My Mom is Tougher Than Yours: Part 2
After camping in the mud for a night in Cusco and stocking up on snacks for our hike up Machu Picchu, we packed the truck once again and made our way to Ollantaytambo. There, we planned to take the train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.
The drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo was short, but sweet. After accidentally missing the main turn, the GPS re-routed us down a dirt road. We contemplated turning around, but since it was only about 15 miles of road to the next town, we strapped ourselves in tight and got ready to bump down the dusty path. The truck wove us up and around the Incan farmlands, directly through the Sacred Valley. We slowly passed women carrying large loads on their backs, shooing sheep and pigs to their next pasture to graze. The rumble of the truck would turn heads from deep in the gardens. We would wave and be greeted back with a large, toothless smile. The farms and gardens were absolutely breathtaking. We were definitely off the beaten path and loving every minute of it.
Pulling into Ollantaytambo was a bit claustrophobic. Not only were the streets only wide enough for one car, but there was a festival and parade going on as well. We attempted to find camping at a few different places to no avail, so decided to get a room down the street from the train station. We also found a great place to park the truck just down the street from the hotel- score!
That night, we grabbed dinner in town at Heart’s Cafe. This cafe not only offers amazing, fresh food but donates all of its proceeds to help women and children in the area. We loved the food and loved to help out such a fantastic organization even more.
The next day, our train didn’t depart until 4:30pm so we spent our time walking around quiet Ollantaytambo visiting lots of individual shops. The tapestries, weavings, scarves, etc are so wonderful in Peru, even Nate and I couldn’t go without buying ourselves something nice. Normally, we stick to just experiences because we don’t have a lot of room in the truck and (of course) we are on a budget, but we decided to treat ourselves to a few things while Robin was here so she could tote them safely back to the states for us.
After a day of shopping, we were ready to board the train and take a nice ride to Aguas Calientes. To us, it is so fun to be the passengers in any form of public transportation. It is so much more relaxing! You don’t have to watch out for other cars, pedestrians, cows, or dogs and can sit back and truly enjoy the scenery.
The train skirted along the river, deep in a valley, with mountains soaring on either side of you. We graciously sipped our tea and snacked on our “Andean fruit and nuts” that were provided to us by the train. With our necks craned upwards out the window, we sat in silence, taking it all in.
Arriving in Aguas Calientes at 7:00pm was a little tricky. After stepping off the train, we were immediately dumped into a market with thousands of souvenir shops, t-shirts shops and food stalls. We quickly wove our way out of the market and headed straight for the office to buy our tickets for Machu Picchu the next morning. Wallets lighter, we made a b-line to find a hostel for the night. We found a cheap, basic hostel right on the train tracks and an easy walk to the path that would lead us to to the hike up Machu Picchu in the morning. After a quick once over of the room, Robin decided it was okay for the night and we got settled. We ate a couple of granola bars for dinner and hit the hay early. Our alarm was set to go off at 3:30am and we needed our beauty rest!
After a night filled with train horns sounding directly outside our window, banging of a hammer until the wee hours of the night and our constant battle with the sheets to stay on the bed so we didn’t have to touch the mattress, all three of us groaned when the alarm sounded. We had envisioned being some of the first people to the top of Machu Picchu, so we needed to get moving!
Headlamps strapped to our heads, backpacks slung over our shoulders and cameras fully charged, we started our trek towards the trail at about 4:00am.
We made our way through the pitch black to the start of the 1700 stairs to the top of Machu Picchu. Climbing the rock stairs at 7,000 feet proved to be a bit harder on Robin than expected. She was experiencing the effects of altitude but, with a little tough love, she pushed through!
We finally made it to the top, not some of the first people, but that was okay because the fog was so thick you couldn’t see anything anyways! After walking around and snapping a few pictures of the alpaca, we decided to make our way to the Inca Bridge. The Inca Bridge was one of two secret ways that the Incan Army used to get to Machu Picchu. The trail is carved out of the side of a cliff and, to bridge the twenty foot gap of rock, they used two tree trunks precriously situated to form a walking path. Looking over the edge at the 1900 foot drop made our stomachs turn and our heads spin.
We made our way back to the lost city over slippery rocks to have the clouds part and the rain stop! We fumbled to get our cameras, not knowing how long it would last. As the clouds dissipated, the city started to show itself, piece by piece. Our minds were blown and we were speechless.
Walking around the site to view the temples, pathways, and rock stairs, all with Huayna Picchu towering above us, was surreal. It was interesting to be walking around old ruins knowing that this was a secretly inhabited place so many years ago. To see how simply they were able to live was incredible.
After a few hours, we were ready to grab the bus back down. We walked over to a bus and started to climb aboard when we got the finger wave and a head shake no. Confused, we asked why. We found out that there had been a pretty serious landslide, making the road impassable. We looked at each other, our legs quivering with tiredness, and reluctantly made our way to the stairs to head back down.
We spent the last few days with Robin in a plush hotel room. We spent our days walking around the beautiful city, with the meticulously constructed buildings surrounding us. We visited the Pre-Colombian Museum, which is filled with old Incan artifacts and the textile museum, where we were able to experience, first hand, the wonderful weavings of Peru. Our evenings were spent enjoying each others company over a deliciously prepared meal.
Looking back on our time spent with Robin, it seems like it was all a dream. We traveled over 800 miles, from Lima to Cusco. Starting our trip off indulging in the beautiful landscape of Paracas National Reserve and sandboarding the dunes of Huacachina and ending up in the towering, rich Andes Mountains to experience one of the seven wonders of the world, we couldn’t have been happier to share it all with one of our favorite people in the world.