Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu, all these years in my bucket list…it finally came true! And by the way, it was Thanksgiving Day so I was very thankful that we were able to visit this unique place! Our Peru Rail Vistadome train leave directly from our hotel (Tambo del Inka) train station at 6:50 am; we were told to be there at least 30 minutes in advanced. Breakfast served at Hawa Restaurant starting at 5:30 am so we had half an hour for breakfast and walk to the train station. I told hubby to eat filling food since we might ended up with a very late lunch to optimize our time at Machu Picchu. It wasn’t an issue at all, look at all the food!
They have fresh fruit juices and many varieties too….pineapple, orange, melon, and even watermelon!!! My husband is a huge watermelon fan, literally, he could eat half a watermelon by himself if he has time!
And already cut into cubes!!!
All sorts of cold cuts:
Croissants, breads, cakes…
and even fresh honey from the honeycomb!
And steak tips!!! Steak tips for breakfast? I wish I have a lunch box to scoop the steak tips in LOL would be perfect for a quick lunch!
After a filling breakfast, we walked to the train station, less than 15 minutes away within the hotel property:
There was our train:
The staff checked our train tickets and passports (you’ll need your passport to purchase the bus ticket and also to get into Machu Picchu along with your Machu Picchu ticket!). The train was nearly empty as it was the first point of departure – it made another stop at Ollantaytambo Train Station. We found our seats and I was so thrilled that our seats were on the left side of the train as I read that the left side is more scenic!
Our seats were also right next to the carry-on compartment rack, the seats were comfortable and look at those huge windows; they are clean too so will be good for photos!
The train started to move and it was moving quite slow…..my camera was on stand-by ready for photos. Then, I saw two cute little taxis passed by! Don’t they look like toy cars?
The Sacred Valley and Urubamba River:
It was blue sky and white clouds, please stay that way!
In half an hour or so we stopped Ollantaytambo Train Station where the staff were busy loading stuff into the train. There was this guy selling backpacks:
And then quickly the train was filled with passengers, it was completely booked! More scenic views on the 2.5 hours ride to Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu. From Aguas Calientes, you’ll need to take a bus or hike up to Machu Picchu.
More scenic views along the way:
The snow-capped mountain:
A light snack was served on the way along with refreshments; it tasted alright.
I used the restroom on board since hubby said it was quite clean so better to go now before we get to Machu Picchu 🙂
The 2.5 hours ride wasn’t too bad with nice views! As soon as the train stopped, we got out and followed the crowd to get out of the train station. To get out, you’ll have to walk through a flea market; we’ll save shopping later!
We walked across a bridge to get to the other side of the town to the bus station, there I can see the buses!
I was following hubby and he was following the folks in front of him..well guess what, they had no clue where they are going!
So we ended up through the town center and turned in a big circle to walk back….sign to the Bus Station:
I got frustrated a bit since we lost a few minutes, it should be: as soon as you walked across the bridge make a sharp left like a “U” turn to get down the ramp to the riverside!
Walk out of the ramp on the above picture, the ticket stand is right across the street:
They only take US dollars (it was $24 round trip per person on Nov 2015), I carried $20 bills in almost perfect condition to pay for the tickets. After we got our bus tickets, we walked toward the row of buses and got in the bus without much of a queue. There are plenty of buses and they are constantly loading people; the bus departs when it has filled. The buses are like those coach buses but smaller in size; they are comfortable and clean. I took a photo of the bus statue inside our bus:
The bus up to the entrance of Machu Picchu took around 25 minutes zigzagging up to the mountain. The road is not paved so it could be bumpy at times. On the way up to the mountain, I looked back and the town is located on the bottom and the back of that mountain! The mountains in that region are rock mountains and very steep so it amazed me on how in the world the Incans were able to built Machu Picchu up in the mountain back in the days?
As we were approaching, we could see in the distance Machu Picchu on the cliff of the mountain, OMG it was so unreal!
We got off the bus and walked pass the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel up the mountain and very expensive! I took out our tickets and passports and handed over to the staff at the gate. He scanned our tickets and verified our ID and we stepped into Machu Picchu!
Within minutes, right before our eyes: Machu Picchu! WOW, WOW, WOW, out of this world!
