Finally getting used to the shared cab program of Peru, my beau and I voluntarily climbed into a van on the side of the highway with 6 other strangers (three of them were toddlers, so they really don’t count) and rode towards Ollantaytambo, the city we would inhabit before visiting Machu Picchu.  The van cost 10 soles a piece (about $3.50) for a two hour trip.  We plunged over the mountains and flew around other vehicles to arrive in the very adorable Ollanta, mostly safe and sound.

We stayed at a hostel my Lima friend recommended and enjoyed the first truly hot showers of our trip.  Something I found fascinating about the small town was the apparently high number of foreign led non-profit organizations working with the indigenous populations.  It seemed that all of the foreigners living in this adorable city were much more focused on providing services to the community than the lost city just a few hours away.

Anyway, the first thing anyone asks about our trip to Peru is, “Did you see Machu Picchu??!” And then they ask, “Did you do the hike??” Because of time and budget, our journey to Peru’s most famous site began with a train ride instead.  We hustled onto the train with all of the other tourists and sat down across from two American girls on a graduate school trip.

After exchanging stories over the snack we were served, I settled in to watch the scenery fly by. ‘Holy smokes!’, was all I could think.  I mean, Machu Picchu is the most recognizable monument of Peru, if not the entirety of South America and there we were just sitting on a train, munching on whatever they gave us as it rolled deeper into the jungle.

After our lovely train ride, we jumped on a bus and rode up the mountain, through the tourist pocked city of Agua Calientes.  At the entrance of the Inca theme park, err, I mean monument, we hired a guide to give us a tour.  Although guide Gloria’s version of Machu Picchu was a bit dry, I enjoyed hearing about the history of the ruins.  The best part of her job, she said, was hiking everyday (and pointing out the difference between the fancily cut rocks and the natural rocks used in building houses and places of worship).

My favorite part was napping and writing postcards in the grass of the city where crops used to grow, when the flocks of tourists had mostly left.  In fact, it felt as if it were just the two of us, a few other hikers, and the alpacas enjoying the mystery of the ruins.  And my other favorite part was petting a sacred baby alpaca.  It was so soft.

The train ride home was a riot- ‘dinner’ was pathetic and consisted of a very lame pasta salad, but the alpaca wear fashion show put on by the hosts made up for it in spades.  Overall, the trip to Machu Picchu might have lacked a bit of that sparkly feeling you think you should get when visiting somewhere so famous, but there were high points (no pun intended) and I would thoroughly recommend it to any traveler.  Particularly you, Uncle Kurt.  Rope Dad into the trip too, please.