Everything they say is true. Aguas Calientes is a tacky tourist town; the entire train trip there and prices in town are outrageous with discriminatory pricing for tourists and it’s all worth it.
On the first day, we got onto the bus and clutched each other throughout the heart-stopping bus ride, conscious of promises to
to “be careful” after news of a bus going over a precipice in Central Peru (how are we supposed to be careful? We’re not driving!) At the top, we climb above the ruins and it’s magnificent, spread out beneath us.
We stop on one of the ancient agricultural terraces and swing our legs over the stones. We hold hands and murmur softly in the bright blue day. Eventually we walk down into the town, the residences, the temple of the sun, the green, green grass of the square. We see llamas grazing on the sides, and so many swallows and a grand bird of prey gliding down with outstretched wings. As the light fades, we see a chinchilla, sweet and small with a long fluffy tail.
We catch the last bus down and then go to meet Aussie glassblowers we met on the train at a French Peruvian café called Indio Feliz that serves excellent wine and a set menu for an outrageous 40 soles (around $13). We have divine rainbow trout and ginger chicken and perfect vegetables and incredible desserts.
Next day we are up at 4am and on the first bus up the mountain. Today the plan is to climb Waynu Picchu, the peak behind Machu Picchu. We make it to the top in an hour and a half, only to find that the temple of the moon is actually a perilous climb halfway down the north face of the mountain using ladders and ropes where the Incan stairways have collapsed. It is, however, beautiful. The vistas, the forest, the sky. All of it.
At times, returning to Machu Picchu, we are exhausted and in pain and feel we can’t go on, but eventually we make it back, five hours of walking under our belts, and pay through the nose for a fairly extravagant and extensive buffet. I go back in to look at the Intihuatana and the Temple of the Condor while Doug sits out his pain and then we go back down on the crazy bus. I drag the poor guy up the (comparatively gentle) hill to the hot water baths that the Aguas Calientes town is named after and we soak for a little before our train back to Cuzco. We need it. We’re not exactly in shape.