Alright don’t get too excited and walk right into the ruins, I told hubby walk back; we need to walk up for the postcard view! Once you enter Machu Picchu entrance gate, take the first left turn to head to the direction to the Sungate:Follow those steps up, it was hard at high altitude (at 8000 ft) that I made a few stops to catch my breathe and drink water…hehe we took the 4 free bottles of water from our room and so glad we took them even though of the extra weight. There is no food stand or vending machine inside the ruin and technically no food is allowed except for water! There is no trash bin inside so make sure you carry all your trash out to protect this unique landmark! There is the hotel restaurant and a food stall outside the entrance of the ruin. Also on the outside the entrance, I saw a vending machine outside the restrooms (by the way it’s 1 Sol so carry your coins). I didn’t need to use the restroom so can’t comment if it’s clean; I would think so since they charge to use it!
To protect ourselves from sand flies and bugs (I have read horrible stories about them), I was prepared with the insect repellent wipes, those are 25% DEET, and much more convenient to pack in our carry-on luggage!
I wiped my legs and edge of the socks even though I was wearing long jeans, you never know how sneaky bugs can get and it worked well; no bites from inside the ruin!
Machu Picchu, it is a lot bigger than we have imagined and seeing it in person was much more mesmerizing than in any photos that I have seen! The mountain on the back is Wayna Picchu and people said it resembled a human face (if you turn it horizontally, can you see it?)
How about now?
We found our own spot where no one was there to take photos with the famous and mysterious Machu Picchu!
Thank you for the good weather…I am known to bring rain so I was worried, although some low hanging clouds would make it more mysterious and dreamy! I can’t be too greedy right!
We occupied this rock for some “we were there” photos!
No tripods allowed so all we could do was placed our camera on a step for this photo:
A panorama and the clouds started to clear up for the blue sky yay!
A pic for my facebook profile pic haha:
The levels of green grasses, those levels of fields used to grow different crops like in Moray (panorama below taken by my iPhone):
Some areas were roped so do not step beyond the ropes for your own safety!
It was not as crowded as I would’ve anticipated probably it was still early and not during high season! We had no issue to find a spot by ourselves to just sit back, relax, and enjoy this masterpiece:
It is so amazing; it’s definitely a at least once in a lifetime trip!
We stopped every few steps and picture it at different angles!
And whenever we were able to find a spot to place our camera for picture of two of us 🙂 We did see a couple who bought their tripod but it looked very odd as everyone else followed the rule, please be respectful!
We had so much fun walking up and down here and there for different angles, it’s so beautiful, and taking our time since we have plenty of time!
Only one thing is missing…where are the llamas???
Most of the paths are one way direction so just follow the path and will get to most of the must see places! Time to walk in!
It was breathtaking (no pun intended)!
“I am finally here!” Look, that big patch of grass field in the middle, there they are llamas!!!
There were a lot of llamas down there looking like they are taking a nap! We’ll eventually get down there to see them, continue with the path and more pictures!
Next stop: Sacred Plaza!
Groups of tours were there already!
And there were people doing repairs and maintenance:
How perfectly the rock was cut and fit into each other, masterpiece of the Incans!
A look back of where we started all the way up there at that house on the corner, a lot more people there now! Our timing was perfect to avoid the mass tour groups!
This special looking stone is Intihuatana, served as a sun dial based on how the sun make a shadow.
Continue on walking down the steps, I was walking on the stones from Machu Picchu times!
No one knows why the Incans built and then abandoned this city in the sky!
Out of no where, a llama suddenly appeared right in front of me OMG!
It just totally did its own thing; they get used to humans by now!
I kept a distance, me and a llama!
Look at how close it was!
The staff called the llama’s name, wow they gave a name to each of the llamas up there?
And then the llama just plow its way down and the people in front were surprised and quickly moved to the side so the llama can pass, “move move humans” LOL!
A big tour group was in front of us and were jamming the way so we walked the other way to find a spot to relax until they are gone!
The Three Doorway…typo on Doorway LOL!
Look at those stone stacking works like fitting pieces in a puzzle!
Yep three doorways!
The rounded stone columns sticking out probably to support and hold the roof?
That tree right in the middle really stand out, looking like a knowledge tree or wish tree hehe!
More llamas down there!
A baby white one up there drinking milk from his/her mommy!
They didn’t pay any attention to me 🙁
On the right is the Temple of the Condor, we waited for the tour group to pass before we head down there to see it:
It looked like a sudden drop whahaha!
Temple of the Condor, that big piece of huge stone on the side resembled the condor’s wing. But the purpose of it was really a torturer cell to execute prisoners!
