Day 6 (Ollantaytambo)
This morning we stalked Sergio, the owner of Hotel El Albergue, which is located inside the train station of Ollanta. Knowing we had a pretty rough couple of days (and also knowing we refused to leave without a room), Sergio managed to get us a gorgeous room with huge, white-linen beds, a stone sink, hardwood floors, gorgeous views of the gardens and a bit of peace. Today turned out to be hot and beautiful, so after freshening up, we decided to do some hiking through the free Incan ruins on the north-east side of town. These are not the same as the more popular Ollantaytambo Ruins (located on the north-west side that you pay for). The hike up in certain parts was steep but completely worth it once you got to the top. You get an amazing panoramic view of the entire town plus the ruins on the other side. I seriously could have just plopped down and done yoga for a bit, it was that peaceful. It was so much fun just going through them and I was definitely a bit bummed when it was time to come down. We ended up hitting the sack early today since we had to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch the first Inca Rail train to Machu Picchu; luckily the platform was right outside our hotel. (No, it was not Platform 9 ¾).
AGUAS CALIENTES (town at the base of Machu Picchu)
Day 7 (Machu Picchu)
I can’t even begin to describe this place. Everything we went through to get here (stomach bug, bad hostels, no food, a “situation” with Jenny’s entrance ticket, a rock slide, bus after bus, walking up slippery rock steps)—all completely worth it. It’s amazing and as much as I hate to sound cliché, pictures do not do this place justice. Unfortunately, after the situation with Jenny’s entrance ticket, we didn’t have enough money to hire a tour guide to explain the history of it, so we had to venture out on our own. It’s definitely a place that can take all day – there are so many hiking trails, areas and ruins you can climb through—that I don’t even know where the time went. Jenny and I explored each section of the ruins—Guardhouse, Temples Zone, Astronomical Observatory, Group of the Three Doorways, Royal Enclosures, Temple of the Condor and the Agricultural Zone (where the llamas hang out), just to name a few. We also took the Inka Trail that led us through a forest-like area and onto a trail behind the mountain. We eventually came to the edge where it was blockade off and learned that this is where the Incas would come to in times of war to block their enemies. We ended up taking MP-selfies, watching Asian tourists hold up their infamous peace signs, sitting, relaxing, chatting with a friend we had made at the hostel a couple of days ago and I got to feed a llama (!) Again, like the ruins in Ollanta it is so peaceful up in the mountains. The weather cooperated with us and towards the end an insanely-awesome fog took over the mountains and ruins later. It had a ghostly, eerie feel to it but added a really surreal effect to the entire area. If it wasn’t against governmental regulations—I could have stayed up there.
Unfortunately, the park does close early so we took an evening bus back down to Aguas Calientes (base of the mountain). This is a very small town which really only takes a couple of hours to explore. I don’t recommend staying here unless you’re going to be the first group of people to climb Wayna Picchu since you have to get in line at the MP entrance around 4 a.m. We ate a “margherita” pizza at a restaurant sitting on top of the Urubamba River, walked through the local markets and a few side streets before deciding we were pooped. On our way to the train station we heard a commotion and then dogs barking, we turned around only to find a large group of wild dogs headed…yup…straight to us. While I find dogs to be super cute, this was not one of those times – Jenny and I started to frantically run and ironically ran into the same restaurant that the dog the other dogs were chasing lived at. Luckily amongst the barking and screaming (Jenny and I) the owner came out with a broom and saved us (but I think she was really saving her own dog). We immediately boarded the train, enjoyed some in-cart entertainment through a Peruvian fashion show put on by the staff of the train (I wonder if they put that in the job description) and made our way back to Ollanta.
Day 8 (Back to Cusco)
After bidding our lovely friend Sergio good-bye, Jenny and I loaded up another taxi and headed out of Ollantaytambo and back to Cusco. Here we ended up ditching the hostel that we had first booked and got another one right in the Plaza de Armas with a Starbucks in it. You can only imagine that by this time we were exhausted. Since Jenny didn’t get to see Cusco the first time we were there, we spent most of the day walking around, indulging in McDonalds, visiting a cathedral and tried to do a bit of shopping. In Aguas Calientes, Jenny and I had seen two girls wearing hand-made headbands with llamas embroidered on them. We decided that’s what we wanted as one of our Peruvian keepsakes, so we went in search of it. After what seemed like hours, we couldn’t find them anywhere and then while we were on the last leg of the shopping markets – there they were – only three of them. In the evening we put on our new headbands and decided to explore Cusco nightlife.
In Ollanta, we happened to have sat next down to an Australian-based wine importer (who decided to take one of those “I need to find myself…let me backpack through South America”-spiritual journeys), that the bars and clubs in Cusco were awesome. That he had never had such a great time in his life and partied till all sorts of hours in the morning. Being the party-animals that we are, Jenny and I were fascinated. The first bar we headed to had a live band. Thinking that this was going to be some great salsa-dancing music, I had my Zumba moves ready. No…no…no. They turned out to be an awesome English-singing rock band. Who knew South Americans loved old rock music so much? Seriously, everyone in that club knew every word to every song. It was quite fascinating. Then we headed to a techno-playing bar which was full of 17 – 18 year old…GUYS (it was like a 10:1 guy/girl ratio). Awkward. We didn’t stay long. The night ended with us crawling back to our beds for our super early flight to Lima the next day.
Day 9 (Back to Lima)
As soon as I sat down in my plane seat, the guy next to me started talking to me. Now I already knew this was going to be odd because no one…I mean NO ONE ever talks to me on a plane. Turns out he was still super drunk from night before (go figure) and in my mind he will always be known as the “Drunk Polish Guy”. We bonded over his love for India (he’s been at least 7 times), a mutual hatred for flying (he kept telling me he hoped we wouldn’t crash) and his month-long trip through South America. Every time I made a joke, he’d push me and yell “You’re so fuuuuucking funny.” The mom with the baby in the aisle across from us, was not thrilled. As scraggly and weird as he was, he turned out to be a ridiculously smart computer programmer, based in Poland. I swear, it’s always the ones that look stupid that are not. When the plane landed, he asked if we could be friends on Facebook. I said no. But then he said “Well, I’m glad we didn’t die.” To which I responded “Yes, I am too.” We quickly parted ways.
Since we only had a few hours in Lima, I headed to the Museo de Arte in some sketchy part of the city while Jenny did some work. The museum was closed for renovation so I only got to see two extremely “interesting” exhibitions—both depicting various stages and demonstrations in Peruvian history through sexual acts. So yeah…that was that. Before heading to the airport, Jenny and I did some last-minute shopping in the Inca Market (which I think is the best place to shop in Lima), picked up our luggage from a hostel and finally made our way through the busy, winding streets of Lima to the airport. Peru was done.
Hope you guys have enjoyed my Peruvian travel adventures! If you need tips or recommendations for traveling to Peru, where to eat, what to do, how to get around, etc. – please feel free to contact me! I learned a ton planning this and can definitely help.
For more of my travel photos, click here: Capture It.