Friday, July 13 Our hotel (Casa Andena Private Collection) was in Ollytaytambo so we only had about a 20 minute drive to the train station that will bring us by train to Machu Picchu. The train was a Vista Dome and very comfortable with large windows. The train attendants gave us a snack and beverage (I had coca tea which I’ll miss when I go back, can’t bring it to the states.) The ride is about 1.5 hours of beautiful terrain, very relaxing and pleasant. What was amazing to me is the train was taking us down- not up! We went from 8000 ft at the Sacred Valley (Ollytaytambo) to 6000 ft at Aqua Calientes. The Urubamba river followed the train tracks but its dry season so although the water was rushing in many places its tamer at this time of year compared to the summer, wet season. We arrived in Aqua Caliente (hot springs), a town just below Machu Picchu where we disembarked and went to the bus to take us up to Machu Picchu, I have to say Edgar has timed all this so well that we never stand in lines. It’s amazing. We see lots of people from all over the world, and many, many 20 somethings with back packs (and the typical Peruvian wool hats). You know the colorful wool hats with the ties that hand down. The bus ride is about 30 minutes of hairpin turns going up, the drivers are clearly experienced but its hair raising at times. Few guard rails. We arrive at the entrance of Machu Picchu and show our tickets and passports (they have a passport stamp of Machu Picchu which is allowed because of the status of the place). Then there is 20 minute a hike up to the sight – and wow! The walk around the sight is challenging. Lots of uneven steps up and down. Edgar took us around for about 3 hours explaining the parts and pointing out interesting facts. Having a guide and small group is preferable because you’d miss so many details going alone. There is strong evidence that multiple parts of the sight were under construction when the sight was abandoned and apparently it was abandoned before the Spain conquest. I need to do more research now that I’ve been here. Our group is great, we all helped each other when there were challenging steps or we wanted a picture of ourselves. It’s a nice group of people. All or us were able to do the three hours of challenging terrain without incident. It would be easy to trip or go over on an ankle if you’re not careful but there was always an arm if you needed it. I won’t go into the history but when I get home I’ll add links – the Internet has been challenging and I haven’t had time to research (too slow). When we were done we had lunch right there at a very busy Machu Picchu restaurant (Sanctuary Lodge, Tinkuy restaurant/buffet) , but efficient buffet restaurant. We were all hungry and thirsty, but pumped! After lunch we headed back down to Aqua Caliente, wandered around the market (large with lots of Peruvian crafts and touristy stuff). Our train left right on time and besides the snack and beverage we had a fashion show of beautiful Alpaca sweaters, shawls and a coat I lusted after (my favorite blue/red color with reversible black Alpaca lining. I didn’t even ask how much – too much I’m sure. We then had a 2.5 hour bus ride to Cusco and our hotel for 3 night. I have a million great pictures but it takes forever to download even one so when I get home I’ll organize and add them to Flickr with a link on my blog. Stay tuned.