Taking the train into Aguas Calientes, we found ourselves in perhaps the most touristic location of the trip so far. With tourists milling about the small central plaza and sellers swarming wherever we stepped, Aguas Calientes was a stark contrast to the removed town of Qenqo. After settling into the hotel and exploring the large covered marketplace, we headed to dinner and were lucky enough to be joined by two men from the INC, one of which was in fact the director. Following some ingenious attempts to rearrange tables in the restaurant in order to maximize all our abilities to hear the speakers, we began to ask our guests about tourism in Peru and specifically in Machu Picchu. Thanks to the translation talents of our leaders, both photography and Spanish students were able to engage with the speakers and learn about the fascinating past, present, and future of one of the world’s most beautiful and popular attractions. Tired, full of food, and with an early start the next morning, we then headed to sleep early.
We woke up on Tuesday, had a quick breakfast, and met our guide for the day. By bus we ascended the mountain, but early morning fog obstructed our attempts to observe the ancient citadel. We maneuvered our way through the structures, learning about a few of the many functions and processes that influenced the Inca’s brilliant and detailed construction. A small break with snacks then enabled us to refuel in preparation for our hike up Huayna Picchu. Up we climbed, past countless stairs and tourists, knowing that the view from the top of the peak would be well worth the soreness in our legs and lungs. Finally, we reached the top of the peak, an incredible location for photos and a unique view of the Incan city.
With shaking legs and aching knees, we made our way back down the mountain and returned to our original location to observe the citadel without the clouds’ masking it. Despite our fatigue and many girls’ unwillingness to face yet another set of steps, the views were certainly worthy of a final climb and the wonderful photos we obtained.
The bus ride back down to Aguas Calientes passed in a blur, with many tired travellers dozing off. We stopped at a nearby restaurant for a quick lunch, and headed to the train station. Certainly tired, but fondly recalling the incredible Incan creations, we prepared to reenter Ollanta for our second to last night together.