Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

After a 1.5 hour train ride from the Sacred Valley, through snow-capped mountains, past rushing rivers and lush valleys, we rode to a rainforest covered train station. We walked through a tent-market of trinkets to a wooden bridge that led us over a waterfall to our hotel’s entrance. Talk about an Eden!


We checked into the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pubelo Hotel and walked through the resort’s rainforest grounds to our villa. Our room was on the second floor with floor-to-ceiling windows looking into the forest. It was so beautiful and relaxing!

We had massages scheduled upon our arrival, so we all changed into our robes, put on our slippers, and walked to the spa. We dipped our toes into the pools while we waited and then had our hiking induced knots kneaded out via hot stones. After such a fast paced vacation so far, it was nice to be able to take the load off our feet!

After our massage, we gathered by the fire in the hotel lodge for a pre-dinner pisco sour. The restaurant was just a few flights of stairs away and I enjoyed a delicious meal of quinoa stuffed pepper, passion fruit sweet potatoes, and white fish.


Since we were only hours away from reaching Machu Picchu, the pinnacle of our trip and the reason we gifted this trip to my dad for his birthday, we celebrated with birthday cake and were all in an amazing mood. It is days like this that I feel so lucky to have such a close-knit family and the ability to travel the world with them!

Only a few hours of sleep later at 4:30 AM, our alarm woke us to get ready for our 5:30 AM bus up to Machu Picchu! I turned the bathroom light on and was startled into alertness by a giant spider in our sink – who knew that would be a better engery booster than coffee!

We met our unenthusiastic guide and walked to the bus station. There was already a huge line at the crack of dawn before the busses even started, so we had to wait about 35 minutes to hop on one of the 38 busses that raced up the switchbacks to the top of the mountain. I was starting to feel a little strange on the drive up, but I was much better off than the hikers trying to catch a ride half-way up the trail! The busses were specifically instructed not to pick hikers up and the stairway to Machu Picchu was a very, very steep one.

We finally made it up to the top and toured the bottom half of Machu Picchu first. There were huge block steps up and down the terraced mountain side and the views were incredible as we learned all about the history of the world wonder.

About 15 minutes into walking around, my stomach started cramping to the point that I had to sit down. Ryan would carry my purse when we walked around and then I had to sit wherever we went. A word of advice, bring a backpack or satchel, not a big purse, when traveling / hiking. I was getting really light-headed and we decided to sit at the top of the ruins for a bit in the shade. Unlike the 40 degree weather in Cusco, it was in the 80’s on top of Machu Picchu!

It was getting more and more crowded as the day went on and we quickly learned that personal space was a luxury. While there was at least 5 feet of space, this woman sat right next to me, literally so close we were touching hips, and this other woman sat on my other side in a space that was more like a crevase than a seat, and spit right next to my shoe! Ugh! Then, this guide stood on the rock my sister was sitting on and his group crowded around us.


One of the women in the tour group asked if she could take a photo of me with her 60 something year old brother, while Ryan was right there. Again, very odd and I said “No”….

We decided to get out of there and hike up to Inti Punku, the Sun Door, once the main entrance to Machu Picchu. Both Ryan and my dad were wearing jeans which were not very conducive to an hour-long, all up-hill / stairs hike in the sun and heat! My mom sprinted ahead with my sister, so I walked with the guys since I was still feeling pretty awful. About half way up, Ryan lifted up his jean cuffs and steam came out. We couldn’t believe it so he lifted the other leg and, not kidding, there was a poof of steam. Crazy!

We finally made it up to the top and the view made every minute of the hike worth it! The shade felt amazing and the outcropping was the perfect vantage point to take in the whole experience and absorb how amazing whole trip had been so far.
The hike down was much quicker and easier but, by this point, I had serious stomach pain and was very nauseous. It was time for lunch so I thought some food and water would help me out. For some reason, the only restaurant atop Machu Picchu had our reservation under the wrong name and it was for 7 people, not just the 5 in our group. We were let into the buffet regardless and we sat down but I couldn’t eat so I just drank water. The manager came over to us and told us we had to pay $50 USD per person for the lunch that was included in our tour for the day. Since I couldn’t eat anyway, I left the table to call our tour service and get everything straightened out. Thankfully, we got everything sorted quickly, but I almost passed out while waiting. While I wanted to explore more, my body couldn’t take it, so Ryan and I took the bus back down the mountain to relax at the resort while my family did the Inca Bridge hike. I was sad to miss out on the few hours we had left at Machu Picchu but, honestly, I was glad that I was the one to get sick so everyone else could get the most out of the trip. Ryan was happy to go back with me as he couldn’t walk much more in his skinny jeans!

