We eventually found him sitting motionless outside of our room, waiting to take his money. I guess not many gringos go with the super cheap hotel option in Ollantaytambo. It was fancy! We boarded a train the next afternoon across from the Danish couple. New blog name? You know that feeling when you spend hours hiking a difficult trail, only to drive past it on the way home and realize it only took you 10 freaking minutes by car? We watched 16 miles and 14 difficult hours of our life pass by us in the blink of an eye.
When we arrived at Aguas Calientes, Franz met us at the station. Again: we were in major penny-pinching mode. Franz escorted us through Aguas Calientes to find the hostel, making himself as useful as he possibly could. We were off the hook for his room bill! Every time we stay in a hotel, we end up missing hostels. The town of Aguas Calientes is actually pretty cool looking. Due to its location, there are no cars in town, so the streets are narrow with tall buildings. The only vehicles in town are buses to and from Machu Picchu. The entire town is marked up like crazy to take advantage of the crowds of tourists who tromp through on their way to Machu Picchu and have no idea what a regularly priced Peruvian meal is like.
Franz offered to take us on a 3-hour hike to see a waterfall or to visit the local thermal baths.
Also, we were cranky. Sorry, Aguas Calientes. We opted to sit inside the hostel doing absolutely nothing — and trying not to dwell on our failure on the Inca Trail — and it was great. Finally at Machu Picchu after our painful failure on the Inca Trail. We woke up at 4am the next morning, along with everyone else in our person dorm room, and scarfed down the super early free breakfast from the hostel. We met with Franz and waited in the long line for the bus to Machu Picchu. The bus was bouncy, but the scenery was beautiful: low-lying fog nestling up against gigantic, steep mountains blanketed with rainforest.
Anyone who has ever been to Disney or somewhere similarly packed with tourists knows that whenever people flock to a tourist attraction, they turn off their brain and tend to believe this experience is just for them. Arriving in Machu Picchu felt just like that. After the 45 minute wait for the bus, 30 minute wait in the line, and 20 minute crowded uphill walk to Machu Picchu, it was…disappointing.
Machu Picchu is beautiful, and a truly breathtaking sight. In order to appreciate the quiet majesty of the ruins, you have to avoid selfie sticks, tour groups, and hoards of people trying to take THAT picture. Which is impossible. After kicking out a couple who were attempting to meditate in one of the most popular designated picture spots, Franz helped us take our own obnoxious Machu Picchu picture.
The group was starry-eyed and excited.
They were seeing Machu Picchu with completely different eyes than we were. And we felt the difference. Despite their friendliness, it seemed like we were being pitied. Was the town nice? The group left us again to check in at the office. In the meantime, Lia and I got to do what we were looking forward to the most: making llama friends. As anyone who has been to Machu Picchu will tell you, there are llamas everywhere.
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The llamas even have the right of way throughout the ruins. We may not have finished hiking Machu Picchu, but dammit, we made some really cute llama friends. Once Jose and the group returned, we were treated to a two hour tour of the village of Machu Picchu. Everything Jose said put the group in awe and built upon 4 days of in-depth cultural lessons that we had missed and I do mean in-depth. Jose went to college for this. He is insanely knowledgeable. As we passed ruin after ruin, not quite grasping the significance of subtle architectural details that made the rest of the group gasp in delight, I realized that everyone else had experienced Machu Picchu the right way.
After the tour, most of the group continued to Wayna Picchu, an hour hike more stairs! You know that tall pointy mountain in the back of any photograph of Machu Picchu? Instead we opted for the Inca Bridge, a derelict stone pathway that hugs the side of a cliff face. As we hiked the hour to the Inca Bridge, we realized we were both feeling the same disappointment about not finishing the trail. Aguas Calientes, the touristy town just outside of Machu Picchu, Peru, blanketed in rain.
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We left Machu Picchu before most of the others, sick of the crowds and the overall feeling of regret. Jose told us to meet at a restaurant called Tupana Wasi. If there was any doubt that Alpaca Expeditions is used to gringos with money, this restaurant confirmed it. We took one look at the menu and nearly choked: it was SO far out of our budget.
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As the others arrived, hugs were had, beers were consumed, and contact information was exchanged. This was the most awkward part of the entire day. We sat awkwardly trying to join in as much as we could as the rest of the group retold stories, shared laughs, and reveled in the life changing experience they had shared.
I mean literally life changing, you all. One couple in the group actually got engaged at The Sun Gate! We killed time in town after lunch until our train ride. Finally, after four hours of transit, we arrived back in Kokopelli Cusco, finally done with one of our most expensive failures ever. RIP, Loretta the Jetta.
The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Piccha is no joke. It is a grueling four-day fight against time and altitude. I mean, he DID finish, though.
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One thing that we felt well-prepared with was our hiking gear! Peru, much like the rest of South America, is the land of every kind of weather you can imagine. After our failure on the Inca Trail, we decided to get a divorce. Look how cute we are! The couple that fails together, stays together.
In fact, the opposite is true. It felt like our hiking group truly earned the sight of this ancient village. We just showed up and tagged along. We plan to continue slowly plodding along on progressively more challenging hikes, keeping our expectations reasonably low to match our abilities. We can only speak for our own experience.
We hope reading about our failure to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu made you laugh. Or maybe it helped you assess your own physical abilities. Either way, let us know in the comments!
Did you get a sick sense of satisfaction from reading about our failure on the Inca Trail? Share it on Pinterest or Facebook so everyone else can judge us, too! We'll also send you some tips for visiting Lima and Peru. The walking tour is on its way to your inbox. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I have many things to say. First of all, you are a great writer! Second, congrats on having a good sense of humor and being so honest. I am so sorry for you guys…the disappointment is palpable and I would feel the same.
However I think you have a great attitude about it…this is just one part of a year long amazing journey you guys are on. At least you got to experience one day and those amazing meals. You have gorgeous pics.