Machu Picchu – Dream BIG and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be

An enchanted world is one that speaks to the soul, to the mysterious depths of the heart and imagination
where we find value, love, and union with the world around us.

Machu Picchu, perched high in the Andes, is one of the most spectacular and enigmatic archaeological sites on Earth. Abandoned, overgrown, and unknown to the outside world until 1911, the lost city has now become the most recognizable icon of the Inca world. Built at the height of the Inca Empire around 1450, perhaps as a sacred religious site or an estate for the emperor Pachacuti, the complex consists of giant precisely cut and polished stone walls, terraces, ramps and homes. This impressive architectural feat, sits amongst cloud-covered green mountains above the Urubamba River at 8,000′ above sea level, makes for a breathtaking experience.

Waking up in Aguas Calientes at 4:00am was a little rough, but the excitement of getting to the top of Machu Picchu filled me with energy. We threw on our hiking packs, head lamps and boots, drank a cup of cocoa tea and headed out the door in search of the steps up to the main entrance (for my budget trekkers, this is the free way to get to the top).

The trek itself was a bit strenuous and takes about 90 minutes. I hike quite a bit and I was struggling to breathe with each step that I took up the steep cobble stoned stairs.  The highest point is over 4000+m  in altitude so it can definitely slow you down a bit. Nevertheless, just take it slow, and stop and admire the beautiful valley below. The steep path roughly follows Hiram Bingham’s 1911 route and offers extraordinary views of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, which looks almost as it did in Bingham’s time. The only sounds were of the rushing water at the bottom of the canyon, heavy breathing of other hikers and the songs of faraway birds. It was the most alone we’ve felt in Bolivia, and remarkable for the fact that we were so close to the city.

The steep path roughly follows Hiram Bingham’s 1911 route and offers extraordinary views of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, which looks almost as it did in Bingham’s time. The only sounds were of the rushing water at the bottom of the canyon, heavy breathing of other hikers and the songs of faraway birds. It was the most alone we’ve felt in Bolivia, and remarkable for the fact that we were so close to the city.

We reached the entrance gate packed with people, got out tickets scanned and continued on toward the mythical ruins. There it was! Absolutely breathtaking! I stood in awe as the beams of sunlight began to cascade over the ancient Incan ruins and the sun rose above the mountain tops, it was the highlight of the trek for me.

After exploring for a few hours wandering through the hills of pristine Bolivian nature, making sure to witness it from all angles and elevations, I felt satisfied that I had explored it to the fullest.  For those that are conditioned to the explanatory signs at national parks,  Machu Picchu provides virtually no information about the ruins. (This lack does have one advantage—the ruins remain uncluttered.) The excellent Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón ($8 entry) fills in many of the blanks about how and why Machu Picchu was built (displays are in English and Spanish), and why the Inca chose such an extraordinary natural location for the citadel. First you have to find the museum, though. It’s inconveniently tucked at the end of a long dirt road near the base of Machu Picchu, about a 30-minute walk from the town of Aguas Calientes.

I made several new friends while exploring around, some human, some llama. So many friendly faces just as excited as I was to see this beautiful treasure. 

When I was first planning my trip around the world, Machu Picchu was one of my top places to visit and while researching I read several warnings about bringing snacks with you into the ruins. You are able to bring snacks with you, just be sure to clean up after yourself and leave to trash behind. You should always bring food and water with you whenever you are traveling anywhere, you never know what may happen and what situation you may be put into, especially when hiking. You do not want to risk dehydration or passing out due to lack of nutrition because you didn’t bring the proper things with you.

It was an amazing day, but sadly it had to end and we had to begin the trip back to Cusco. Giovanni and Felippe wanted to explore the ruins for a bit longer so I told them I would meet them at the train station so that I could pick up some postcards. So, I climbed back down to Aguas Calientes and spent another hour and a half exploring the markets 🙂
Anxiously waiting at the station 15 minutes before the vista dome train was about to depart I finally see the guys running and out of breathe. They barely made it back in time, but still hadn’t picked up anything to eat. We quickly ran up the street to a small bakery owned by a frenchman (I didn’t see a sign on the store but it is located on the last street on the train station side of the village) and picked up a few sandwiches and drinks. Sped back to the station just as the doors were opening, found our seats and smiled at each other knowing we were all able to check another bucket list item off the list. 
The train stopped back at the hydro electric plant where we began our hike. We found our bus from the day before, hopped in and were on our way back to Cusco. The twisting, bumpy, deadly road couldn’t phase all of the beauty that I’d seen. I sat back and enjoyed the ride. The sunset over the valley was wonderful.
An hour away from Cusco we got a flat tire, but luckily we weren’t stranded for long. Everyone got out of the bus and assisted the driver and we were back on the road in no time. Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved. It made my day to see everyone come together. When we pulled back into Plaza de Armas we hugged our new friends goodbye and wished them well on all of their journeys. Another amazing day to add to the books 🙂

The journey – Cusco to Machu Picchu

Don’t wait for someday to start living because someday may never come. Make the choice right now to be happy and live life to the fullest.

One of the highlights of my trip to Peru has undoubtedly been to the enchanted world of Machu Picchu, and the classic way to reach this world wonder is via the Inca trail. However, as this trail requires advanced booking, special permits and a controlled number of trekkers per day, it was not an option for the way I’ve been traveling.  There are a number of alternative treks that can be enjoyed from Cusco to Machu Picchu. My Brazilian friend that I met in La Paz suggested that I take the Salkantay trail  booked through Eco Packers . She said it was absolutely incredible.

