Peru trip Day 1 - 2: Machu Picchu is really in the middle of nowhere

Hi lovelies! Hope you are having a great summer. I am having a great summer so far. In fact, I've just came back from 1 week Peru trip! (Not JUST came back actually...it's been almost 1 month, but anyway, I feel like I just came back.) Because I've had this exciting, adventurous and a little bit crazy experience, I am going to write about my trip and share the highlights, and some lessons I learned during the trip. 

Getting to Machu Picchu

To get to Machu Picchu, you have to take all the transportation methods, I mean ALL. I took 2 flights, taxi, 1.5 hour train ride, a bus, and lots of walk. It took me 2 day of constantly on the road(and sky), and 2 hotel stays in between. So yeah, If you ever decide to go to Machu Picchu one day, this is what you'll experience because there is no other easy way to get there. and good luck with your transportation because you never know what will happen! 

We arrived in Lima from Toronto 1AM. we had a connecting flight at 8:30am, so we decided to stay in a hotel to rest. Okay, here is our first mistake. When we booked our flights, We also booked a hotel in Lima Miraflores district, which is a nice area to stay, but we didn't realize it was a 40 minute taxi ride from the airport. It was such a waste of time and money because we were back in the airport at 7am anyway, literally we had only 4 hours at the hotel. The reasons why we booked a hotel that is far away was because 1) there is only one airport hotel and was so expensive(US$250), 2) Other hotels that are somewhat close from the airport didn't seem to be a safe area, and 3) The hotel we booked in Miraflores was only $65 and we were so lazy to even check the distance from the airport to the hotel. Had I known the distance between the airport and the hotel, I wouldn't have even considered staying in Miraflores. The whole purpose of staying at a hotel was to rest, but we ended up adding 40 minute taxi ride on both ways and lost our sleeping time.

Tip 1: Stay at an airport hotel/Airport Lounge if you have a connecting flight in the next morning.

I've never had more than 3 hour layover in my life, so 7 hour late night layover seemed too tough to spend in the airport, but now I know it's best to stay close to the airport, either a hotel, airport lounge, or even the airport waiting area. It was such a hassle for us to get a taxi and moved to the city central only to rest for 3 hours. 

Back to my journey to Machu Picchu...We came back to Lima airport at 7am and our 8:30am flight took off as scheduled. Our plan was to fly to Cusco(1 hour), take a taxi to Ollaytaytambo(1.5 hours) and catch our train to Aguascalientes(Machu Picchu Village) at 1:30pm. Just simple as that. In our mind, we would arrive at the train station by 12:30pm and we would have tons of time before getting on the train. Oh boy, how optimistic I was.  I fell asleep immediately as soon as the plane took off, when I woke up again, the plane was getting ready for descending. Although I felt like I was sleeping more than 1 hour, I was thinking "Oh I must have had a 30 minute intense sleep!". The plane landed, we got on the airport shuttle to transport to the arrival gate. When we entered in the arrival area, there was an airport staff handing out something and yelling "Cusco? Cusco?", so I said, "Yes, Cusco!" and the staff gave me a plastic card, noting "please return this card back when you get on board again". I thought they were giving out this card for people who were connecting to another flight and I got it by mistake. I was going to leave the area to the exit but then I noticed something. Why is everyone who are on my flight are just standing at the gate and not moving? and mostly WHY DOES THIS AREA LOOK SO FAMILIAR? A thought came to me, "Hmmm, this place looks exactly same as the area I was at this morning...could this place be Lima airport?" but I shook it off immediately because it didn't make sense why I would be back in Lima after flying more than 1 hour? I did't know what to do, so I approached a girl who was standing close to me and asked why everyone is just standing at the arrival gate. She told me that the plane had some mechanical problems during the flight so it returned to Lima. I didn't want to believe it, but my thought was right....I was back in frigging LIMA!

