Machu Picchu:  Trains, Busses and Llamas

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Machu Picchu from the backside in the morning.

Well we did it, made our way through the sacred valley to Aguas Calientes and then up to Machu Picchu.  This is an amaing place that was built over a period of 60 years by the Inca.  800 of the most influential people lived here, and it was abandoned in 1534 when the Spanish conquered Cusco (the capital).  When leaving the city the Inca destroyed the only two paths into M.P. and as such left the city to be consumed by the jungle again.  The city was “hidden” for over 300 years until its rediscovery in 1900.  An American, Hiram Bingham, came in 1911 and explored the area and found Machu Picchu as well.  He was sponsored in National Geographic’s first exploration the following year and returned.  He then proceeded to remove about 6,000 collectable items, which are now at Yale University.  Why Yale continues to hold on to these Peruvian artifacts I have no idea.  It would seem that they would be better served in Peru.

The train stop. Our hotel was up the street on the right. We could look out the window on top of the train.


A guide coming in from doing the Inca Trail hike. These guys carry a lot of stuff so tourists can make it.

Well we joined the crowds and did our own trek to M.P.  Our house owner arranged a taxi to take us into the train station where we met the train for a 4:30 departure.  M.P. is one of the wonders of the world, and as such many, many tourists come to visit.  The train takes about 1.5 hours and you arrive in Aguas Calientes – which is basically a town built around the train depot.  Hotels/Hostels on both sides of the tracks with restaurants, shops, etc.  100 Yards away, the bus station that takes you to M.P.  You can walk up, it’s a 1.5 hour hike basically straight up.  See pictures, you hike from the river level to the top.  We did meet some people that did the 4 day trek following the Inca trail which also seemed very difficult.


Our incoming view around 7 a.m.


This is hiking down from the sun gate, you can see all of MP in the distance.


The main courtyard and gathering place.

Surrounded by mountains and steep cliffs this place is amazing.

 During our visit we had a guilde who took us around M.P.  We actually got up at 5:30 a.m. and onto the bus after 6 a.m., then were at M.P. at 6:30 or so.  We had aout two hours to walk around by ourselves, which was great and we hiked 1/2 way to the sun gate.  Unfortunately we ran out of time to get all the way there.  The walking in the morning was great, less tourists, but as the day progressed they kept coming, and coming and coming.  We have never taken the boys to Disney, but this felt like it a bit.  Our guide said this was nothing, now it’s 2000 people per day, but in the summer in the US it gets up to 5000 people a day.  So I think we just hit it at the right time.  The weather was perfect, the prior day it was very hot and sunny.  There is no sun relief and you are walking around a lot, so a little rain was great.  All in all we spent about 6 hours walking around this great place, then bussed down, took our train back and our taxi driver picked us up.

The amazing thing about this place is that it was built using hand tools.  When you look at the craftmanship of the rocks, how they are joined with no mortar, and fit perfectly together it’s a feat.  They said that an average stone took one person 4 months of carving to make it fit in the wall.  Thousands worked here, so you get the scope of the effort to make M.P. a city.   The best fitting rocks are in temples, or in the kings house.  Other palces for other people the rock work is good but not perfect like these other places.


The Kings house… notice the tight rock work.

The stones are a perfect fit.

Looking out a window into the valley.

M.P. had one toilet in the kings house.  If you weren’t a member of that family you’d have to go walk in the woods.  Sort of hard with cliffs everywhere, but I’m sure they worked it out.

One of the ways in was along a sheer cliff wall – this is where the Inca bridge is located.  We walked up to the top then back down along crazy cliffs to then see this amazing bridge that they used.  Pretty easy way to defend yourselves.  Attackers would have to come along this path, and you could completely block their attack.  In the end Cusco was defeated by 20 Spainards, and M.P. couldn’t support the 800 people living there so it was abandoned.

The cliff not zoomed in, pretty amazing.



Lllama on the edge…

It’s an amazing place.  For people wanting to go, it’s a pretty easy thing to get to oce you are in Cusco.  A lot of people go in and out the same day on the train.  It seemed like going in the night before, then getting up early was really the way to go- you beat a lot of the crowds.

That’s about it.  We are hanging in the sacred valley for another week.  Doing exploring, resting from a month on the road and prepping for the last month of our journey.  Something hit me in the gut today so I’ve had some quality Pepto time today.  Tomorrow we do trekking with llama’s – Cindy’s been wanting to do this for awhile so we hope she gets the cool llama.


  1. Cooper says

    haha – Hiram Bingham III is the grandson of my 3rd great grandfather – he was a typically explorer and later a politician of his time. My father knew a lot about this side of the family and also visited M.P. I look forward to following in your footsteps someday Arnie Saknussen ! Cheers, Cooper


  2. Aunt Erin says

    So cool!!! I can only imagine what it was like in person. Can’t believe it’s getting down to your last month. Guess it’s a good thing you don’t have to use the woods to “go” eh? 😉 less burritos.


  3. Granddad says

    It is an amazing place and wonderful that you could visit. I love your hat, Nowell. You all look great. I knew Cindy would trade in the burro one day. So now it will be a llama. I have always loved those animals! Weren’t they the animals we passed on the way to preschool years ago? It has been wonderful talking to you even though our connections have been difficult. Continue staying safe. Love, Grandmother


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