This is my narrative about my time at Machu Picchu Peru. No how to guide or mistakes to avoid but just my experiences in the forgotten city of the Incas. Read first about my short and last-minute visit to Machu Picchu. Once I return from that in Aguas Caliente, I head straight to my hotel. It is 6 pm now and I need to get my ticket and instructions for tomorrow.
This story is part 2 of my experiences at Machu Picchu.
Read first: Why I cried the first time I saw Machu Picchu
Looking for my tour to Machu Picchu
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I already paid for my entrance ticket and tour guide for my visit to Machu Picchu on Saturday. I paid the tour agent in Cusco and they would bring me my ticket in Aguas Caliente and instruct me about meeting my tour guide.
The receptionist at Casa del Sol Hotel Machu Picchu* has no information for me. She is super friendly and calls the tour office in Cusco where I booked my ticket. All 3 phone numbers are dead. She suggests to find the hostel the tour agent works with and gives me directions how to find it.
For the next two hours, I run around Aguas Caliente to find someone that either knows my tour agency or the hostel they work with. Nothing. I go to the hostel but they do not know the tour agent. I go to another hostel with the same name but they don’t know anything.
After two hours I give up. This is not going to work out and I am frustrated by all the super friendly Peruvian people wanting to help me, but not really helping me. I decide to head back to the ticket office and buy (AGAIN) my ticket for Machu Picchu. They should have been open until 8 pm.
Read more: How to buy tickets for Machu Picchu as an independent traveller.
I say should.
Because they’re not. It is 7.50 pm and the office is closed. I might have cursed a bit at this moment. The office will open again at 6 am the next morning, which will be too late to be able to make the sun rise at Machu Picchu.
My evening in Aguas Caliente
I’m so frustrated at this moment. Ok, I had an unexpected afternoon in Machu Picchu that nobody will ever take away from me, but this is not how things were supposed to go.
I try to find some food but everything is either overpriced or overbooked. Finally I find a place but the food tastes awful. I leave and try to find another place where they take ages to serve me. In the end I walk away and buy a bag of crisps to eat in my hotel room.
It is now 10 pm and I am absolutely knackered! How am I going to get up tomorrow at 5 am, have the breakfast at the hotel, buy my ticket to Machu Picchu in town and then go to the ruins to miss the sun rise. After all that, how would I be able to enjoy the whole day at Machu Picchu before my 6pm train back to Cusco?
Read more: Train to Machu Picchu.
And I also wanted to take a bath at my hotel as well!
I sulk and mope around for a bit because I hate it when things don’t go my way. I flicker through the images I took today and tears well up again.
F*ck it. I’m not going to let this whole experience be ruined by some stupid tour office in Cusco! I will run myself a bath. Go to sleep. Sleep in tomorrow and have my breakfast and spend a whole day at Machu Picchu. I will hire my own tour guide to see the ruins of Machu Picchu.
At this moment, it is easy to feel sorry for myself. Almost everything has gone wrong and this whole experience will cost me a fortune. But I manage to shake off the feeling that I’ve been wronged. I feel much better with my new plan!
Read more: My 30-day South America Backpacking Itinery
Lazy morning before heading to Machu Picchu
The bath is nice and warm and luxurious. Although I’m still a bit wound up, I fall asleep as soon as I slip under the covers.
I wake up at 7 am from the noise of the river and chirping birds. It feels like I’m in a tropical rainforest. I stretch myself and decide to give myself 5 more minutes.
I turn to my other side and suddenly I’m wide awake. Not 5 more minutes! It is Machu Picchu time! After my amazing afternoon yesterday, I’m even more excited today to go to Machu Picchu. Again!
Read more: Why I cried the first time I saw Machu Picchu
I get ready, pack my stuff and go downstairs to have breakfast. This is by far the best breakfast I’ve had in South America. Especially the fresh fruit is delicious. I take my time and take another bowl. I’ve already missed the sun rise at Machu Picchu anyway. Find this useful Machu Picchu packing guide by Christina from Oursweetadventures.
The rest of the restaurant is empty, I figure everyone is already at Machu Picchu.
I store my luggage for the day as I check out. Still no ticket or tour agent but I didn’t expect it anymore. I make my way to the Machu Picchu ticket office to buy my ticket for Machu Picchu. Again!
The same man from yesterday sells me my ticket and before I know it, I am on the bus (again) and I reach the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Guided Tour of Machu Picchu
Today it is a little busier than yesterday afternoon. It is now a little before 9 am and as soon as I get off the bus, a young man asks me if I need a guide. He might not have expected me to answer, because he looks surprised when I say yes. I talk with him to see how good his English is and he offers me 2 hours of guidance as we walk through the ruins of Machu Picchu.
The tour normally would also go up towards the wardens hut, but I explain I already been there yesterday and I don’t want to tire myself too much. As this is a private tour, I can do what I want and the guide is more than happy to elaborately explain everything about the ruins.
For 2 hours, we tour the houses of the Incas. We see temples, views and gates. He explains to me more about the Inca cultures and the different theories on what Machu Picchu was and why it was abandoned.
Read more: Interesting Inca ruins outside Cusco that are not Machu Picchu
As we walk amongst the ruins, my guide is surprised that I’m not taking any pictures. I explain to him that I want to focus on his story and will make the same route again later, on my own, to take pictures.
