2008 Roadtrip Machu Picchu Perú

We went to Machu Picchu on a day trip and it is the highlight of our South American experience. It was much more impressive than I ever imagined it would be and each time I looked at the site from a different angle, I gasped. The weather was beautiful, clear and hot, with a cool breeze. So close to the Amazon, the grass was very green (even though we were in the dry season) and the vistas spectacular. With so much hype and so much anticipation, it could have easily disappointed. But no, it delivered on every level.
Audre and Dimitri at Machu Picchu, a snap taken by a fellow-traveler, Otmar

We went on a high end tour with the Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises Group (http://www.orient-express.com/web/tper/tper_a2a_home.jsp). The train, called the Hiram Bingham, and the service was very special. The whole thing cost US$588 per person and we were very glad we did it. We took lots of pictures and if you click here you can see all of them.

We were greeted at the train station with dancing and sparkling Peruvian wine at 8:30 in the morning. On board the beautiful train we had a lovely (and very good) served brunch.
Dimitri is ready for brunch at our table on the Orient-Express Hiram Bingham

From the station at Poroy the train descended to an agricultural plateau called the Pampa de Anta. Beyond the town of Huarocondo, the plain narrowed dramatically as the train entered a deep gorge carved by the Pomatales River. The train met the Urubamba River at the town called Pachar. Five kilometres from Pachar, the train met the road (that we had driven) to Ollantaytambo Inca ruins and its historic Inca village.

Then we started to see the impressive peaks of Wakay Willka (also known as Veronica). The train followed the Urubamba River Gorge and the vegetation started to change. There were flowering fruit trees as if spring was starting early. Then there were orchids, bromeliads, lilac trees and a tree with beautiful red flowers called pisonay (erytrina falcata), indigenous to the area.

When we arrived at Aguas Calientes, which looked very tropical, at 12:30 we were whisked up the mountain with our guide (for 9 people). The site was not crowded at that time (our train being the last to arrive); most tours are evidently in the morning. We toured the site for 3 hours and covered most of it. (The train staff divided the groups by apparent physical fitness so we weren't with the physically challenged ones wearing diamond-studded Rolex watches.) At 4 we went into the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge for a rather complete tea.

Back on the train at 5 we were served pisco sours and then a 4 course, served meal. We talked to the lovely couple at the table across from us. They had done a 4-day lodge-to-lodge hike on the way to Machu Picchu, not on the over-crowded Inca Trail, but on another route. They were very enthusiastic about the new service and happy with the level of comfort they had. It's called http://www.mountainlodgesofperu.com/. Had we known about that kind of service, we might have done the trek.

We arrived back in Cusco at about 9:30 and were brought back to our apartment. I really loved every minute of it (each minute of the tour costing US$1.32 per person).

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