Journey to Machu Picchu

With the academic semester coming to an end, we finished our time abroad with a trip to one of the seven wonders of the world: Machu Picchu.

I would argue that getting to Machu Picchu is its own wonder of the world. We flew from Quito, Ecuador to Cusco, Peru with a 10 pm to 5 am layover in Lima, Peru. With delirium establishing itself among our group, this was only the first leg of travel to the ancient ruins.

To arrive in Machu Picchu from Cusco, a train is needed. The train station is an hour and twenty minutes outside of Cusco. The destination of the two-hour train ride is Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. From there, you take a 30 minute bus ride through the cloud forest to the ridge of the Andes to arrive.

Thus it made sense we would be starting our day at the crack of dawn. With our tour company coming to pick us up at 3:30 am, we parked ourselves outside the hostel, groggy, but full of anticipation. However, 3:30 am turned to 4:00 am which then turned to 4:30 am. Mind you, tickets sell out for these trains two months in advance, and our train was to leave at 6:10 am. The company phone had been disconnected at that time of day, so you could say we were in a bit of a pickle.

As we approached 4:45 am, someone had the brilliant idea of chatting with the hostel front desk worker, who was able to find the tour company’s emergency number. Apparently, there had been a misunderstanding and our tour company had forgotten to pick us up. So at 5:10 am, a last minute van driver had been contracted to transport us to the train station. Needless to say, this man certainly had Formula 1 career potential, getting us to the station at 6:08 am. Sprinting through the station, we managed to catch a glimpse of our train…pulling away at 6:09 am. At this point, disappointment set in and it seemed we would only be seeing Machu Picchu via google images.

However, knowing we had traveled over 1,500 miles and sacrificed precious REM cycles, we were determined to see this wonder of the world. We regrouped, consulting the tour company and various train station workers.

By some miracle, we were able to reschedule five seats for the next train. It was only when we were winding through the Andean mountain range via train when it sunk in that we would indeed being seeing the world renown Incan ruins.

We connected with our guide, Yesenia, in Aguas Calientes, and soon were off via bus to Machu Picchu. After a total of seven hours from when we first awoke, we finally arrived at the promised land. It was a surreal experience, seeing one of the ancient wonders of the world in person. With three hours to explore the citadel, Yesenia was fantastic in giving us the ancient and contemporary history of Machu Picchu (not to mention, her patience in our photo endeavors was unmatched).

It was a day for the books, with missed trains, sweeping mountain views, and ancient architectural feats marking our journey to Machu Picchu…truly no better way to finish out a semester abroad.