Lunch at Machu Picchu
As we completed the circle around the ruins of Machu Picchu, 2 hours have passed. I say goodbye to my guide and he leaves me alone. I decide to head back to the entrance for a break and to regain my energy.
Because I did this before. I toured major tourists’ sights and cities as a mad woman. Trying to take as much in as possible and completely burn myself out in a couple of hours. I need to rest and recharge my batteries again before I’m completely burned out.
After a much needed toilet break and some overpriced refreshments, I feel revitalisted. Back for round 2!
Read more: 15 things NOT to do when you travel in South America.
Round 2 of touring the ruins of Machu Picchu
In Bolivia, on my Uyuni Salt Flat tour, I met a couple that had already been to Machu Picchu. They said they were in and out in 2 hours and didn’t really know what else they should do up there.
After my 2nd round of the ruins of Machu Picchu, I’m completely baffled to their opinion (but each their own of course). I was so happy to explore the ruins for the second time on my own and I saw new things everywhere I looked. I noticed different things because the lighting was different.
It was past noon now and there were already less people at Machu Picchu. I snapped hundreds of pictures.
It wasn’t hard to take pictures with nobody in the frame as I was the only one. I had a hard time to find someone who could take a photo of me today! I was all alone.
Hike to the Sun Gate
After another 2 hours, I took another break. I debated as to what I would do. For some reason, I wanted to hike to the Sun Gate.
The Sun Gate is the entrance to Machu Picchu if you’ve hiked the Inca Trail for 4 days. It is the place where you’ll first lay eyes on Machu Picchu and see the sun rise over the ruins if you make it there in time.
Of course, my timing was poor. And I didn’t hike the Inca Trail. Yet, I felt it would be something I wanted to do. But I doubted. My legs were hurting and I was tired. I worried if I would be able to make it to the sun gate and back before closing time.
I figured I could just see what the path was like and just see how far I could go. After my horrendous adventure hiking the Colca Canyon, I lost all confidence in hiking. I worried about climbing steps and coming down again. By now, I was slow as a turtle.
But I set out and I walked. I had the sun in my back and soon I found a steady pace. Each time, I stopped to look back at the ruins and the mountains, getting smaller and smaller. The green scenery was amazing and I even saw a hummingbird! I never saw one in my life.
At the half-way point I took a break and calculated my time. I was a bit slower than the suggested timing but I figured I still had time. Maybe part of me didn’t believe I would actually make it all the way to the Sun Gate.
See Machu Picchu from the sun gate
But I did. It was hard. I know I know, some people walk the Inca Trail for 4 days, surviving death woman’s pass and all, but for me, this was hard.
But I made it. I arrived at the Sun Gate just in time to see the last rays of sun over Huayna Picchu. Sunset was still an hour away, but due to the high mountains, the sun was almost gone. Now I get why people reach the Sun Gate at sunrise. Then the sun is behind you, shining her light on Machu Picchu. Instead, the sun was shining right in my face. Blinding the sight of Machu Picchu and the mountains casting a dark shadow on the ruins.
Lol. Story of my life. I laughed as it didn’t matter to me. Not only did I visit Machu Picchu for the second time in 1 weekend, I got amazing selfies in the afternoon and explored the ruins with a guide. I had time to take everything in on my own and hiked to the sun gate (and back). I felt amazing!
Machu Picchu was truly an amazing experience. Maybe once in a lifetime but sometimes an experience takes more than a day.
Being kicked out of Machu Picchu: again
As I walked back from the Sun Gate, I was extremely slow. All the other people who were at the Sun Gate at the same time, already overtook me. Once again, I was the last one. The guard was already waiting for me at the warden’s hut. He laughed as he recognised me from the day before. He asked me to leave: again. As he escorted me down the steps, he said: “Cannot believe I have to kick you out twicein one weekend!”
Yesterday I didn’t mind because I knew I’d be back. Today I didn’t mind because I felt like I’ve seen it all. I had really made the most of my time at Machu Picchu.
You might wonder how things played out. I got back from Machu Picchu to Cusco. The next day, I spent many hours talking to the tourist agency and the MP tourist office in town about my ticket. The agency wanted to blame it on me, but turned out, they bought my ticket too late for it to arrive in Aguas Caliente on time. In the end, the girl felt really bad about everything and she gave me back the money for the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. I lost the money for the guided tour but I think my tour was better anyways.
Have you been to Machu Picchu? What were your experiences? Please share your story in the comment section below!
Thank you for reading! It really means a lot to me.
I leave for Peru in 7 days and your writings couldn’t have me more excited!! When my husband passed away 4 years ago having regretted not seeing the world, he made me promise I would follow my heart and check things off that bucket list. He made me promise to visit Machu Picchu and breathe it all in. Just reading your post made my eyes tear up, I cannot imagine the feeling of actually standing there and seeing it with my very own eyes.
Thanks for sharing Christi. It is an uncleadable feeling. I’m sorry your husband can’t share it with you but happy you follow your dreams. Let me know how it was for you!
Thanks for sharing your story and useful tips. I’m planning a trip to Machu Picchu and others telling me that I need to follow a tour. After reading your post, I’ll get my own ticket and hire a private guide. Your post have given me the confidence!
Excellent Lew. I do recommend a guide as it ads so much value to your visit (and is now mandatory) but you do not need to join a tour. Have fun!
Such a wonderful story. Minus, of course the misfortune of not having the ticket! This is on my bucket list! It has encouraged me to visit at a different hour than the majority!