Those houses are resting huts to provide shades!
We found a spot with shades to rest and ate some light snacks (crackers and a can of Macadamia nuts that we got from home), it was already 1 pm! A staff was there doing repairs/maintenance:
We walked the whole loop around Machu Picchu at that point but we didn’t want to leave yet so we walked around for more photos!
We found a rock to sit down and placed our camera for photos again!
That tree and there was a llama there too!
The layers of walls to hold the agriculture plots of fields of each level.
We left Machu Picchu at around 1:30 pm, on the way out, I saw this monument of when Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham on 1911, really not that long ago considered it was built back around 1430AD! It totally escaped the eyes of the Spanish when they conquered the Inca Empire due to its remote location and was abandoned.
The queue for the bus to go down, it was long and I heard it could be longer during peak times! On the bottom of the umbrellas is the paid restrooms. On the left side that wooden log cabin looking like is the entrance gate where tickets are checked,
An alternative way of taking the bus is the hiking trail….going down should be okay but walking up…urg, I rather save my limited energy for Machu Picchu!
There were few dogs taking naps in the shade:
We waited half an hour in queue and got back down to the town. The town center was rather nice!
An Inca king statue:
The buildings of shops and restaurants are quite cute!
We walked around in search for a restaurant for lunch and saw a Trip Advisor sticker and “free wiki”, that was how we picked the restaurant!
The place is really cute and relaxing, we chose to sit on the sofa…ahh just like eating at home at the living room and with windows to look outside!
So comfortable that hubby wanted to take a nap!
We both ordered the smoked salmon pasta in cream sauce and hubby noticed the differences, how come my dish had way more salmon than his? He said not fair pretty girl get more and better stuff!
Looking out the window, I saw this couple selling ice cream cups and many kids got out of school and buy a cup!
It took a while for our phones to connect to the restaurant wifi, the waiter said it exceeded the number of users logged in so have to wait for someone to log off. We finally got online and shared a photo of Machu Picchu to our friends and family and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving! Yea, we made a lot of people jealous LOL! Our train was at 6:20 pm and we need to be there 30 minutes before so by 5:50 pm……it was 3:30 pm when we finished our lunch. We used the restrooms inside the restaurant – very clean – and about to leave and it started to rain! I could still see the sun! So then we sat back down and waited until the rain stopped.
It rained for around 10 minutes or so then we headed out to explore the town a bit. The main street is filled with restaurants and tourists:
Across another bridge to the train station side to….
Guess what is this?
Covering as roof for the souvenir stalls below:
Many souvenir stalls there, all the colors and items made me dizzy haha! We didn’t buy anything there since all the stuff are the same as the shops in Lima and Cusco! We like the ceramic taxi figurines and we found the ones in Cusco are better craftsmanship so we’ll wait until we return to Lima to get those.
End of those shops is the train station, we got in an hour early and found a place to sit outside. It has a nice outdoor area with benches and many kinds of exotic flowers!
We should’ve booked an earlier train back; it was more than enough time with the 6:20 pm train. I think with our normal pace, the 4:22 pm train should be plenty of time; the 3:48 pm train back to Urubamba is definitely too rush! We were waiting and waiting and pass our boarding time and still no announcement! I went up to the staff and asked and he told me to wait; it’ll be the next train. Then after another 10 minutes, I went up and asked. The lady said there is an issue so will be a delay but she doesn’t know how much of a delay. We sat back and waited and used the restrooms inside the train station – clean and free. We waited and waited, an hour went by still no update! By this time the passengers who booked the 7 pm train arrived and no room for them to sit. People ended up sitting on the floor and very frustrated. The staff couldn’t do anything but to pass out sodas and water.
We waited for almost 1.5 hours and finally they put up the sign of our train number!!! They never told us what happened either. They were loading two trains at the same time and as fast as they could so people could get back to Ollantaytambo. We boarded the train and we were so tired that we almost slept the whole way – 1.5 hours back. I was worried if there’ll be any taxi at night to get us back to Urubamba; we’ll arrive Ollantaytambo at 9:30 pm and also our safety at night! The moment we stepped outside the train station at Ollantaytambo, we saw a person wearing the hotel uniform holding his iPad with my name! OMG the driver we booked through the hotel has been waiting for us for over 2 hours!!! What a relief and at that moment, I felt the amount that the hotel charged us (2.5 times more than the market place) was actually well spent because of the service!!! I apologized to the driver that our train had issue and delayed and he was very polite and still has a smile on his face! He walked us to the parking lot where we were transported by a very nice Nissan SUV with air conditioning! The 30 minutes ride was very comfortable!