I made friends with Giovanni and Felipe from France on the way from Copacabana. Luckily they wanted to visit Machu Pichu as well, but sooner  than Eco Packers could book us so we decided to plan it on our own. We hopped in a cab at 4:00am from the Cusco bus terminal to their hostel (Chincana Wasi – very nice and reasonably priced, still too much for my budget, so they invited me to sleep on the floor). The cab stopped midway up the steep road where the hostel was located, put it in park, hopped out and started handing us our bags. We looked at him with a “what is going on” look, and he says, “My car won’t make it, you have to walk.”… we pack up and slowly began climbing to the top. 

After unloading our bags we headed to the Official ticket office in Cusco as soon as it opened and booked our Machu Picchu tickets for Friday (Direccion Regional de Cultura Cusco, located at Ave. de la Cultura No. 238, Condomio Huascar, Wanchaq, Cusco, Peru. Office is open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am-12pm. Visa & cash (soles) accepted (I used Chase Sapphire Preferred to avoid paying foreign transaction fees).

There is a trick they don’t tell you when booking your reservation, it is best to go with a friend. One of you stand in the line to book the tickets (both passports in hand as well as your international student card to receive a 50% discount) and the other stand in the line to pay for the tickets, this can save you hours of waiting. Yay for teamwork!

We spent the rest of the day exploring the markets and eating at tiny bakeries. Panadería Qosqo Maki was our first and most favorite stop. Filled with delicious breads and juices. You can have your breakfast standing or sitting. Their prices are the same as a regular bakery, which keeps your wallet happy 🙂

After booking our tickets and exploring a bit, we headed to the main square of La Plaza de Armas to compare rates for buses that would take us to Machu Picchu. The square has churches, shops, restaurants and bars on every edge and is a great place to spend an afternoon. We booked tickets with a local bus company that held 13 passengers. It was the cheapest alternative route to reach Machu Picchu from Cuzco. This journey for “diehard travelers” (mentioned in the Lonely Planet Peru Travel Guide), isn’t too bad at all and will bring you near Machu Picchu for as low as US$ 70 (180 soles) for transport (round trip). Make sure your bus has a bathroom or that it stops for bathroom breaks every couple of hours before you buy tickets.

The ride was quite long and slow, although the views definitely compensated… in total the ride took 8 hours. The closer we got to Aguas Calientes the more bumpy and SMALLER the winding road became. We found ourselves on a narrow, rocky ridge, over a vast canyon. In one of the sharp turns I saw a truck that had taken a dive off of the cliff into the valley below and there were several instances that it looked like our vehicle was going to do the same. The main roads are good for the most part (but those are rare on this journey), most are quite rough, making trips take longer than expected.

We entertained ourselves throughout the journey. Making new friends with our seat mates, playing UNO, exchanging stories and music, taking naps and reading. We made three stops along the way. The first was 2 hours in a nice rest area nestled in between the mountains. Restrooms, Food and fun game of this traditional peruvian game. I wasn’t able to get the exact name, the locals kept saying “rana” which means frog. The goal is to get your gold coin into the frog’s mouth. The eight surrounding slots have a different point amounts ranging from 500-2,000. It’s pretty addictive one you get the hang of how to properly toss the coin.

The second stop was at a tiny shack made of tin roofing. The girls (all two of us) went inside and all of the boys went to the side for a pee break. The third stop was at  a restaurant in Santa Maria about 45 minutes away from the Hydro electrica plant in Santa Teresa. We had soup, sandwiches and popsicles. They didn’t give us silverware so we improvised 🙂 

Once we reached the Hydro electrica plant we began walking the 10km hike to Aguas Calientes. We crossed over the train track that carries passengers directly to the top. One train passed us on the way up. The passengers had a look of confusion on their face as if to say “what idiots! Who wants to walk this trail? Why didn’t they just take the train like us?” but again my friends, when you’re on a budget, these are the sacrafices you have to take, plus it is a good workout, it only took about 2.5 hours and was well worth it to walk along side of the river and enjoy the scenery.

The hike was filled with postcard worthy scenery that was ever-changing. I could have snapped away every minute, but after a while I decided to sit back and enjoy it through my eyes rather than a camera lens, which allowed me to take in the amazingness of the surrounding panorama of the Andes Mountains.

We arrived at the picturesque town of Agua Callientas (Hot Water) where as per usual during our Peruvian adventure, we didn’t have any plans. We lugged our packs up and down the steep streets searching for a place to lay our heads. We ended up at Hostel Muyurina for 20 soles. Very nice place with friendly staff.

So in short, this was the schedule in case you’re planning on going this route:

  • Purchase Machu Picchu tickets in Cusco (Direccion Regional de Cultura Cusco, located at Ave. de la Cultura No. 238, Condomio Huascar, Wanchaq, Cusco, Peru. Office is open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am-12pm. Visa & cash
  • Book a bus a 7am Bus from Cusco (Santiago Terminal) to Santa Teresa 8 hours (very beatiful nature)
  • Walk from Hydro-electric plant to Aguas Calientes (Follow train tracks, glimpses of Machu Picchu), 2hr 30m. It’s possible to take the train, but I do not know prices or hourtables.
  • Arrive in Aguas Calientes. Book a hostel for the night (15-30 soles)
  • Hike to the top of Machu Picchu at 4am to see the sunrise

I recommend this trip to everyone who is on a budget and not afraid of a little less comfort to go to Machu Picchu.
Have a great day and thanks for following along 🙂

Published Interview with To & From Magazine!! There is no end to the adventures we can have if we seek them with our eyes open ♥

Sooooo Excited!
My interview was just published in the Sept/Oct issue of To & From. Their Magazine is packed with great tips, tricks & stories for travel. Enjoy 🙂

Direct link to my interview:

Full issue of the Sept/Oct magazine:

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