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post #1 of (permalink) Old 02-05-2013, 12:57 PM Thread Starter
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Default Machu Picchu

While I did want to do the Inca Trail, I chose to see Machu Picchu by way of Aguas Calientes because of two reasons, time and photography. I only had two weeks for this trip and five days were dedicated to the Easter Island detour. I also read that if you are taking the Inca Trail, no matter how early you start your hike to Machu Picchu, you will be stopped at the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate opens the same time as the entrance right at Machu Picchu, where the bus drops you off via Aguas Calientes. I figured if I could get into the site earlier, I could get photos at sunrise without any people at the site.

I executed the plan well, and on the first day of my visit, I was the very first tourist to enter the site. On the way up to the Guard House, where the classic shot is taken from, I even passed the guards, who were let in just minutes before the tourists. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with me and the site was engulfed in clouds. Some two hours later, the clouds did lift a bit, but by then there were many people among the ruins.

Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes is pretty straight forward, but there are a few things to consider ahead of time.

Train Tickets

If you're not hiking the Inca Trail, the train is your only way in and out of Aguas Calientes. The guide book suggested buying tickets ahead of time, especially your ticket out. The train out of Aguas Calientes sells out faster with the addition of people coming in via Inca Trail.

I bought my ticket in through www.perurail.com . I bought my ticket out at Aguas Calientes, at a Peru Rail kiosk. I was surprised how expensive the tickets were. The guide book said that the local train is not an option for tourists and that tourists aboard the local train could get fined. I'm sure the local train is a fraction of the price. I had trouble buying tickets online. The system seemed to be malfunctioning and I'm not sure if it ever worked. I used Skype to call the Peru Rail agency and they sent me forms to fill out via email. These also included a request to scan the front and back of your credit card, and passport. This seemed a bit strange. As a safety measure, I used my low limit credit card.

Machu Picchu Tickets

There are five types of tickets for Machu Picchu:

1. Machu Picchu
2. Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (Entrance: 7-8 am)
3. Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (Entrance: 10-11 am)
4. Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain
5. Machu Picchu + Museum

The only tickets I've seen sell out are the Huayna Picchu tickets. If you want to visit Huayna Picchu, and I would recommend that you do, you should probably buy your tickets ahead of time. This is tricky because the government ticket site sucks and it will not process your payments. I went through www.ticket-machupicchu.com . They bought the tickets on my behalf and sent them to me via email. I was printed them before leaving and had no trouble using them. I've heard they also tend to ask for a front and back copy of your credit card, but this was not the case for me.

On the site I used for tickets, there is a page called "Ticket Types." Ignore this page, it is full of errors. It caused a lot of confusion for me. If you'd like to see where Huayna Picchu and Macchu Picchu Mountain are, related to Machu Picchu, look at my map below. Huayna Picchu is the peak you often see in the back of Machu Picchu pictures. Machu Picchu Mountain is not often seen in pictures.

If you do buy a ticket for Huayna Picchu, you'll want to buy the 10-11 am entrance. It is likely that the earlier entrance will present you with little to no views. As I found out, the clouds are quite low in the morning. The entrance time just indicates what time you're allowed to enter. If you enter early, you can still stay up there until the Machu Picchu site closes.

Bus Tickets to Machu Picchu

If you want to be on the first bus up, buy your tickets the day before you go. You'll have to buy the ticket in Aguas Calientes. The bus ticket booth is located near the train tracks and the plaza. The line ups for the bus start early, much earlier than the ticket booth opens. You can buy a two way ticket, or buy a one way and hike down.

You actually don't have to buy a bus ticket at all. You can hike from Aguas Calientes. I hiked down it on my first day. The trail follows the bus route until the switchbacks. From there, the hiking trail heads straight up, while the road switchbacks up the mountain side. The trail was pretty slippery in places and dusty along the road. It's really not pleasant. It is quite humid, you'll consume most of your water by the time you reach the top and there is nothing to see. I would highly recommend just buying a two way ticket.

2012-11-27 Machu Picchu & Machu Picchu Mountain





2012-11-28 Machu Picchu & Huayna Picchu





Map of Area


Bonus Material, deep friend Guinea Pig:


More photos with descriptions can be seen here:
Day 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markost...57632646517755
Day 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markost...57632685486786
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 02-05-2013, 02:00 PM
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In 2002, a buddy and i were the first ones to reach the Sun Gate. We walked right into Machu Picchu and spent about 10 minutes walking around before we got told to get out. Too bad it was raining and cloudy, which prevented us from getting pics of the site without hordes of tourons.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 02-05-2013, 03:42 PM
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This place is definitely on my bucket list...

Thanks for the T/R and pics...
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 12:26 AM
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This is cool : http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com....php?id=241849 I would love to be able to see it.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 06:23 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by jefffski

In 2002, a buddy and i were the first ones to reach the Sun Gate. We walked right into Machu Picchu and spent about 10 minutes walking around before we got told to get out. Too bad it was raining and cloudy, which prevented us from getting pics of the site without hordes of tourons.
Were you hiking without a guide?
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 06:28 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Kobracom

This is cool : http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com....php?id=241849 I would love to be able to see it.
That is wild! There seems to be so much that is undiscovered when it comes to the Inca. If you look at this photo, you can see an uncovered trail that just goes along the side of the mountain:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markost...7755/lightbox/

A lot of people aren't aware that the Machu Picchu terraces go all the way down to the Urubamba river. I was told by some locals that there are just not enough funds for archeological research.

