FINALLY: Experiencing Machu Picchu
Finally. We come to the last part of our the epic Machu Picchu adventure, picking up where we left off. DAY THREE. (If you haven’t read the first two posts, it’s not a big deal. But you should. Part one is here, part two is here. You’re welcome.)
Day three started off much better than the day before… mainly because we actually had a warm night’s sleep thanks to our genius idea of cramming four people in one tent. Body heat people. This morning was a little different to the rest though, and to this day, I’m still not really sure how I feel about it.
Day three was the morning that we visited a traditional Andean home in the mountains. The stone and thatched roof hut was just behind our campsite, and with our guide being brought up in the Andes and speaking Quechua as his mother tongue, he kindly arranged with one of the daughters for us to come and have a look. We brought little presents of sweets and fruit and other food, and all bundled inside. It was small, warmed only by the tiny rays of bright sunlight coming through the little windows. There was a fire burning, boiling potatoes, with dried meats hanging from the ceiling. It was… everything you would expect a tiny little traditional Andean house to be like.
The thing that made the biggest impression on me was the girl who was hosting us for our makeshift tour. She was about my age, and was smiling and twirling her thick plaited hair around nervously as Reuben (the guide – read the first two posts!) explained her way of life. He asked her, “Do you like living here?” Almost embarrassed, she didn’t want to answer. And this is why I don’t know how to feel about day three of our trek. I’m really not into Poverty-Porn tourism, and this felt like a big, fat serving of it. Cue lots of guilt and deep ponderings on the 4 hour walk down the mountain.
The day ended with another glorious feast before being driven to a small mountain town for a very standard meal (especially when compared to the banquets we were being served on the trek!). As a group, we boarded the train to Aguas Calientes, where we would stay in a hotel for the night before leaving to Machu Picchu at 5 the next morning…
It’s worth noting here that the price of the train ticket one way was $50, and the hotel at least another $30, with the entrance to Machu itself being $62. Along with three nights camping, three meals a day for three days and of course our guides, it makes the fat price tag of doing a trek a little more easy to swallow over the DIY one day tour option. Treks are available in Cusco from $180, so you might even save money.
So how was Machu Picchu itself…? After a verrrry long queue for the bus up there (you can also walk but… whatever. We had just done a three day trek!), well, as all iconic landmarks or historical sites kind of go, it was… good. But – and I hate to say it – underwhelming. It’s hard to be gobsmacked at something that you’ve seen a million times before in pictures… but, of course, it was amazing nonetheless. The only real downsides were 1) the hoards and hoards of tourist – all of them attempting to get the same shot (lollll guilty. See below.) and 2) the unbelievable heat of the sun. Oh, and for me, the somewhat questionable stories behind Machu that my guide was telling. We explored the ruins for a couple of hours before it all became a bit too much.
So. Three blog posts later… what was my verdict upon my 4 day Lares Trek to Machu Picchu with Alpaca Expeditions? A solid 8/10. There were definitely some downs (altitude, cold, an almost overwhelming multitude of tourists in Machu… etc) but the ups outweighed these by a long shot. It was challenging, and it was something that I’ve never, ever done before. A trek across the Andes, camping out in the middle of the mountains every night, eating the most delicious food and meeting some awesome people whilst doing it? For me, it was worth the steep price tag. But – there’s always a cheaper option! So that’s it. If you’re ever in Peru, it is an absolute, 1000% must do – for all the right reasons.
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