Do we really need breakfast at 5am this morning Richard? Oh Yes. Today promises to be a real highlight so an early start is not so bad after all.
From our hotel we drive alongside the Urubamba River to Ollantaytambo. At the station we join our INCA RAIL service to Machu Picchu. We have an Executive Carriage for private use. ALL ABOARD! And away we go. The rail track gauge is quite narrow so we bounce along holding tight to our cup of tea or coffee and snack served on route. The rail track follows the Urubamba River and the scenery slowly changes from agricultural fields and terraces to rain forest and dramatic snow topped mountains. In around 90 minutes we arrive in the town of Aguas Calientes. This is the end of the line. We walk a short distance from the rail station to join mini buses that take us up to the Machu Picchu citadel.
Our guides Marisol and Hanni lead the way. We walk up some steps to a viewpoint and that well-known Machu Picchu scene opens up before our very eyes. It is truly magical and breathtaking. We begin to explore. Our guides are with us for over two hours and they interpret what we see and answer our questions. Throughout the tour we have been using a special tourist radio system and today it is particularly beneficial. Each guest has a personal radio and comfortable ear piece, and each guide has a transmitter and microphone. For walking tours we split into two smaller groups and because of the radios we hear a high quality commentary at all times.Here are Machu Picchu we are walking along narrow paths and up and down steps so the radios prove invaluable.
The weather is also amazing: sunny and dry with just a few clouds hovering over the mountains to add that mystical touch.
After the guided tour we enjoy plenty of free time to explore more of the citadel and we eventually re-group at the train station at around 4pm. For the return train journey we not only have an Executive Carriage to ourselves but the whole train because the train is only one carriage long on this occasion! We bounce back to Ollantaytambo and drive to our comfortable hotel.
Everyone agrees that Machu Picchu exceeds all the hype – it is truly an amazing place.