I believe I left the story off at arriving in Cusco and having exactly two days to book a train to Machu Pichu and back to make my flight home early on the 31st. Piece of cake, right? I think God had a very big laugh upstairs with that presumption.
The day I arrived in Cusco, I checked out travel agent prices. It was going to cost $190 to take the train there and back and for a guide as well. I knew train tickets were only $80 so I figured I would forgo the travel agency and arrive early in the train station the next day and get tickets. The next day, I arrived at 6am with a large line in front of me. An hour later, I got to the front of the line (with no cash on hand...what was I thinking?) but it didn't matter anyway because they only had 1-way tickets available. I would have to stay two days in Machu Pichu city (Agua Calientes) and come home on the 1st. It sounded complicated. I had no money. I was defeated.
I went to the train cafeteria to regroup and that's where I talked with a travel agent who recommended I head to the other train station (wait...there's two here?) which would open at 7am. I raced over there and got into an even bigger line. Luckily they were more efficient with many windows open and a number system (which is key in Chile where everyone cuts and is probably key in Peru too). And this is where luck was on my side! When my number was called, at first the sales lady only had the same deal (going tomorrow, returning on the 1st), when all of sudden an ida y vuelta mismo dia (round trip same day) ticket was released and suddenly I was booked for the next day to Machu Pichu!
It was only later in the day that I realized that my train wasn't leaving Cusco, it was leaving from Ollantaitambo, two hours from Cusco. A taxi ride would have been fine going there in the morning, but I had the last train returning to Cusco which would have put me in a taxi in the middle of nowhere at 11:30pm to arrive in Cusco at 1am. This would not do.
I returned to the travel agency and they fixed me up with a guide and a tour bus to and from Ollantaitambo. I'd have safe transport.
Everything was set. And with all the energy I expended, I saved $10! Woo hoo!
But what an adventure! Check out these pics.
This is the vistadome train--the most expensive one apparently. Two hours later, we were in Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Pichu, fully supported by the tourism to Machu Pichu (perhaps created because of the tourism to Machu Pichu). I purchased coca leaves for tea there.
A shuttle then drove us up the mountain where we met our English tour guide and began a tour of one of the wonders of the world...
This is the first view you get of Machu Pichu and it is spectacular. The site looks like it's balanced precariously on this mountain, reaching toward heaven.
This is the first time I felt like my camera failed me...it was having such a hard time accounting for the fog and the dark rocks and lighting...it was a tough situation. These are the few that came out.
They said that over 70% of the structures were original, 30% had been reconstructed. What surprised me and I'm not sure why it did, but they explained that all the structures were built to support a thatched roof made from clay. I'm not sure why I figured the Incas were living in buildings without roofs but I just figured the roof wouldn't look so much like something I could find in England in the 1600s. Man, they were way ahead of their time.