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Experiencing wonder at Machu Picchu

I’ve been sitting here staring at my computer screen for 5 minutes.

Honestly, I don’t know where to begin — how do you write a mere blog post about your day hiking around Machu Picchu and even begin to do it justice?

You don’t. Because it’s Machu freaking Picchu. It’s IMPOSSIBLE.

But I guess I’ll give it a try.

Thursday, February 5th — Our day began at approximately 4:30am. We got up, sleepily gathered our stuff, and started out for what could be called a memorable journey. We had arranged for a taxi to take us to the Ollantaytambo Train Station from our hotel… not realizing until the night before that this train station was 2 hours from our Cusco hotel. Thank the lawwwd for the magic of the exchange rate! — the entire ride totaled to about $30, or just $10 each. What???

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The taxi ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo was nothing short of horrifyingly and terrifyingly petrifying. Our driver was a nice enough guy, I think he spoke a maximum of 10 words for the entirety of the journey, but he drove like a GOD DAMN MANIAC. We were zipping along mountain roads, flying around blind curves, half the time he wasn’t even in the right lane… to this day I consider it a miracle that we are alive. If it weren’t for the breathtakingly beautiful countryside views, I would have curled up in a ball and cried for the entire two hours.

(The trip home ended up being even scarier, and after that, every time we got into a car while in Peru I started profusely sweating & involuntarily mumbling the Our Father under my breath while hyperventilating… just kidding, but is this a thing in South America? Driving like a cracked out convict escaping from prison? Fill me in.)

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We arrived at the Ollantaytambo Train Station unharmed and with beating pulses, and thankfully,the next mode of transportation we took on our trek to Machu Picchu was a (relatively slow moving) train. We hopped onto the Inca Rail, soaked in the farm-dotted Peruvian countryside and eventually arrived in Aguas Calientes, the town that lies in the gorge below the ruins of Machu Picchu. Though it would have been nice to avoid the early wake-up call, the town of Aguas Calientes itself was nothing much aside from a whole lot of tourist shops and run-down restaurants that could easily be missed. Cusco had much much much more to offer.

A short bus ride took us from Aguas Calientes all the way up another tight, winding road to where Machu Picchu sits at the top of the mountain. We snagged window seats to be able to get the best views…
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…and then suddenly we were there.

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After getting off the bus, it was just a short walk along a path (with remarkably smooth wooden railings!) and around a bend until we were standing there, MARVELING, feasting our EYES and SOULS upon a sacred, ancient site that millions of people around the globe dream about visiting for their entire lives. A wonder of the world!

It was overwhelming at first: where to start and what to do! and how to fully appreciate this moment and where are all the god damn llamas? We strolled through the ruins and stopped incessantly for photo ops. It was hot that day — a sunny 80F — and our energy levels were high… we didn’t know what the rest of the day would hold. Eventually we turned a corner and BAM. LLAMAS. Basically the most highly anticipated event of the trip was to see llamas at Machu Picchu… and there they were. It could only mean one thing.

Selfies.

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My new best pal.

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After spending some quality with our new llamas friends (miss you, Gina), we made our way to the entrance to Huaynu Picchu — aka the massive, daunting mountain that lingers next to Machu Picchu. When we booked our tickets to Machu Picchu, we chose the option that included a hike up this ominous mountain, not fully aware that it was going to be the most physically strenuous thing I have ever put my body through. Simultaneously, it was one of the most rewarding (isn’t that how it always works?) and hiking to the top gave me one of the most euphoric, out-of-body sensations I have ever felt in my whole little life. It was such a significant life event, I’m saving the hike for it’s own blog post — in just a few days!
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We left Machu Picchu sunburnt, exhausted and ALIVE! and we were met on the train by a new seat companion. More on the second half of our day at Machu Picchu coming soon!

What was your favorite photo from Machu Picchu? Have you ever been?

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26 Comments

  • Reply Margaret

    Great blogpost! I’m one of the few people in my family who has never been to Machy Picchu, and girl – I’m gonna go!

    April 14, 2015 at 6:43 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      What are you waiting for? It’s worth the money, journey, hassle!

      April 14, 2015 at 6:45 pm
  • Reply Hannah Myer

    The llamas though. Please tell me you’ve printed and framed at least one of those selfies. Can’t WAAAAIT for your post about the hike!!!

    April 14, 2015 at 7:00 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      I should definitely do some printing…. what was I thinking

      April 14, 2015 at 7:12 pm
  • Reply Moani Hood

    What a beautiful place! You are right…that’s a travelers dream. How incredible you had a chance to see it 🙂 love all the photos too!

    April 14, 2015 at 11:00 pm
  • Reply Mollie Simon

    I love these posts- reliving the magic! And thanks for the super flattering pic 😉

    April 15, 2015 at 10:20 am
    • Reply Kristen

      LOL us figuring out the stupid GoPro. Peru forever.

      April 15, 2015 at 10:49 am
  • Reply Conquering the Hike of Death | skyward eyes

    […] winding road on the left of Machu Picchu is where the bus drove on the way & where we got some incredible photos of the surrounding mountains. We spent awhile up there just sitting (waiting, wishing), devouring the sun & views, and […]

    April 18, 2015 at 5:47 pm
  • Reply Isabel

    This reminds me of “Llama take a selfie” lol. I love the pictures of the llamas hehe!! But all of them are amazing!

    April 21, 2015 at 4:03 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      Thanks, Isabel! 🙂

      April 21, 2015 at 4:36 pm
  • Reply 50djohnson

    You are blessed to get to follow your dream! Thank you for following my blog., I’ll look forward to getting to know you better.Debbie

    April 21, 2015 at 5:07 pm
  • Reply Bussing through Peru | skyward eyes

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    May 2, 2015 at 10:40 pm
  • Reply badfish

    Great post. Great, great photos (but then, how does one really take a bad photo there, eh?). That one photo of Machu Picchu is the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen in a photo of the place. Did you make it to the hot springs?

    May 7, 2015 at 12:48 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Well thank you very much! It was a beautiful day! We didn’t make it to the hot springs unfortunately — the majority of the day was spent climbing Huayna Picchu. But on the way back on the train we had a fun seat mate who had apparently spent the entire day getting drunk in the hot springs and it sounded like he had a pretty good time… 😉

      May 7, 2015 at 12:58 am
  • Reply Tom Clausen

    Great photos, Kristen! Such an amazing and vertical place! I spent a beautiful day there last October and climbed Machu Picchu Mt. which also gave a bird’s eye view over the whole site.

    May 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      Love it! If I ever go back to Machu Picchu I’ll have to give that hike a try 🙂

      May 11, 2015 at 5:04 pm
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  • Reply Andrew Seal

    Great post Kristen. Took me right back to our trip there two years ago. Like you climbing Huaynu Picchu was an amazing experience. Your photos capture the beauty and majesty of this archeological wonder. Best wishes 🙂

    June 17, 2015 at 12:28 pm
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