We managed to drag ourselves out of bed at 4. It was tough as the beds were really comfortable! The stairs to the mountain open at 5 and we had to leave at 4.30 to make the 30 min walk to the gate. The point of getting up mega early is to see the place before the hoards of tourists arrive but it definitely isn’t compulsory. You can also pay $24 for a return bus trip up the hill rather than walk the 1500 steps as we did. Other than being a bit dicey at the start due to the complete darkness and my lack of torch, the stairs were ok. They definitely weren’t easier but after a while my legs just got used to it and we (along with a queue of other people!) made it up in about 50 minutes.
We were meant to meet our guide at 6 for a 2 hour tour but apparently a landslide had led to a huge rock blocking the road for the bus (he took the lazy way!) so we headed in alone to take pictures before the crowds arrived. At first it was very cloudy but eventually the fog cleared and we could take in the view.
Our guide eventually showed up and talked us through the history of the site but to be honest by the end I wasn’t really listening. I was really tired!
We also climbed Huayna Pichu which is a mountain overlooking the site. It was pretty steep going up but the view of Machu Pichu is worth it.
Going down was tough! The stairs were slippy and there were a lot of people coming up, followed by more step upward stairs at the end. I decided I’d had enough and headed back down the stairs to Aguas Calientes. My legs were shaking by the end!
We got early dinner in Aguas Calientes and headed for the 6.30 train back to Ollantytambo. I definitely recommend paying the extra $8 to catch this train instead of the 9.50 as there’s a fair bit of hanging around waiting for transport so it’s a late night.
The train was awesome. I’ve never been in a train this nice! The bathrooms were actually pleasant to be in and there was free tea and cake. Even the station was beautiful.
When we arrived in Ollantytambo we were met by a hoard of taxi drivers carrying whiteboards with names on them. It wasn’t too hard to find ours and we were taken to a mini van which would take us the last couple of hours back to Cusco. I definitely would rather have been on a train.