Has it really been 2 years since my last post?! Just when I thought I’ve let go of this blog, I am once again hit by the elusive urge to write. What better way to restart than reminiscing about my 37th birthday solo trip to Peru.
I’ve dreamed of going to Machu Picchu ever since I started my attempt to go to all of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Lucky enough that May (my birth month) is the beginning of good weather in Machu Picchu, but is still not quite peak season yet.
The nearest airport to Machu Picchu is in Cusco. From there, you would need to take a 3-4 hour train ride (depending on which station you embark) through either Peru Rail or Inca Rail. I spent my first day in Cusco walking around, and exploring Plaza de Armas. Almost everything is walkable, and of course, first on the agenda is food! There were so many restaurants to choose from, but after reading reviews and online ratings, I decided on Morena. So good!
Cusco is at an 11,000 ft (3,400 m) altitude above sea level; and believe me when I say REST, and try not to consume alcohol on the day you arrive. I thought I will not be affected by altitude sickness at all, but by the night of my arrival, I was fatigued, dizzy, and cramped in bed by 6 p.m. Up until I woke up the next day, I was still feeling some of its effects, but the hotel staff at Hotel Hacienda were so nice to bring me coca tea at 4 a.m. Thank God, and thank the Incas for coca. :p It definitely saved me from dying. Hahaha!
I left Cusco early in the morning, and by noon, was already in Aguas Calientes – a town just at the foot of Machu Picchu, where you can start your hike, or ride a bus that will take you straight to the entrance. I took the bus, and booked with Machu Picchu Terra Tours (securing an entrance ticket way before your trip is a must because they only allow a certain number of visitors per day), although in retrospect, I should have hiked to the entrance to get the full experience. I say go for the hike if you are able, and ready for a challenge!
It is only a mile of an easy/moderate hike on the main trail, but if you want to explore more of the Inca trail, there is a different ticket and longer route for that.
I only stayed overnight at Aguas Calientes, and took the train back to Cusco on the afternoon, right after the hike. By then I was exhausted, and went to bed early for another tour the next morning – to the Rainbow Mountain.
Okay, now the Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca, is a whole different story. The hike is not difficult if we’re talking about the incline, but the mountain itself is 17,000 ft (5,200 m) above sea level! Again, I was downing coca tea and coca candy the entire hike! :)) Every two steps had me gasping for air to the point that I wanted to give up. I am not even exaggerating.
Our tour guide from Viator was a great cheerleader, and kept encouraging us. We powered through and finally saw the rainbows, which are actually streaks of mineral deposits that line the mountains. It was, quite literally, breathtaking.
I couldn’t be more thankful for this trip. It was my first out-of-the-country vacation after the COVID lockdowns, and it officially seals my Seven Wonders list. Muchas gracias, Peru!