July 22, 2013 GMT
Ollantaytambo to Puno

After the weekend we are eager to hit the road even if it is a short 3 hour ride to Ollantaytambo.

For the first time since we arrived in Santiago 9 months ago we have pre-booked our accommodation in Ollantaytambo at the lovely Hotel Munay Tika. The hotel is gorgeous, we have the most amazing views from our room and the staff are so helpful. The only problem is getting the bike through the garden door. It is more than a tight fit but Skill manages it.

Skill got the bike through that door

We love this little village, it is just so beautiful, the ruins are visible from everywhere. On one of our days in the village we walk up to the Incan graineries on the opposite side of the main ruins. The views are outstanding.

The bustling streets of Ollantaytambo

The bustling streets of Ollantaytambo

On our way to the Graineries

The Grainery ruins

The Grainery Ruins

Views back to the ruins of Ollantaytambo

After a couple of days exploring Ollantaytambo, eating and drinking at just about every establishment in town we board our train for Aguas Calientes and the main event, Machu Piccu. We can't wipe the smiles of our faces

Restaurant opposite our hotel

Our train to Aguas Caliente

The train ride to Aguas Calientes is absolutely stunning, our necks are on swivels, in every direction the views are breath taking. Unfortunately the train is packed, not a seat to be had, and we are packed in like sardines, poor Skill cannot fit his legs under the table.

Aguas Calientes would have to be the most touristed place we have been to in South America, it is sustained solely by tourists, to and from Machu Piccu.
We arrive in this little town just after dark and are met by a girl from the hostel who has our name on a little board (Johan and Ellena), we follow her blindly through the maze of streets to arrive at our hostel. A quick shower, a dodgy pizza dinner and then it is off to meet our guide Peter, who gives us a run down for our MP visit tomorrow, we are to meet him at 8.00 am. We quickly buy snacks from the shop across the road for tomorrows visit and that is all we see of Aguas Caliente as we are in bed by 9.00pm.

The alarm sounds at 4.30 am, up and at em, dodgy breakfast then it is down to join the queue for the bus to Machu Piccu, we have a half hour wait but are soon on a bus enjoying the 30 minute ride up the switchbacks to Machu Piccu and enter the gates by 6.45 am.

People are swarming in like ants and I begin to question our visit. After dreaming of coming here for 30 years and all the amazing ruins we have seen in our travels am I going to be disappointed?

Our first glimpse of the ruin

As we climb the path to the lookout at the Caretaker's Hut and finally arrive for our first glimpse, we cannot help but be overwhelmed by the absolute beauty of this ruin and it's location. It is everything we have imagined and more. Simply stunning. The sun does not rise over the mountains and hit the ruins until around 7.30 am. We secure our view point and soak it all in, it is all a bit much to take in, almost like I am in someone else's movie

Here comes the sun Machu Picchu

Here comes the sun Machu Picchu

Once again we luck in with the weather which for weeks has been in a word, changeable, today the sun is shining, it is hot and not a breath of wind. A beautiful day for exploring the ruins. We join Peter our tour guide for our two hour tour around Machu Piccu. We then spend the day at our own leisure visiting every inch of the ruins.

Intihuatana (Hitching post of the Sun) sits atop a pyramid

Sacred Rock - a coincidence or perfectly carved to match the mountains?

Temple of the Condor

Temple of the Sun and the Royal tomb

We take a break for lunch in the Incan quarry, it is quite bizarre, although the place is crawling with 100s of tourists we have this place all to ourselves and enjoy our picnic lunch in peaceful solitude.

Skill enjoys lunch in peace and quiet

We then walk a small portion of Inca trail up to the Sungate and back again.

Walk to the Sungate along the famous Inca Trail

Walk to the Sungate. View back to Machu Piccu including the road up, a series of switchbacks

Check out the size of those mountains

Views back to the ruins

An exhausted Lan

When we arrive back at the main ruins at 2.00pm there is hardly anyone around at all, we take the opportunity to re walk most of the ruins and catch one of the last buses back to Aguas Caliente around 4.45 pm. Once back in Aguas Caliente we collect our gear from the hostel, grab a burger and a few happy hour drinks before catching our train back to Ollantaytambo at 7.00 pm. Luckily our lovely hotel in Ollantaytambo is only a 5 minute walk away, we return to our room, a hot shower and bed. It has been an amazing day, one we will remember for a long time to come.

Lan and Skill at Machu Piccu

Next day we sleep in, mooch around Ollantaytambo, repack the bike before a late Menu del Dia where we get chatting to a lovely American couple who are actually staying at the same hotel as us. As we enjoy our lunch with views to the ruins we notice that the school kids are out on the terraces apparently practising for an anniverary re-enactment of the great battle where the Mano Inca defeated the conquistadors. It is a shame we will miss it.

Ollantaytambo Streets

Next morning we leave Ollantaytambo with a touch of sadness, we have really enjoyed our stay in this beautiful living village and great hotel. The ride back through the Sacred Valley is stunning and once again it is a glorious sunny day. The road follows the river for the first couple of hours before we return to the main road between Cusco and Puno. We are in no hurry as we plan to stop in Pucara for the night. We stop in a random village for a local lunch and continue on up over the Alti Plano.

As we are tootling along we are pulled over by the police, for what reason I am not sure. I think they were going to book us for speeding, except we weren't speeding, and they had no radar anyway. After a long, happy chat, a check of documents and insurance, then 2 koalas passing hands (I handed over one koala and one pen but was soon asked for another for his colleague, cheeky buggers) we were on our way, none the wiser why we were pulled over. We later passed these guys at another checkpoint where they enthusiastically waved us on.

Hmmm, it's the Peruvian Police

At this point it is getting on a bit so we do start to push it along, at Pucara we make the decision to press on to Puno, mainly because Pucara is a bit of a dive and the hotel is very unimpressive. After another 200 km we reach Puno just after sunset. It is absolutely freezing, we happen upon the Hostel Arequipa which we know has parking and decide that will do us for the night. We unpack and lug the gear upstairs before it is off to MachuPizza for dinner. We return to the room where the thermometer in the tank bag is showing 4 degrees. I decide the tepid water in the shower is not for me and crawl into bed, luckily there are lots of blankets and we are toasty warm once we put our beanies on to keep our heads warm. At this point we still haven't decided if it is back to Bolivia tomorrow or are we heading to Northern Chile. Ohhhh I guess we can figure it out in the morning, that is if we haven't frozen to death overnight.

Posted by John Skillington at July 22, 2013 07:29 PM GMT

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