Located at the bottom of the valley next to Machu Picchu and sat at 2400m above sea level, Aguas Calientes is a very touristy small town due to its being the main access point to MP citadel. To accommodate the huge influx of tourists, the town is rather poorly and ruthlessly developed.
With that said, their hostel service is pretty good. The hostel staff was already waiting at the train station when we arrived to guide us to the hostel. It was a uphill walk with numerous small shops on both sides. Such was my first impression of AG : touristy and commercialized.
The bus ticket booth was open till 9:30pm for people like me who would like to purchase the ticket the night before to avoid standing in the long line the following morning. In spite of the tickets, we still waited for 30 minutes for the bus from 6:15am to 6:46am. Glad that the weather was pleasant.
After so many hairpin turns, we arrived at the entrance of MP citadel 20 minutes later. The sun was still gentle. The soft sunlight on the citadel made the grass looked greener and very pleasant to the eyes. A few more steps into the ruin site, the vastness of the once Inka royal vacation home opened up right before my very eyes; it was so grand, spectacular, and yet mesmerizing. The citadel was ringed by mountains all around. Some silky clouds still shyly hang around at the top of some mountains. I was so completely in awe of both God's creation as well as at the architecture advancement of the Inka. At this hour, people were still few. Great time for photos. Unfortunately I needed to rush through the ruin site from one end to the other end for my Wayna Picchu hike entrance.
A handful of people was already waiting to be registered for the hike at the check-in/check-out booth. Hikers are required to provide age, name, check-in time, and etc. There are only 400 Wayna Picchu hike passes permitted per day; 200 for morning and 200 afternoon. Therefore advanced purchase is advised as it gets sold out quickly.
The signage at the booth indicates that the hike is steep and is for those who are physically fit. Steep hike can be challenging for short people as well as those who are fears of heights. Even so, I was still gamed on, knowing I would be regretful if I chickened out at the last minute.
It is not a long hike but definitely one that is not for the faint of heart. The scariest part, for me, was the last 15-minute hike whereby I literally used both my hands and legs to climb up. It was not a trail; instead it was literally a vertical hike, as if climbing a staircase of 80 degree upward with each step dimension of 10 inches wide by 4 inches deep.
Any steep hikes normally require as much time to go up as it takes to go down. For me it was an hour each. It was a big relief when I got to the top as the vertical hike cause my knees to shake. At the same time I felt exhilarating to be able to knock two items off my bucket list: MP and climb Wayna Picchu. The overlook view of MP citadel from this angle was beyond description. The sweats and pounding heart due to the climb were worth it. Coming down is as scary as going up. At certain area, I literally lowered my body and used my butt to gain more balance.
Go there early when the sunlight is still soft for better photos. As stunning as the citadel is, we needed to part with it to catch our train back to Ollantaytambo.
We used the same taxi driver to take us back to Cusco. This time, he drove slowly.
We drove into the sunset of sacred valley on our way back to Cusco. Beautiful.
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