We got back to the hotel at 10 pm; the restaurant closes at 10 pm but we gave it a try. We walked down the stairs to the restaurant and asked if we could order take out since we know that the restaurant is closing. The lady said no problem, as they are having a special Thanksgiving buffet so they are not closing yet and asked if we would like to be seated. Another great service from the hotel!!! We didn’t want to make the staff work late so we just ordered main dishes and skipped the appetizers. I ordered the duck breast and hubby ordered the curry (I wanted rice hehe). Both dishes were pretty good, of course the duck breast wasn’t as great as the ones I had in Avignon, France but we were starving that any hot food tasted so much better!
It was a long day for us, we went back shower and right to sleep. The next morning, we had breakfast and checked out at 6 am; the driver was on time to pick us up to the airport. It was an hour ride from Urubamba to Cusco airport. When we reached Cusco, we drove by their open “market” and urgg….
They were selling meat on the street like that….and we even saw someone selling meat on the back of his van!
Our flight was at 8:45 am and we arrived at the airport just past 7 am. I checked in and printed our boarding pass the night before so we just headed straight to security and the gates. There are some stores there inside the terminal; one of them is Kuna and a huge sign “50% off Black Friday sale”!!! I bought a 100% baby alpaca scarf at the Kuna store in Plaza de Armas in Cusco for like 120 sols (around $37 USD) after 10% off. If I know they have Black Friday sale, I would’ve waited! I went into the airport store and check it out. The price is the same as the store in Cusco center and 50% off, time to spend some money! I bought a very nice purple patterned shawl that is made of 70% baby alpaca and 30% silk, regular price 300 sols and at 50% off around $43 USD 🙂
The flight was on time and we arrived Lima at 10:05 am, a different driver was there with my name on the sign to pick us up to Miraflores, again we stayed at the Courtyard Marriot with our free night certificate. We didn’t get an upgrade this time since I asked for the earliest available room instead of the best available room; we only staying till 1 am to catch our 4:49 am flight home so I didn’t care much about the size of the room.
For lunch, I decided to go La Mar, a highly rated seafood restaurant that only opens for lunch! La Mar is quite far from the center of Miraflores that you’ll need to take a taxi to get there. I asked the front desk and shes said around 12 sols for taxi to get there. It was a challenge to flag down a taxi lol and then tell the driver where we wanted to go with no Spanish at all! I printed out the name and address of the restaurant and showed to the driver. At first, he doesn’t know where is La Mar, and I showed him the little map and he recognized the nearby streets. I asked how much and he said something I totally had no clue (definitely not 1-10 as those are the only numbers I know in Spanish) uhhh! I had a pen and I wrote 12 sol? He said okay and we got in the cab! Phew, my first haggling taxi experience in Peru..success! Well I am not sure how successfully I was, he probably said 11 sols LOL! But we get where we wanted to get to and at the price we wanted to pay 🙂
They don’t take any reservation and by the time we got there, we got one of the last tables so lucky! Different types of potato chips and fried corns:
I ordered the shrimp covering fish cake with rice in soy sauce. It was very good, the fried shrimps on the top layer were crispy while the fish cake on the bottom was very smooth texture. I wished it was tofu on the bottom; I like the silky tofu. The sauce was very Asian style, duh soy sauce, but the rice wasn’t that good. I wished they just give me jasmine white rice instead!
Hubby ordered the most expensive dish on the menu, less than $30 USD, a pot of fresh seafood (jumbo prawns, crabs, calamari, you named it) with noodles on the bottom. The jumbo prawns tasted so fresh and good, those reminded me of the fresh Mediterranean shrimps that I had in Europe! Shrimps that actually tasted shrimp not frozen tasteless shrimps that we have back home! The noodles were soaked and adsorbed all those sauce from the full pot of seafood, it was delicious but after many bites, it became a little bit salty for our taste bud.
Hubby was enjoying his pot of seafood; he’s an absolute seafood lover!
There’s wifi in the restaurant and I tried to find the picture that convinced me to pick La Mar – the whole fried fish! I found it and showed to hubby and he said want to order it? It’s definitely not in the printed menu so I waited for the waiter to come over and asked him what is this dish? He said Diablo Nikei which means devil nikei. I asked how much is the dish and he replied based on the weight. He found the smallest one and said around 150 sols ($50 USD), I asked do you accept credit card? Yes! Alright let’s give it a try haha!
