October 10, 2017. OK, so technically we didn’t zipline TO Machu Picchu. But, the evening before, Leo explained there were three options for today, one of which was a day of ziplining prior to boarding the train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. YES, PLEASE!
I realize it may seem contradictory given my fear-of-heights moment from the day before, but I LOVE ziplining. Though I’d only done it once, in Nicaragua, I found it thoroughly addictive and exhilarating. Far from being afraid, I felt perfectly safe strapped into the gear and connected to those heavy cables stretching over the canopy of trees. On the other hand, trekking along a foot-wide trail with a sheer drop on one side offered the very real possibility of falling.
Each person could choose whichever activity they preferred, and we were joined by six of the others, including Reg from New Zealand, who at 73 would be ziplining for the first time in his life.
Several chose the challenging hiking option, with two opting for the moderate trek. We would all meet up at the Hidroelectrica station where we’d take a train to Aguas Calientes.
After arriving at the ziplining venue, we had a short but actually quite strenuous climb (like, hand over hand, rock climbing in places) to reach the first platform. There were five or six lines in total, zigzaging back and forth across a valley.
The lines were longer and higher than the ones in Nicaragua had been, which didn’t bother me at all. (Apparently these are one of the highest ziplines in South America.) The views were incredible and I was loving every minute. I didn’t want the day to end, but I also was so excited to finally get to Aguas Calientes. Back down at the base, after removing our gear we sat down to a delicious three course lunch. I did a much better job this day of getting pics of the great food.
Although the ride to the station wasn’t long, we drove on some pretty high and treacherous cliff roads. I averted my eyes from the sheer drop out the window of the van. Arrival at the station was a bit of a shock, as we jostled with hundreds of people all there to take the same train. It hit me that we had just spent six days with only a handful of other people, in remote lodges on the sides of mountains. That was suddenly over.
Leo navigated us through the crowds into a restaurant, where upstairs we found the others, with Jimmy. Beers were ordered all around and there were toasts. Although we would be touring Machu Picchu together tomorrow, this really marked the end of our trek, and it was a bittersweet moment.
That night we had dinner at our lovely hotel, Inkaterra, all of us spread across two tables in the restaurant. We sat with the Canadians, who were truly a fun bunch, enjoying wine and coffee long after the other table had called it a night.
October 11, 2017. We got up at dawn, as the earlier you could get up to the Sanctuary (as the locals call Machu Picchu), the less crowded it would be. Even so, there was a ridiculously long line for the bus that would take us up the steep hillside.
The day started out overcast and chilly, but grew warmer as the sun emerged from behind the clouds, and provided us with stunning views of the many structures and terraces. Leo gave us an excellent tour, after which we each had time to explore on our own. Some chose to hike up Huayna Picchu, while most of us just enjoyed finding the quieter corners and sitting there, trying to imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago.
We had a final lunch with the group back down at the hotel, and now had to say goodbye to people we had shared a week of amazing experiences with. An email list was passed around with promises to keep in touch. While visiting Machu Picchu had always been the ultimate goal of the trek, what we gained was far more than checking off a bucket list item or a good selfie for Instagram. We challenged ourselves over and over, we met amazing other travelers, and saw more of Peru than many visitors ever will.
Though most of the group was leaving after lunch, we chose to stay an extra night in Aguas Calientes so that we could visit Machu Picchu again by ourselves the next morning, after which we would head back to Cusco for one night, and then on to Lima, and eventually home.