
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
Rail yard at Jajpunco
Rail yard at Jajpunco
Old Aztec entrance to Ollantaytambo
Old Aztec entrance to Ollantaytambo
Hikers on the start of the steep Inca Trail
Hikers on the start of the steep Inca Trail
Peru Rail engine
Peru Rail engine
Machu Picchu train in station
Machu Picchu train in station
Looking upstream
Looking upstream
Train running through the valley below
Train running through the valley below
Intipunku, Sun Gate Ruins - last campsite on Incan Trail
Intipunku, Sun Gate Ruins – last campsite on Incan Trail
Joe  at Machu Picchu - I was there
Joe at Machu Picchu – I was there
Switchback road up the mountain to Machu Picchu
Switchback road up the mountain to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu wide angle
Machu Picchu wide angle
Temple of the Moon - Huayna Picchu
Temple of the Moon – Huayna Picchu
Residential area and Temple of the Sun
Residential area and Temple of the Sun
Terraces below Lookout
Terraces below Lookout
Incan tombs
Incan tombs
Temple of the Sun from downhill perspective
Temple of the Sun from downhill perspective
Our guide Grimaldo explains how some entrances could be locked
Our guide Grimaldo explains how some entrances could be locked
Precisely fitted Incan stone wall
Precisely fitted Incan stone wall
Sacred fountain
Sacred fountain
Main Plaza and Incan houses with Temple of the Moon behind
Main Plaza and Incan houses with Temple of the Moon behind
Residential area
Residential area
Grimaldo explaining to John & Wendy McDonald how Incan houses were constructed
Grimaldo explaining to John & Wendy McDonald how Incan houses were constructed
Andean viscacha resting in a niche in a stone wall
Andean viscacha resting in a niche in a stone wall
Temple of the Sun
Temple of the Sun
Residential section & Temple of the Moon
Residential section & Temple of the Moon
Incan wall showing protrusions for lifting them in place
Incan wall showing protrusions for lifting them in place
Agricultural terraces and quarry area
Agricultural terraces and quarry area
Incan sundial
Incan sundial
John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial
John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Mourning Peruvian couple visiting the site
Mourning Peruvian couple visiting the site
Classic photo of Machu Picchu showing the agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Classic photo of Machu Picchu showing the agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Wide angle photo of Machu Picchu showing more agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Wide angle photo of Machu Picchu showing more agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Cusquena - Peruvian beer
Cusquena – Peruvian beer
Lion dancer
Lion dancer
Crew modeling clothes
Crew modeling clothes
Snowy moutain peaks in the Cordillera Urubamba
Snowy moutain peaks in the Cordillera Urubamba
Gibbous Moon from the train
Gibbous Moon from the train