Machu Picchu, Peru

The lost Inca city
Updated | 17.feb.2013

First time I saw a picture of Machu Picchu on a magazine I was probably 10 years old. And I was immediately fascinated by the ruins and all the legend of lost civilizations and this kind of stuff that stimulates kids imagination. Or maybe I was fascinated because I had just watched some Indiana Jones movies and though that I would love to have that lifestyle.

Anyway, first time I had a real chance to visit MP was in 1998 when a college friend backpacked with her brother to the Inca capital. They did "the dream tour", including the famous ride in train of the death. Which, I learned later, was actually more dirty than dangerous. Or dangerous because of the dirtiness.

It didn't happen this time, so when I realized that was moving out of South America and that my chances to visit MP would reduce dramatically, I decided it's now or never and booked my trip to Lima, Cuzco and Machu Pichu during a holiday of four days. Yep: three cities in four days, plus one international flight, one domestic flight and a train ride. I knew that would have no sleep, but when I look back, have no regrets at all.

Cuzco is a very cosmopolitan city, in the sense that you probably can meet people from most of the nations there in one single day. I would say that it is kind of the Meca for backpackers. It's also the main city before one starts the Inca trail.

By the time I got there, early morning, first thing I did was to walk to the train station to retrieve my tickets to Aguascalientes. I felt immediately transported into the Americas of the colonial period. There was a big parade going on at the main square and I was just seating alone in front of the church watching the locals, the military, school students, religious people, all of them in this parade that I had no idea about what they were celebrating. But the entire scenario, clothes, people, was surreal ... I was just happy for being there.


After lunch, we headed to the Sacred Valley. But before getting to the ruins we stopped in a salt mine. Hundreds of salt platos, really interesting landscape.

At night I took the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguascalientes. The coach class in the train is more than sufficient and I was worn out, I passed out (Remember that my goal was to sleep only when I was traveling). Arrived at Aguascalientes at 10pm, found my hostel, hot shower and bed. The idea was to take the first bus to Machu Pichu to see the sunrise on the top of the mountains.

And so I did, 530am I was taking the bus to the Inca city. What a ride ... think about a tiny little road, a bus and no guardrails on the 90º curves ...
The day in MP was magical. Although the sunrise tip is bullshit because you can't see the sun coming up from the mountains due to the fog, which is natural. The pictures talk for themselves. The famous National Grographic picture and the tour guides are lovely. Of course all the site is well prepared for tourists and comfortable. But if you want to have some taste of adventure, climb up Wina Pichu. Yeah, that demands some good physical preparation, but the ruins on the top of the mountain just reinforce the whole magical environment and furthermore, makes one wonder how was it possible to build all of that ?!?

Probably was one of the most incredible days of my life. My definition of happiness: a few minutes just contemplating the landscape it's like meditation. Just thinking of how many wonderful things are spread around the world and how great it is to have the privilege of seen them.

End of day and I was exhausted. Train back to Cuzco. Sleep. Next morning, flight back to Lima and then back to São Paulo. Four days and less than 18 hours of sleep. I couldn't be more revigorated than this.

Peruvian cuisine:
Food in Peru is something really unique. I don't dare to describe Peruvian culinary, because it is a mix of Chinese, Local indigeans, Spanish and who knows what else. But the outcome is fabulous. My peruvian friend (who worked with me and that I met at Cuzco) took me to this restaurant in Cuzco, called Cicciolina. What the hell, I thought, what kind of food do they serve in a place that was named aftern an Italian porn star? Turns out we were there eating small bites for almost two hours, trying different spices, different flavors, really good stuff. 

Quick practical note:
 Coke tea and the altitude: locals and people in general say it helps to adjust to the altitude, avoid nausea, numbness, etc. I just tried the tea when I was back home, so obviously I didn't need it when I was there. I guess it depends on how sensitive one is on geographic changes. I'm not, so I thought I could make it without the tea and it actually happened. Besides, the taste of the tea is really bad, ultra bitter. And for those thinking ... You know what I'm talking about ... No, you don't feel like superman after drinking it.

Where to stay:
I stayed at Loki Hostel in both Lima and Cuzco. It's clean, safe and for $8 you can't demand more than that. 

In Aguascalientes I stayed at Murya Hostel. It's basically a hotel, no shared rooms and reasonable breakfast. The hotels/hostels in Aguascalientes are really humble, so it doesn't make any big difference where to stay.