Although I was shocked to hear that we were back in Lima again, I was kind of glad that I didn't know what was going on during the flight. Otherwise I would've had a heart attack in the plane, thinking the plane was going to crash or all kinds of crazy imagination. Anyway, By the time we got on the 2nd plane and arrived in Cusco finally, it was 12pm. We knew we won't make it for our 1:30pm train, so we tried to push out our train tickets to the later time at Peru Rail counter in the airport. We were confident we could change the time because it was only 12pm and there are many trains leaving from Ollaytaytambo every hour. The lady at the counter told us that all the train seats were sold out and there was nothing available for that day. The thing is we purchased the admission ticket to Machu Picchu/Wayna Picchu for the following day(by the way, you cannot buy tickets at the gate, plus there are only 2000 ppl are allowed/day and 400 ppl for Wayna Picchu), and there is a time window(7am-8am) to enter Wayna Picchu, that means we needed to arrive at Machu Picchu village the night before for our morning entry. When we found out that we cannot get into Aguascalientes, we thought we could enter Machu Picchu but not the hiking in Wayna Picchu....I was devastated.

Luckily there were seats available for 5am train to Aguascalientes for the next morning, which would arrive at Aguascalientes by 6:30am, then we could catch a bus to Machu Picchu entrance by 7:20am, from there, we can run to Wayna Picchu entrance by 8am before the window close. We weren't sure if it works, but that's what we decided to do anyway, and we did it!!

TIP 2: GIVE LOTS AND LOTS OF TIME BETWEEN TRANSPORTATIONS.  

Taking a plane, a taxi and a train in 1 day to get to Macchu Picchu? First of all, Don't do it. One small delay can ruin an entire trip schedule, but if you must do, then give lots of extra time. We gave ourselves only 1 hour buffer from Lima to Ollaytaytambo train station. It was such a bad idea putting fixed schedules in 2 different cities. We didn't think about the plane being delayed for 2-3 hours. There is only one way to get to Aguascalientes, which is by train. If your schedule is messed up, you have no other way to get to Aguascalientes, so you make sure you have more than enough time!

TIP 3: STAY IN CUSCO 1 NIGHT AND THEN TAKE A TRAIN FROM POROY STATION TO AGUASCALIENTES.                            

All in all, my biggest lesson in this journey was that I didn't think about how much time it takes to get to Machu Picchu. I was trying to move between cities too quickly. I was in a hurry moving from Lima to Cusco, Cusco to Ollaytaytambo, Ollaytaytambo to Aguascalientes, and Aguacalientes to Machu Picchu in 1.5 days. No wonder I was stressed, exhausted, hungry and miserable. If you go to Machu Picchu, I recommend you stay in Cusco 1 night, and then leave to Aguacalientes the next day. That way, you will be more flexible with schedules and you will be well rested and probably have some time to eat! There are 2 train stations you can take. Poroy is 15 minutes away from Cusco, and Ollaytaytambo is 2 hour taxi ride from Cusco. Unfortunately there are only a few trains leaving from Poroy, so if your schedule matches, do take a train from Poroy. The train ticket is more expensive but it is so much easier. If you need to take a train from Ollaytaytambo, make sure you have more than enough time to catch a train!

Our flight got messed up. We missed our train. To top it off, we got ripped off by a taxi driver on the way to Ollaytaytambo. After all these things happened in half a day, we somehow managed to find a hotel, right beside the train station in Ollaytaytambo. Up to this point, our trip was pretty miserable, but still we tried to make ourselves laugh and entertain in any small things we found(Thanks to my awesome friend!). Okay, my story hasn't sounded fun at all but believe me, this is going to get better! I will leave the whole Machu Picchu experience in the next blog post:) 

Thank you so much for reading this long post and I hope this gave you some insights of how daunting it is to get to the world's most mysterious and beautiful heritage. It is not a plane away, nor a bus away from your house, however It is so fascinating at the same time because it is really literally in the middle of nowhere and it's so worth all the trouble!                                                              

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