So finally, after 4 long days of trekking we had made it to our final destination – Machu Picchu. Although there is the option of trekking up for an hour to reach the ancient city, we decided against it and all opted to take the bus up. However this wasn’t without it’s faults as we were up at 4am in order to get in line just to queue to be on one of the first buses! We could grab a coffee while queueing but when we asked a street vendor if we could purchase his empanadas for breakfast we were told they were for a bakery and we couldn’t buy directly from him – missed opportunity if you ask us…
The road up was windy but with beautiful views – and also we passed the people who chose to walk and saw what definitely appeared to be dreaded regret on their faces! Then at 6am we were queuing to enter the site. When we got in we had a 90 minute tour with Miguel our tour guide which definitely absolutely flew by! He told us the basics of how the site was founded and some of the controversies surrounding the ‘original’ discovery, which we found interesting. After he left we had half an hour to get to the base of Machu Picchu mountain, which we had tickets to climb. To put it frankly – none of us felt at all like doing an optional climb up yet another mountain! So we decided rather to hang around at the famous photo spot for the mist to clear, and think it was worth the wait!
After Miguel had left us it was down to us to fill our day and return to Cuzco ourselves. We found a brewery for lunch with surprisingly nice beer! We had to be careful though as a mix of the altitude and how tired we all were meant one or two were definitely enough. Next, we had to tackle the Peruvian train system… fair to say that we won’t be complaining about the UK train services for a while to come!
Finally, after a 90 minute train journey there was a 2 hour bus transfer to Cuzco. We arrived tired, in the dark and got a cab straight to our hotel – a converted Monastery. Unfortunately we weren’t in the right state of mind to appreciate it, however it meant we woke up in the morning it was like we arrived in a new hotel and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. Whilst the buffet breakfast wasn’t the most inspired, we were all just relieved not to have to be walking anywhere! After breakfast we headed into town for a spot of shopping and some lovely sushi (which became a habit of this part of the trip), and then picked up our rental car! We were apprehensive when we saw the number of scratches on it, however the owner of the car was super friendly and we took plenty of photos and wrote everything down. Still, it did look like the car had taken part in banger racing for a portion of its life…
Our next destination was Urubamba, a 90 minute drive from Cuzco which was made much more pleasant by having our own car! It was a nice change to drive car with such a small engine (for fuel) and also a small body so we could fit in all the tiny gaps around town! After a bit of getting lost we arrived at the lodge we would be staying at, and it looked like it had been placed from a completely different town into this one. Despite the dusty surrounding roads the gates opened onto a beautifully gardened winding path with 6 houses placed around the side of it. When we got the keys and took a look inside we knew this was the perfect place to be relaxing for the next few days.
That evening we headed to town aiming for a brew pub, however it turned out the place had since closed down. So instead we found a pretty strange place, whose specialty was curries – not something we expected to find in the middle of Peru! Still the food was good, if a little spicy for some of us, and we retired to an early bed. The following day we paid a visit to the salt mines, providing stunning photo opportunities. After a quick walk around and buying some surprisingly tasty smoked salt, it was another trip to a sushi restaurant! Jamie bravely tried some Peruvian Ceviche, while the rest of us stuck to sushi and a stunning trout burger. This was one of the best meals of the trip! We spent the afternoon relaxing in the glorious sunshine and then headed to a local pizza place for some incredibly tasty and incredibly cheap pizza!
The following day was our last full day together, but for lunch we had organised a Pachamanca – a traditional way of cooking using hot stones in the ground. We were shown the process and then got to sample the absolutely delicious lamb, chicken and pork – and also the potatoes cooked underground. It was incredibly how they cooked so quickly and how well the ‘earth oven’ kept the heat in! We left, filled to our boots and stopped off at a brewery on the way home and said hello to Mallory and Arthur (the couple purchasing Betty!), who live close to where we were. For our last night we returned to the lovely sushi and trout restaurant and enjoyed a meal on the lighter side after all the food we’d had!
The following morning we headed to the airport and dropped Annie’s parents off, although we only had a 5 minute drop off window so the farewell wasn’t so emotional! Also we’ll be seeing them soon anyway. Nevertheless, a huge thank you to the Isons for making the trip to see us, as they were fantastic company and we had a wonderful fortnight with them!
Now it’s on to Bolivia!