Today we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s “rediscovery” of Machu Picchu, Peru, the ancient Incan City. Or, as I like to call it, his introduction of Machu Picchu to the rest of the world!
When husband, Ashton, and I arrived in Aguas Calientes by train from near Cuzco, we hit the ground running. We were eager to spend the afternoon exploring Machu Picchu. We went and bought our tickets at the Machu Picchu ticket office: about $45 US per person, depending on the exchange rate.
|Machu Picchu Ticket Office at Aguas Calientes
Please note that we needed cash for that transaction. Although there are places to exchange money in Aguas Calientes, you’re probably better off exchanging in Cusco and bringing a stash of cash with you (preferably in a money belt).
Next, we went to buy the tickets for the bus which takes visitors up to the ruins. The price of the bus ticket was the most shocking part: $14 US Round Trip to drive you up the mountain. Oh, and they do accept dollars. Granted, you can choose to hike up to the ruins. However, we wanted to spend our time and energy hiking around the ruins not, up to the ruins.
The town of Aguas Calientes (also called Machu Picchu town) is located in a gorge on the Urubamba River at an elevation of 2410 meters (7904 feet), considerably lower than Cusco (3326 meters or 10909 feet). When you’re at the bottom of the gorge and you look up, you are surrounded by spectacular mountains.
The bus ride up to Machu Picchu was 25 minutes long: 25 spectacular, breathtaking, heart stopping minutes! As we ascended, the scenery just kept getting increasingly spectacular.
Now here’s the heart stopping part of it: The road is a one lane dirt road with switchbacks, and you never know when, around the corner, there will be a bus heading down coming right at you. The first time this happened there were gasps from the passengers, as both buses came to a jarring halt, seemingly inches from each other. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we realized we had avoided a collision. The bus heading down hill backed up to a slightly wider spot on the road, where the two vehicles could pass each other. The outside bus—our bus—inching forward, all too close to the edge of the precipice.
A sane person would assume that the driver would alter his driving behavior, however, this was not the case. By the time we reached our destination, we had experienced several similar scenarios. The drivers seem to have their own system though, and were very skilled. We got used to the close calls which proves just how quickly humans adapt to their circumstances! In the United States passengers would have been horrified! Here the passengers started clapping after surviving each incident! There’s something about travel that makes us less anxious and more courageous. We arrived safely at the parking area for the entrance to Machu Picchu.