We had left camp very early in the morning, and arrived at Machu Picchu after about a 2-3 hour hike. It was really nice getting there so early in the morning, since as time passed more and more tourist started to funnel in. We spent about 2 hours walking around and soaking everything in. It was actually a weird feeling being surrounded by so many people all of a sudden as we were on our tour of Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail limits the number of people that can enter each day, and obviously the trail is so vast that even though most of the tour groups share the same campgrounds and start hiking at the same time, people get very spread out throughout the day and you really feel like you’re on your own.
As you can see in the picture below, there is a huge mountain in the background called Huayna Picchu that you can climb. However, it is capacity controlled, so if you’re planning to do so make sure to get tickets in advance of your trip. We had planned to do the climb and had arranged to do so in advance. We were actually really gung-ho and looking forward to it when we started out. However, after 26 miles and 4 days of hiking, we called uncle and actually passed up on the opportunity. In the moment we just didn’t have it left in us to make the hike, and I hear that the views from the top are amazing.
After you’re done there is a bus stop that pretty much everyone utilized to get back to Aguas Calientes. In terms of distance it’s not very far, but actually takes a while since the buses go through a series of tight hairpin turns. We had to hang out for a couple hours in Aguas Calientes until our train departed and had a chance to walk around the town. This is a really touristy place, and I would recommend that you be as careful as possible for potential scams here. In particular, we had bought some ice cream, and while waiting for change, our friend who happened to be fluent in Spanish overheard one of the workers tell the cashier to “get money from the other drawer.” We didn’t think much of it at the time, but after holding the bills in her hand that she had gotten from the cashier for a couple minutes, the ink had completely bled off onto her hand. The money was obviously fake, and after a good yelling in Spanish the ice cream shop workers begrudgingly gave her new money to avoid a scene. We became psuedo-experts by the end of our trip to be able to identify fake money, which I hear is a huge problem in Peru, so just a word of caution to be extra careful with regard to counterfeit money.
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