Weekend trip to Machu Picchu

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A few weeks back Scott (MacRitchie) and I took a weekend trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. Scott came down to Buenos Aires for about 3 weeks to visit and do a little bit of traveling at the same time. It was great to spend some time with him.

If you've never heard of Machu Picchu before, or have heard of it but don't know what it is, it's basically these Incan ruins built high on a mountain top (and Wikipedia has a much better description). They weren't discovered until the early 1900's, and apparently the city was covered in gold and jewels when first discovered, however most of these were stolen by the first discoverers of the city. The city is so amazing partly due to it's very well protected location (the fact that it wasn't discovered until hundreds of years after the Spanish conquests of the Inca's).

It's somewhat unknown what happened to the Incans that lived in the city, but some people think they retreated to (and still live in) the forests after they heard of the Spanish conquests.

To get to Machu Picchu we needed to take a train from Cusco (the only way in is by train or foot). The train ends in a small town called Aguas Calientes. From there you can take a bus or walk to the ruins. We stayed over night in the town so that we could go up the first afternoon, as well as for dawn the next morning (I wouldn't recommend spending any more time in that city then you absolutely need to)

The first day we mostly just walked around the ruins and took photos. The second day we got up at 5am to catch the first bus up. We got up there shortly after dawn and lined up for the hike up Waynu Picchu (the tall mountain you see in the background of most Machu Picchu photos). Only 400 people are allowed to climb it each day. We took a route that was about 4-5h of hiking. Some extremely steep sections (with either stairs or ladders) and other sections that we needed to hang on to ropes while walking along cliff edges no wider than the width of a shoe. One of the most gorgeous hikes I've ever done.

We returned to Cusco Saturday night at around 10pm, only to find that the room in the hostel we booked had been given to someone else (apparently reserved for the wrong day by hostel staff). I had the email with me that explicitly said we had it for that night, but were basically told "sorry, there's nothing we can do for you", we asked if he could try and find a different place for us to stay, and he recommended the hostel next door. This place turned out to look like something you might imagine in a third world slum... we decided to grab our things and bolt to the nearest hotel.

Anyway, it was a great trip overall and I'm really glad we did it. I imagine doing the 4 day inca trail hike would be even more amazing, but having neither the gear nor the time for it, this was definitely the way to go.

You can see all my photos from Cusco and Machu Picchu are up on flickr (well, all the ones I'm going to upload at least).