I was looking at google earth and found a oddly shaped feature just east of the Machu Picchu site. It seems to be a square and seems covered up:

http://goo.gl/maps/MC4ZS
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 09:23 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Marko

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by jefffski

In 2002, a buddy and i were the first ones to reach the Sun Gate. We walked right into Machu Picchu and spent about 10 minutes walking around before we got told to get out. Too bad it was raining and cloudy, which prevented us from getting pics of the site without hordes of tourons.
Were you hiking without a guide?
No, we did the 4 day Inca trail and hurried past the hundred or so other people from all the other groups and managed to arrive before at the Sun Gate first. We just kept on going. Although it was an innocent mistake, being in Machu Picchu first was very cool.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 10:49 AM
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In 1987 I hiked the Inca trail with two friends. In those days one could just take the train to Km 88, hop off and do the hike, guides not required. About 12 people started the hike that day but after the first night we saw no one elso until Machu Picchu several days later. Our last night we camped right at the Sun Gate with a view view of Machu Picchu but had run out of water so we hiked down to Machu Picchu late in the day. The tourists were gone and the place was empty so we explored the ruin and a couple of tourists staying at the hotel on the hillside filled our water bottles that we passed through the gate. The next morning we packed up and hiked back to Machu Picchu and again spent several hours there alone before the tourist buses arrived. Awesome trek.
Times have changed. My sister did this hike last year with guides, porters and hot cooked meals provided and had a memorable trip too. Just different.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 10:51 AM
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In 1987 I hiked the Inca trail with two friends. In those days one could just take the train to Km 88, hop off and do the hike, guides not required. About 12 people started the hike that day but after the first night we saw no one elso until Machu Picchu several days later. Our last night we camped right at the Sun Gate with a view view of Machu Picchu but had run out of water so we hiked down to Machu Picchu late in the day. The tourists were gone and the place was empty so we explored the ruin and a couple of tourists staying at the hotel on the hillside filled our water bottles that we passed through the gate. The next morning we packed up and hiked back to Machu Picchu and again spent several hours there alone before the tourist buses arrived. Awesome trek.
Times have changed. My sister did this hike last year with guides, porters and hot cooked meals provided and had a memorable trip too. Just different.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 11:59 AM
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I'm not sure how much has changed since I was there in 2002, but even then I was told pre-booking was imperative. I arrived in Cusco at noon and after checking with a few outfits in town, I signed up for a four day trip scheduled for the next morning for $180. I just had to sign in at the trailhead under another name.

The company supplied guides, porters, tents and food. For a small fee, a porter would carry your gear. Food was good--although I had a stomach bug and could only get down eggs, rice and toast. The guide was okay and we had another guide for Machu Picchu itself.

I spent 5 months in South America including 6 weeks in Ecuador (4 weeks at Santa Lucia as a volunteer) and 3 months in Bolivia, climbing and trekking. By far, Machu Picchu is at the bottom of my list of experiences (though I did like hiking up Huayna Picchu). My experience at Santa Lucia (santaluciaecuador.com) was a highlight, as was climbing in the Condoriri group in Bolivia, crossing the Madidi, visiting the Salar de Uyuni, spending days in the markets and watching the Gran Poder parade in Las Paz and the people, the people and the people.

Most of my activities were guideless (Salar de Uyuni and crossing the Madidi excepted) and this made all the difference. Travel in SA is cheap and relatively safe.

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post #11 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 01:24 PM Thread Starter
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Bikeguy

In 1987 I hiked the Inca trail with two friends. In those days one could just take the train to Km 88, hop off and do the hike, guides not required. About 12 people started the hike that day but after the first night we saw no one elso until Machu Picchu several days later. Our last night we camped right at the Sun Gate with a view view of Machu Picchu but had run out of water so we hiked down to Machu Picchu late in the day. The tourists were gone and the place was empty so we explored the ruin and a couple of tourists staying at the hotel on the hillside filled our water bottles that we passed through the gate. The next morning we packed up and hiked back to Machu Picchu and again spent several hours there alone before the tourist buses arrived. Awesome trek.
Times have changed. My sister did this hike last year with guides, porters and hot cooked meals provided and had a memorable trip too. Just different.
I imagine the number of tourists in 1987 would have been a fraction of the number that visit now, especially on the Inca trail! What a unique experience!
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by jefffski

I'm not sure how much has changed since I was there in 2002, but even then I was told pre-booking was imperative. I arrived in Cusco at noon and after checking with a few outfits in town, I signed up for a four day trip scheduled for the next morning for $180. I just had to sign in at the trailhead under another name.
The pre-booking recommendation I referenced in my post was for Huayna Picchu, which has a limit of 400 visitors per day. It's my understanding that this was introduced sometime in 2011. I think Machu Picchu is limited to 2,500 visitors per day. I don't believe that Huayna Picchu had separate limits in 2002, but considering the narrow trail and the number of out of shape visitors, I think it's a good limit to have.

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post #13 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 02:36 PM
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Nice report and pics, brings back some memories.

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post #14 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 02:42 PM
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Re Huayna Picchu, that is one steep staircase. Didn't the Inca's have any building codes? Anyway, although most people in this group would probably have no problem, be advised that the stairs going down (different than the stairs going up) are sooooo narrow and steep. I could barely get my foot on sideways and used the stair at shoulder height to steady myself. Worth the view, IMO.

Also, from what I've read, trails other than the Inca trail (the four day hike) are more interesting approaches to MP, such as Salkantay.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2013, 04:00 PM
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My 13 year old son Sammy wanted to know if you ate that meal....and if so what did it taste like.....
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