We set our alarms for a 5am rendezvous with Ernesto. That is, our LA-based phones were set to 3am to account for the time change but sometime during the night our phones switched to local time so we actually were up before 3am.
I apologized to the front desk clerk for waking him up to let us out the front gate before he let us know our mistake.
After a couple more hours of rest we were feeling well and ready for our train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. I'm so glad we weren't laid up with altitude sickness for our day at Machu Picchu.
One of the reasons why we booked our driving tour with Valentin's Pachamama Journeys was because I kept reading from other tourists that the trains don't allow luggage on board, and we are spending 3 days in the Sacred Valley and need our luggage with us.
After a couple of hours on the train we arrived at Aguas Calientes.
They've got locks of love across the bridge here.
The buses were already taking people up to Machu Picchu.
We had some time before our bus ride so we did some exploring in the town center.
There are stray dogs all over Peru, even up here.
Stopping in at the Virgen del Carmen Church.
Aguas Calientes is also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo since this is the point of access to Machu Picchu.
I love the design of this town.
Browsing the shops as we lined up for the bus.
Jeni and Ernesto in line.
The bus ride wasn't as scary as people made it sound online. Yes, the buses are huge, and the roads are very narrow with a steep dropoff on one side, with buses passing each other. I will say that the drivers are very good and very brave.
I love the stonework.
Taking the trail up to Machu Picchu.
Fog starting to lift.
It's a nice hike through the forest.
It was a cold morning but soon warmed up as we hiked.
Our first view of Machu Picchu.
Huayna Picchu Mountain behind me.
We are ready to get down there and explore the ruins!
We found a whole herd of alpacas hanging out up here.
Getting a little closer to the alpacas.
A little closer.
That's it; right up next to them.
A group of workers working on some restoration.
This really is so cool up here with the mountains set behind the ruins.
On our way down into Machu Picchu itself.
Here's our entrance into Machu Picchu.
When you see large stones fitted together like this, it indicates an important structure to the Incas.
When Machu Picchu was rediscovered it was overgrown by the forest. A lot of time and effort has been spent clearing the ruins.
Look! More terraces.
Incan symbolism is found throughout Machu Picchu, like the 3 spiritual realms, sometimes represented by the condor, puma, and snake.
The walls of these buildings were rather thick.
The Temple of the Sun.
Checking out the native flora.
More conservation work in action.
Look at how close the stones fit together in the Main Temple.
Rock carving showing the 3 realms of the Incas: the world above, this world, and the world below.
Stone pegs to lash the roofing to.
This stone follows the shape of the mountain range as seen from this spot.
The trail to hike up to Machu Picchu Mountain (which we did not do).
Looking down this side road.
If you hadn't already noticed the Incas built their windows as trapezoids.
The forest is slowly being cleared away from the sides of the site, uncovering more stone structures of Machu Picchu continuing down the mountain.
The Temple of the Condor. See the head and beak at the bottom with the outstretched wings on the walls?
Checking out the different stone methods used throughout the site.
Passing the Temple of the Sun from below.
Part of the water system throughout Machu Picchu.
Some of the structures on the outskirts of the site need a little help and are propped up by supports.
Ah, look at all those stone structures.
After touring Machu Picchu, it's time to head back down.
In line for the bus back down to Aguas Calientes.
Each of us had something different but delicious for lunch: alpaca, beef, and chicken.
Eating right next to the rail line.
This guy was performing just across the tracks from us as we ate.
I recognized one of the songs he performed from a Peruvian CD I have from my mission.
So I bought a CD from him.
Cool details are built around the town.
We had some time after lunch to wander around and check out the shops.
Back at Ollantaytambo we stopped off at a little place for a bite to eat: empanadas and fruit smoothies.
And I found a cool poncho for a good deal from a stall down by the train station.