It was a 3:30 start, which after broken sleep and the events of the day before had me a little worried. We got a taxi to the airport in Cusco, which is the coldest airport I have ever experienced. After checking in, we headed to the departure gate, which was also freezing. The departure gate was interesting. The lady brought her own laptop, microphone and speaker to make the announcements. 🙂
We got on to the coldest plane I’ve ever been on. I don’t remember seeing people on a plane in coats and woolly hats before. 🙂 After a quick flight we got to Lima airport, where I said goodbye to Debra, who is flying back to Northern Ireland, via Miami and London.
Having a 14 hour layover in Lima, I decided to check in to a hotel at the airport and sleep for a while. I also upgraded my flight home to a business class flight. The combination of the Machu Picchu trip, airport hotel and business class flight home have added up to quite a lot of money, but if I get home in a reasonable state, it will be worth it. 🙂
With the tour over, Debra and I had arranged to spend a couple of days visiting Machu Picchu, before heading home.
We woke up early on Friday to get a flight from Lima to Cusco. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, got to our gate and saw a list of delayed and cancelled flights to Cusco. The weather was too bad in Cusco for flights to take off and land. Luckily, after a while the weather apparently cleared in Cusco, allowing us to take a flight which arrived about 1 hour late.
We had arranged to drop our luggage off at a hotel in Cusco a day early, then continue on to Machu Picchu. The taxi ride to the hotel was interesting. Cusco has some very narrow streets that are barely wide enough for get a car through. It was quite hairy at times. We eventually got there, dropped our bags off and continued in the taxi to Ollantaytambo, which took about 90 mins. This allowed us to briefly see some of the sacred valley up close. During the drive I had a funny turn, which I put down to the high altitude. Debra said I looked green. By the time we got to Ollantaytambo and got some food I was feeling better.
While we were waiting for the train, I noticed the arrivals/departures screen on the wall had a session of TOAD running, doing some queries. By the time we had cameras ready, it was gone and the announcements screen was back. Debra went on the hunt and found a lady in an office that confirmed they (PeruRail) were using Oracle. 🙂 We got on the Vistadome train, which has lots of extra windows, including in the roof, which is essential if you want a good view of the mountains around you. The train has a rather narrow gauge, which is a little disconcerting at first. The train takes you to Aguas Calientes, now known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is the best place to stay if you plan an early visit to Machu Picchu.
Just a quick word of warning, I did not like Machu Picchu Pueblo at all. It is a great setting in the mountains with the river running through, but it is one giant tourist centre, full to the brim with restaurants, markets and tourist shops. Many of the write-ups about Machu Picchu talk about it being ruined by tourists. This town proves the point! We bought our bus tickets for the next day, grabbed some food and headed to bed for an early start.
Update: Here is a quick montage of the journey to Machu Picchu.