Adventures in Peru
What else do you get someone who loves to travel for their birthday but a trip! Not just any trip, but a trip to Machu Picchu of all places. On the bucket list of almost every world traveler. It definitely was on mine and my wonderful wife made sure I got to check that off my list. We left on Saturday night and flew from LAX to Lima Peru on LAN airlines. It was an 8.5 hour flight. We arrived in Lima at 10:00 AM Saturday morning and had a 2 hour layover until our flight to Cusco Peru – the major town closest to Machu Picchu.
Adventures in Cusco
We arrived in Cusco at about 2:30 PM and jumped in a tax to go to our hotel: Terra Viva in the historical section of Cusco. Let me tell you – Cusco is over 14,000 feet in elevation. More than half of the travelers who visit there will get altitude sickness (aka “AS”). We “sea level dwellers” have a hard time breathing at such a high altitude until we acclimate to the low oxygen levels. It takes 2 to 3 days to get over AS. We had 3 nights in Cusco and it was rough. On the first night, by 9:30 PM, M’s headache was so bad, she was vomiting and she said her head was going to explode. I went to the lobby and the desk clerk told me to take one of the oxygen bottles from behind the counter to the room and have M breathe deeply for 10 minutes. Sure enough, it took the headache away and she got some relief. It seems AS hits you harder at night. So each night we were there, I got the oxygen bottle. Problem solved!
There is not much to do in Cusco – it is a very poor 3rd world country type city. They have millions of dollars coming in from tourist but you can tell not much goes back into the local economy. Too bad. There is a lot of history there. That coupled with the AS symptoms we were feeling, we were lucky to just go eat breakfast and lunch. We did hop on one of the local tour buses since walking didn’t help the AS symptoms. It took us to some of the local historical plazas and up to the top of the hill where there is an Inca site called Sacsayhuman (pronounced Sexywoman). We also stopped at the statue “Christo Blanco”, the large white Jesus statue which can be seen from almost anywhere in Cusco.
Adventures in Machu Picchu
Well the big day came and we were happy to get out of Cusco and head to Machu Picchu. We jumped in a taxi and went to the next city over, Poroy, where the train station was located. The train ride takes almost 4 hours to get to Aguas Calientes. From there we took a bus up the mountain to our hotel. It is a very steep road that switches back about 20 or more times. Sometimes the road is very narrow and the bus has to stop and backup so another bus can get by. They do travel fairly fast in the busses making the trips up and down the mountain.
We made it to the top and checked into the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. The only hotel near the entrance to MP Inca site. Everyone else has to take those buses up and back down each day they want to visit MP. So glad we didn’t have to do that! Unlike Cusco, MP is only at about 8,000 feet and we didn’t have any AS symptoms. That made the visit here that much better.
The hotel is an all inclusive with meals and most alcohol drinks. They also have 24 hour free room service. We had some lunch and went into MP. 90% of the tourist in the ruins were already leaving as they had to wait in the hours long bus lines to get back down the hill to the local town/hotels. We walked in and immediately went to a high point to get some great pictures. Hardly anyone was there and as you can see by the pictures below, not many tourist in our shots.
Overall the couple of nights we stayed in the Sanctuary Lodge was a good stay. Much more restful than Cusco. On the day of our check out, we went down the hill to Aguas Calientes and looked for a place to have lunch before the train left at 3:20. The town is really a shanty type town catering to all the tourist. Not much money goes into any type of buildup. It is just motels, restaurants and trinket shops. We took the train ride back to Poroy and grabbed a local guy outside the gate for 25 sols to take us back to the same hotel. A standard taxi will cost you 3 times that amount. Immediately you can feel the AS symptoms hit you again, but not as hard. No need for oxygen. On Friday we took it easy and went trinket shopping. Saturday we headed to the airport and I was happy to leave Cusco and have a great Machu Picchu trip checked off my bucket list – as well as finally going to a place in South America. I am happy we went and very happy I have a wife who knows what I like. Thank you M!