Woah! People were definitely looking at us haha!
The outside is very crispy fried meanwhile the inside meat is just about cooked – perfect!!! La Mar definitely knows how to cook seafood right! Yummy but after a few bites, we felt was a little bit salty. We found Peruvian cooking is generally a little bit too salty for us but still delicious!
La Mar was fully packed with locals and tourists, there was a line waiting so luckily we came early! Our splurged lunch was $97.12 USD included 10% tips hehe but the quality of the seafood was worth it!
After lunch, I asked the waiter to help us call a taxi back (safer this way) and we got in before asking the price (opps). We asked after we got in and he said 20 sols…blah…oh well…it was a nicer and newer car with air conditioning so we didn’t have to inhale the polluted air; paid extra for clean air! We got off at our hotel and then walked to the flea market street for our last souvenir shopping. Metal statues outside of the shops:
This time, we walked pass the markets we went to last time and reached Indian Market! It was huge!!!
And right across the street is the Inka Plaza with more stalls!!!
After 2 hours of browsing around our eyes got tired!!! I was successful bargained three ceramic taxi figurines….25 Sols for the two small ones and 15 Sols for the big orange one; aren’t they cute? I like to buy souvenirs that are not too expensive and yet will remind me of the place I visited. They’ll definitely remind me of the 3 wheels cutely decorated taxis I saw in Urubamba!
Before I met my friend for dinner, we headed out early to the Larcoma Mall to shop for more baby alpaca shawls at Kuna to bring back as Christmas presents. The store was filled with tourists but at least not as crazy as our Black Friday. I bought another 3 shawls, very nice colors and patterns for $166 USD; each around $55 USD after 50% off. They are very smooth, light weighted, warm, and look luxurious! Those are the expensive shawls in the store since they are 70% baby alpaca and 30% silk and in very nice patterns. The plain no pattern ones are less expensive around $35 USD after 50% off. The least expensive scarf in the store is the 100% baby alpaca for around 145 sols so with 50% off it’s around $22 USD. When I think of it, it’s worth to splurge on one real baby alpaca scarf than 3 fake flea market ones!
For dinner, we met in front of Central Restaurante, very close to Larcoma Mall and it was ranked #3 restaurant in the whole WORLD! I tried to make a reservation for their Mater Elevation menu but they were fully booked for a month! They replied back to my email inquiry after 3 days that there are availability at their cocktail lounge where we could order some dishes. I replied that we have 3 people instead of 2 now and then they didn’t reply. So we went there anyways to try our luck. We got some luck and we were able to dine at their cocktail lounge.
The cocktail lounge:
Potato cubes, they looked so nice!
Me and my friend on the background, the lighting was very dark there haha…it’s a cocktail lounge afterall!
Hubby ordered a drink named wildflower honey, it was refreshing!
He ordered the Coastal Rice with clam, octopus, calamari, it was too a bit too salty for our taste but tasty nonetheless!
I ordered the Tartar of the Sea with scallops and colorful flowers on top. It’s too sour for me urg…
My friend ordered the suckling piglet cheek, he said was good!
For dessert, I ordered the Soil of Cacao, it was very interesting with ice cream and then three types of chocolate “soil”.
I ordered the Chirimoya Chia: smoked milk! This one was very delicious and creative! The solidified milk melted in my mouth, yummm! We enjoyed the desserts more than our main courses for sure!
My friend took the bill so I have no clue on the total price but the entree cost around 60 sols each and dessert around 40 sols each! Central Restaurante is definitely considered as a creative restaurant where dining is not just about the food but an experience of different flavors blend together to create something new.
My short trip to Peru was an unforgettable one; the only regret was it was too short after we discovered there are so much more to see like Moray Inca Ruins and Maras Salt Mines (Farms)! Machu Picchu was amazing, no words could describe how incredible it was to be there and walking on it. No question about it, it’s definitely one of the must see! The colonial architectures in Cusco are beautiful at day and more beautiful at night! The numbers of flea markets are ridiculous even shopaholic like me got tired of shopping! My first step into South America was a great one, when will be my next time to return and discover more of this continent? But first, I think I need to learn more Spanish hehe.
Stay tuned for my next travel adventure, we will be leaving tomorrow!!!