Discovering Machu Picchu: A Travel Photo Diary

8 Aug 2018

Today we visit a deeply mystical land nestled 2.4km above sea level in the Urubamba Valley, South of Peru. This is our photo diary of Machu Picchu.

It was the Incas who built Machu Picchu in the 15th century - probably for the Inca and the elite to live in, or as a retreat. The ingenuity and craftsmanship in building it is outstanding - the Incas had no wheels, iron tools or draft animals.

Before you read on, here are some other things we did in Peru:

Though the Spanish never found Machu Picchu, it's thought that smallpox brought in from Europe wiped its last inhabitants out. The place remained untouched for centuries until an 11 year old local boy showed it to Hiram Bingham.

Getting here is straightforward. A short flight from Lima (just over an hour) took us to Cusco, where we stayed 3 days to acclimatise and explore the town like locals. We thoroughly recommend you do the same. From Cusco you can either do the Inca Trail  (82km) or, like us, you can take the British-owned Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu city).

Aguas Calientes ('hot waters', for the hot springs you can find here), is like a town built around a huge market, next to a railroad. On the one side you have all the restaurants, hostels and massage parlours packed in - almost on top of each other. And on the other side of town, across the bridge, the mega-luxurious Casa Andina hotel (still keeping in with traditions in architecture), which is a harsh juxtaposition to the life you see beneath.

We arrived in the town late last night. Today we have two options to get to Machu Picchu and we've chosen the eco-friendly one: walking. The alternative is a smog-spewing coach that will set you back at least a dozen dollars and then some.

'Let's walk there'. This is easier said than done. It's early afternoon and the sun is now decidedly out.

Considering we've spent a few days acclimatising to the altitude in Cusco, we're not doing great. There's a 15 minute rest for every few steps we take. The rock stairs are shallow at the start but become extremely steep and the oxygen, thin. Maybe that's why we're being so silly.

After an hour and a half, we've made it to the top! We're so excited to see what all the fuss is about. Is Machu Picchu worth it? Is it really one of the most incredible things I will ever see?

Chris thinks yes.

The early morning fog has risen and the sun beats down on the flat stone surfaces. The scene is powerful.

We've lucked out. I don't know if it's because of World Cup season or the hot afternoon, but there's not a lot of people out here. Makes for great photos.

We're slowly walking through every nook and cranny of this place.

It's bigger than we thought and there are so many mysteries. This time we're just here to experience it - we don't want to be rushed. So we haven't got a guide. I'm almost half regretting it, I'm stuck with this clown.

We wander around and placidly sit beside some sweet llamas, who keep us company for the rest of the afternoon.

Classic. My photos of him are better than his photos of me. Does this happen to anyone else?

I think the trek up has obliterated our energy. We should've brought energy balls or bananas up with us. We'll have to come back with a guide next time. It's time to go back to Aguas Calientes and get dinner. But not before a few final photos.

On the way down we reluctantly board a bus. We're not the only tired ones...

We've heard it's a good idea to head to some hot springs after this day of hiking and climbing. But instead we're off to Casa Andina. We're going to get a mean Lomo Saltado and a firewood pizza, and reminisce about the amazing day we've just had!

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