Day 3 began with my not-so-favorite activity: zip lining! Apparently I’m not a thrill seeker or constantly in the need for an adrenaline boost, because while some people rave about zip lining, I could have done without it. That being said, we had some great views and long rides and on the last line Brent and I flew down the rope “Superman” style, clipped in from behind as opposed to by our belts. Ben, Brent, Hagar, Noam and I did that while the others hiked more (muaha) and then we met them for lunch at a very rustic spot along the train tracks near a hydroelectric plant. After lunch we continued wandering down the train tracks until we ran into a steep path that took us to yet another set of train tracks that we would walk along to our final destination: Aguas Calientes. Our walk was somewhat calm and undemanding then suddenly rudely interrupted by a fierce downpour for the last hour. When we arrived in the cool mountain town, we were absolutely soaked.
Because we arrived at the start of the tourist season, the town was packed and our group was separated into different hospedajes. Brent, Ben and I quickly changed out of our damp clothes (by this point our bags were disgusting: water, sweat, sunscreen, deet, dirt and probably bugs had all infiltrated) and set off to find the market. We were told to pack snacks for Machu Picchu the next day as their only food option was a $50 all you can eat buffet, not on my budget! At the somewhat clean and well-organized mercado central we found sounds mandarins, palta (avocado), mango, carrots, and fresh whole wheat rolls. We noticed that the town definitely catered to a wealthy international crowd, almost like a ski resort village like Whistler or Vail, but we were quite okay with that when we found a swanky restaurant representing the entirety of Peruvian microbrews. I tried the Cumbres Kolsch with Quinua.
Later that night, graced with hot showers (possibly our first hot or cold shower since leaving Cusco) and somewhat clean and dry clothing, we packed our bags and prepared for our 4am wakeup call to Machu Picchu! The next morning, promptly at 5am we began hiking the Inca steps to greet the sun at the entrance atop the mountain. Our enthusiastic guide met us at 6:30am and led us on a tour through the ruins, adding the words “isn’t it perfect?” after every description of Inca life and work. Next up: a full run down of our experience at MP.