Day 5 - Ride train to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, & Machu Picchu - March 31, 2003

We got up at 6 AM and were out with our small luggage for breakfast and to be on the bus at 7 AM. We met the train on the road to Ollantaybampo as the tracks were out due to the storms and mud slides.

We waited 45 minutes and all the vendors appeared. We took the breathtaking journey by train along the magnificent Urubamba Gorge to Machu Picchu, the legendary "Lost City of the Incas," enjoying spectacular scenery along the way. We sat on the left side of the train. We were served a small breakfast which Gennie and I passed on.

We saw some spectacular scenery and finally arrived in Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. We walked to the hotel from the train station in the rain. At the hotel we checked in and found out that there was no electricity until 4 PM.

We did not have to eat lunch until 12 so we walked through the town and up to the hot springs that the city is named after. Much of this was in the light rain but it was good exercise. We went back to the hotel, got our things to hike and walked to lunch with the group.

We had a very nice lunch, trout for me and then walked back to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. Like historic Lima and the city of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This ancient city was a place little known not only to foreigners, but also to the Incan people themselves, as only a select few were allowed to visit this mysterious sanctuary. Even though it was "discovered" by Hiram Bingham in 1911,Machu Picchu remained inaccessible until the 1940s, when the Inca Trail was found by an archaeological expedition. The train tracks had been put down in 1927 so people could come to the area.

We took the bus to the entrance - 2000 feet higher and multiple switchbacks on a muddy dirt road. We entered the site as a group and then were shown the remnants of the Ritual Baths, Palace of the Princess, the Main Fountain, and the Temples of the Sun and the Condor.

Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun came out at times. The trails and rocks were still wet and the hiking was steep and treacherous. The views were spectacular, there were not too many people and David did much less talking and allowed us to see the ruins.

We got on the last bus at 5:30 PM and went careening down the road to the bottom. It was FAST and very dangerous. We got back to the hotel and prepared for buffet dinner at 6:30 in the hotel.

Again, tonight we had a group of four young men playing traditional Incan music and then selling their CD. We bought another. At 8 PM we went out in a heavy storm and got in the internet to send the pictures and email from yesterday. One of the guides (Roberto) insisted on helping us get there. He waited for us and I told him we could get home OK.

Hotel: Hatuchay Tower Meals: B, L, D

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