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  • Writer's pictureLucas Friesen

A Day Trip to the Ruins of Machu Picchu

It began with a train ride from Cusco. A blue Peru Rail train. It had two yellow lines across the bottom bordering the word “PERURAIL”, written in yellow. A well-dressed Peruvian crew led us up to the area near the ruins of Machu Picchu. It was a nice ride, and we sat at a table of four in comfortable chairs.

Riding the train, we saw the Urubamba River cut through the great jungle hills. Gliding in and out of rare natural archways, we rode through breathtaking views as we entered Peru’s jungle. The train ride took around two hours, and we arrived right in the middle of Machu Picchu’s small town.

The town is full of hidden treasures that tell the story of Machu Picchu and its natural surroundings. There are wonderful town squares ensconced by high-peaked jungle hills. The Urubamba River can always be heard roaring. I found a nice book store selling books from multiple languages. Connecting the two sides of the town are beautiful bridges that are simple yet marvelous. An off-shoot of the Urubamba River runs through the middle of the town, while I was the there the water was quite low. The infrastructure of the town is poor. From this town we took a bus up to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

One of the treasures in the town of Machu Picchu

After the very windy bus ride, we reached the ruins. By that time the day was cloudy with blue skies and there were not too many people at the ruins entrance. We had to wait a little while to get into the ruins, but at the gate there is a café so we had a drink and admired the views. The views are sprawling and void of any civilization, except for down below, from whence we came.

There are some llamas roaming the ruins. They greeted us once we walked in. Terraces sprawl down the steep mountainside. The grounds are immaculately kept. There are walkways leading to the different parts of the ruins. There are many steps to climb, and the altitude is quite high. This adventure should not be taken lightly from an athletic perspective. The cacao gum that many locals sell can help, and they sell them on the train ride too.

We hiked to the entrance of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is a walk to a high plateau above Machu Picchu and across from Wayna Picchu. Wayna Picchu is the opposing peak to Machu. You can go up to Wayna, and there are ruins up there too, but we did not. From the entrance of the Inca Trail you get a marvelous view of the vast jungle landscape and the Machu Picchu ruins down below. It is a nice way to see the layout of the ancient city. It is quite genius. Farmland terraces lay on one side and the residential area lays on the other. There are religious temples and places for royalty, as our tour guide Eddie pointed out. The hike is to the Inca Trail entrance is very enjoyable, and only takes about thirty-five minutes. It is relatively steep but there are many points worth stopping at on the way. To walk the cobblestones is to feel like an Inca all those years ago. It’s exciting, and I felt a connectedness to history and nature.

A panoramic view near the top of the hike towards the entrance to the Inca Trail

We stayed until the evening. Some of us left to get ready for dinner, some stayed longer and embraced this rare and breathtaking place. You really are in the middle of nowhere, and these people hid from conquistadors and were never found. When we left the ruins, in the area where the café is, it was quiet of tourists and there were some handsome stray dogs hanging around.

Hiram Bingham, the English discoverer of Machu Picchu, was a true discoverer. I would have to take his book, Lost City of the Incas, with me if I were to go again. I read it after my trip and thought how useful it would have been to have while there, as he describes each part of the ruins as they were discovered. It also has many pictures that would have been nice to compare to today’s landscape.

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