No luggage on the train to Machu Picchu; only small carryons. We packed what we needed, left our bags at K’uychi Rumi, and boarded a van (just one, a big one) back to Ollantaytambo for a more leisurely but still rushed tour.

Ollantaytambo in morning light Ollantaytambo in morning light

Water fountain Water fountain
We walked up to the Temple of the Sun; saw, far away on the other side of the valley, the quarry where they mined the massive pink granite rocks used to build the temple; learned how they sculpted and transported them down and across the river and then back up; saw the damage that lichen does to granite, including a (deliberately) scraped-off segment that illustrated why it’s called “pink granite”. (Any guesses?). Learned about the solstice alignment between the temple and the mountain to its east. Saw, back down at ground level, a water fountain whose window opening is also perfectly solstice-aligned. Experienced much awe.

From there to the train station. We picked up our waiting (carryon) luggage, showed our passports and train tickets about seventeen times in total, and boarded a one-car train for the hour-and-forty ride to Aguas Calientes. The ride was uneventful. We rode downhill along the Urubamba river, passing villages and ruins and rapids and the start of the “Inca Trail to Machu Picchu” and a hydroelectric diversion which abruptly reduced the Urubamba to a stream. The vegetation changed gradually, becoming what I can only describe as Puertorico-like: dense thick jungle flora.

KM 82, where the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu begins KM 82, where the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu begins

Arrived at Aguas Calientes. A short walk to dump our belongings in our rooms, then up to:

Machu Picchu

Did you think we’d ever get there? Well, we’re not there yet. We still have a 20-minute bus ride and 15-minute wait in line for said bus. But we’re close. And, pretty soon, we’re there.

And, what do I say? What can I say? You’ve heard it all, or you’ve been there and seen it (in addition to having heard it all). There is one word that expresses my feelings; it’s a word that has been bouncing around in my life lately, in books I’ve been reading, in conversations with a close friend, in life in general: awe. This is an incredible place. Not energy or vibrations or karma, I’m not into that; but incredible nonetheless. Its location; the unbelievable effort it must’ve taken to plan and build it; its survival across centuries; the sheer overwhelmingness of scale and location and so, so many details. The closest I’ve felt to this is standing in El Morro, and that’s much younger and also built by Europeans with steel and tools and slaves. And my awe at El Morro pales in comparison to Machu Picchu. I’ve never felt this kind of wonder before.

We toured. Fernando showed us many (not all) of the sights I’d read about and hoped to see; also showed us many I hadn’t known about but had nonetheless unknowingly wanted to see. We had a full afternoon, and, surprisingly, the site was remarkably uncrowded: Fernando said afternoons are quieter than mornings, and we saw that for ourselves the next day. It was just us, a few hundred other people, and the soothing peaceful whirr of a drone flying up and down and around. (Can’t escape them. Might as well accept them).

We got our passports stamped We got our passports stamped
I won’t go into detail on what we saw. I won’t post a zillion photos. You don’t need them, and I don’t either. I’m going to leave my desk now, do some exercise, reflect on awe and wonder, and be grateful for having had this opportunity. Tomorrow I’ll write about Huayna Picchu.