No Guía, No Problema: Machu Picchu

I think I said before I wasn’t going to Machu Picchu this trip to Peru. Well, that was a blatant lie. I just recently returned from the great monument to human engineering with my French-expat housemate.

We stayed a night in Qosqo at Loki Hostel, took the Perurail at Estación Poroy early the next morning, and arrived at Aguas Calientes at around eleven AM.

The Perurail is a very well known method of going to Machu Picchu. It isn’t actually owned by Peruvians, so some argue that locally owned methods of transportation are better to use instead to not just add to some foreign investors’ pockets.

Nevertheless, it is an easy, moderately economical, way to get to Machu Picchu. In the Plaza de Armas where the Perurail office is located, there are many different groups and organizations that you can sign up with to get tours and guides through the surrounding town and the ruins as well. You have many options.

You survive Aguas Calientes for this opening view of the ruins. This was one of the first photos I took at Machu Picchu. It showcases the step architecture of the Inca and is just a stroll from the entrance of the site.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Aguas Calientes is the expensive, touristy Mecca town of Machu Picchu. You have to pass through there to reach the ruins.

Avoid basically everything.

The restaurants, artisanal market, and transportation costs will break the bank. It is generally just unpleasant to spend money here unless it is essentially necessary. Even the freaking workers here know how awful the prices are. I asked a woman how much water costs, and she told me seven Soles for one liter. I gave her an “are you fucking kidding me look”, and she just cracked up. She told me she knew it was overly expensive, and from that, a great friendship was made.

You can either walk or take a bus (round trip/ one way) to the ruins from this point. Costs vary. I had to pay about fifty Soles for a two way ticket being a foreign youth. There are also places for you to stay overnight if you desire multiple day trips to the archeological site.

To enter the famous Machu Picchu, you must present your purchased ticket from the Ministry of Culture in Qosqo along with whichever identification you showed the Ministry agents. Passports are a type of identification you can choose to use and are great just to bring because you can stamp that you’ve been to Machu Picchu on it at the entrance! The Ministry will tell you which methods of documentation are acceptable; do not quote me because I am not a Peruvian government worker!

Bring comfortable footwear! Walking up giant, ancient steps will do hell on your heels. Also, bring some snacks. There are signs at the entrance that state the rules like how you can’t eat, drink, etc. However, I saw everyone doing the exact opposite in plain sight of the tour guides and parks people. I don’t know. Bring water because you’ll be thirsty, but be sneaky with every sip just in case.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Machu Picchu’s beauty is worth it all. A friend once joked that if I was in Qosqo, I had to see Machu Picchu.  He thought I was crazy for not considering a visit there. My housemate as well was surprised I wasn’t planning on going at first.

I am very happy with my decision to go. We didn’t use a tour or guide, so we mostly just wandered the ruins marveling at its glory. We did learn some information by eavesdropping on guided tours, which is so easy to do, but using a guide won’t really change your experience.

Most of Machu Picchu’s history is hearsay and theories. We still don’t know much about its origins or purposes. Some believe it to be a royal retreat; others think it was an economic center. A guidebook can suffice if you really want instruction, but just go exploring for the love of god!

This is the famous mystical sundial. It is aligned directionally with the regional peaks and apparently has magic powers. I read somewhere people say they feel energized by its presence. I didn’t feel anything, but it is fascinating how amazingly accurate and beautiful it is for being carved centuries ago. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

The main points of interest are its step architecture, Intipunku (Gate of the Sun in Quechua), temple of the Sun, The Inka House, the amount of llamas just wandering around, the Sacred Rock, and the other ruins you can visit like Wayna Picchu.

Wayna Picchu means young peak/mountain in Quechua. This is opposed to Machu Picchu, which means old peak. It is part of the Machu Picchu family of ruins. It has a quota of 200 visitors a day and is a stressful, enduring hike. It is more or less just another set of ruins next to Machu Picchu on a mountainside, but it is quite beautiful!

I hear it is lovely. I think I’ll hike it some day probably with an adventurous boyfriend or someone. There are also more defined step ruins below Machu Picchu itself reachable by hiking; I forget if they cost extra to visit, but I don’t think so. I am definitely going to return here to visit these more exclusive, quiet sites.

Other locations of interest are caves and secluded places simply in Machu Picchu unreached by the majority of tourists. It’s nice to just take a break at these places. The more shade the better since there isn’t much to begin with at the ruins.

Harim Bingham II “discovered” Machu Picchu in 1911 (even though there were people living in it already).
Today, it has many visitors including camelids. This must have been such a beautiful picture for this couple. It surprised them while their granddaughter was taking the photo. The woman exclaimed something in Quechua in surprise. It was so cute! However, the alpacas and llamas hated me!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Honestly, the amount of tourists isn’t that bad. At least, it wasn’t when I was there. Sure you aren’t going to have the ruins to yourself, but the amount won’t ruin the views or your experience (Get the joke?). The main tourist season is from June to August. It is the dry season and draws in the European, Asian, and Northern Americans during their summer.

If you go at this time, you’ll still enjoy the ruins. The main issue about visiting at this time is the prices. They are quite high since it is the busy season. Expect to spend at least a few hundred USD/Soles ($200 or 400 Soles minimum to get the entry ticket and simply on transportation).

After spending a day at the ruins, we returned to Qosqo by bus from the Ollantaybambo (that’s how I think you spell it) train station. We got the last bus, and it took about an hour and a half to get back to the city. Can someone say lucky? We would have just taken the train to the Poroy station in Qosqo, but it was already booked full. Be sure to make your arrangements earlier rather than later for a less stressful visit.

I am so glad I visited the ruins. A British-expat we met on a bus who visited before told us what to expect. He said even though you’ve seen Machu Picchu before in books and videos; it is totally different in person. Every picture will turn out different.

I got my iconic picture. There are tourists, but honestly, who gives a fuck? I went to Machu Picchu. It’s a stone city drenched in pseudo-mystical legends that represents the superiority of Incan ingenuity. Come to Machu Picchu when you can. I don’t know when they will stop tourism to prevent the degradation of the ruins, but I know it will happen. Visit Machu Picchu and make it your own.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

This is very true. I took about a hundred pictures and I am glad I captured every single one of them.

The Festival of the Virgin Carmen begins Wednesday, but some preliminary parades have already begun! Everyone is getting ready!

People are sewing costumes, selling masks, and practicing dances. Fireworks will also be present. At least I hope so …

I want to know what all these “booms” outside my window are. I’ll be sure to have some great festival food too! They eat cuy on special occasions, so hopefully I will get to try it soon!

More to come! We are diving deeper into Peru!