We freshened up when we arrived back at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pubelo Hotel and lounged by the pool for a few hours. It felt nice to put our worn-out feet in the pool and we recommended it to my family when they finally arrived from their hike. My mom dipped her toes in… and then the rest of her fully-clothed self as she lost balance and fell in! Talk about a hilarious oops!

Unfortunately, we had to go back to Cusco that night, so we repacked our bags and hopped on the train. Talk about a long day! While I tried to sleep most of the ride back, it was a bit tough since there was a fashion show on the train selling all sorts of alpaca wool goods! The stewards played loud music, everyone was clapping, and there was a guy dressed as a tiger making weird purring noises while the models walked the isle “cat-walk”. It would have been quite fun if I hadn’t been basically dying on the inside!

Once we reached Ollantaytambo, we had another 45 minute, bumpy and winding drive through the mountains to get back to Cusco. We were exhausted but fate rewarded us with an upgrade at the Hotel San Agustin to a huge suite with the biggest tub I’ve ever seen. Montezuma might have been waging a terrible revenge, but being sick was worth it for such an amazing day!

Machu Picchu


Cusco Day 2, Peru

Cusco Day 2, Peru

At 8:30 AM sharp, we were dressed and ready to meet our guide, Lizbeth, for our Cusco city tour! We walked down the street from our hotel to the chapel which used to be the main Inca residence in Cusco. You can see where the Spanish ruins stop and in Incan stones remain. The Incas figured out how to build huge structures out of massive lego-like boulders that are so earthquake-proof they still stand today, despite huge tremors. You can see the amazing architecture throughout Peru thanks to one great emperor who, with the help of his offspring, conquered most of the western coast of South America in just 100 years by using a trail system to create easier transit of resources and communication. A majority of these trails still stand and are used today and the technology was so confounding to the Spaniards that the Spanish conquistadors thought the ruins had to have been built by Gods!

We then walked to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and I was quite surprised at how massive it was inside. It definitely does not look as large as it is from the outside. There were tons of murals inside but, unfortunately, many of them were deteriorating with time. We got to talking to our guide about the locals and apparently most natives in Cusco only may $3K per year!


After the church tour, we hopped in the tour van and took off to the Inca ruins in the highlands at Sacsayhuaman (or Sexaay woman). We walked up to this beautifully green expanse of land with llamas and alpacas roaming through giant ruins of rocks that weigh up to 40 tons! I could have spent all day there, but we had to move onto the Maze ruins consisting of giant boulders that formed a cave where Incans used to perform burial rituals and mummification. Again, a super cool view and awesome history.

After our tour, we were dropped off in the main square where we found an Italian-ish restaurant for lunch. I had some lasagna to carbo-load for our shopping trip after. We went through the arts district and walked and shopped for two hours or so before some thunder told us to head to our next destination – an under-ground Museo de sitio del Qoricancha! The walk was long and the storm caught up with us about 200 yards from the entrance to the museum and we got soaked as we didn’t have umbrellas! It started to hail right as we closed the door. The museum was a little small but they had some beautiful jewelry and pottery and scary looking mummies which were cool.

By the time we finished at the museum, we were incredibly tired, so we ran through the rain back to our hotel for nap time. With some new energy, we took off to another museum in a small square up the street, but it was closed by the time we got there. We explored the cobbled streets, walked past the local kids playing soccer, back through the main square, up to a little restaurant called Cicciolina in the arts district. We had some amazing drinks, appetizers, a sweet potato gnocchi that would make anyones mouth water to try. The food in Peru can’t be beat and, if you are looking for a place in Cusco, you must try Cicciolina!

After dinner, we walked home to rest up for the next day’s journey to Machu Picchu!

Cusco tips:

  • Pack an umbrella as the weather shifts quickly.
  • While the days are nice and sunny, the temperature at night drops into the 30s, so pack warm.
  • Do all of your market shopping from Cusco and into Machu Picchu. The goods change as you make your way and there are great deals to be haggled!
  • Have dinner at Cicciolina!
  • Drink the tea in your hotels often as it really helps with the acclimatization.
  • Wear a hat, sun glasses, and lots of sunscreen since the higher altitude lets the sun effect your skin much more than usual.