Location: Aguas Calientes

With duffels and overnight packs underhand, we walked to Ollantaytambo’s train station to depart for Machu Picchu town. We boarded the train’s B car and were pleasantly surprised to find that the train car was similar to an Amtrak. We were spread out throughout the car, but most of us ended up next to each other as there were a few empty seats that we were happy to fill to be seated closer to one another. The train ride to Machu Picchu town was around an hour and a half and passed surprisingly quickly. The majority of us engaged in a cross-cultural discussion about Judaism and Christianity for about an hour of the ride down and got a lot out of it. Robert and I shared the basics of Judaism and our beliefs with the group. Johnny even went as far as taking notes and asking for the spelling of words including “Torah” and “Hashem” (which is what we call G-d). Cate, Johnny, and Charlotte, in turn, taught us about the basics of Christianity, which ultimately segwayed into a conversation on how religions can easily coexist because the same moral principles lie central to the majority of them, but humans judge one another for the nuances among their religions, and that is where religious conflict truly lies. We’re evidently a bunch of wannabe theological philosophy majors.

The train was a PeruRail VistaDome, so it had large windows throughout that allowed us to take in the absolutely stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Truly beautiful. We pulled into the station in Machu Picchu town and headed straight for the hotel where we dropped off our stuff. We headed straight to lunch after that. The restaurant basically had the same menu as every other place we’ve eaten at in the last weeks we’ve been in Peru. The one outstanding difference was that this menu had a picture of a live guinea pig next to a picture of a baked guinea pig, a before and after shot thing. Not sad or startling at all, totally cool. After lunch, we headed straight for Aguas Calientes. Yep, you guessed it. Hot water springs. The hot springs that the town was previously named for are a series of six tiled pools that differ in temperature. We waded in the hot springs for a while, and when everyone was ready to leave, we returned to the hotel where we were given our phones for a couple of hours before heading to dinner. Dinner was quite the treat. The food took a while, but everyone eventually got something, and after two hours, we returned to the hotel to turn in for our early start tomorrow.

We woke up at six in the morning at our hotel and had a light breakfast, and we then took a bus up the mountain to Machu Picchu. We were again overwhelmed by incredible views of surrounding mountains, and as we neared the top of the mountain, we got a clear view of Machu Picchu. The line was a little long, so we waited semi-patiently and finally entered the park where we spent the first hour or so of our time hiking to the Sun Gate. I heaved for two straight miles; it was quite a time. I made a friend too! We bonded over our shared state of fitness (we aren’t fit, so it is essentially nonexistent) and hate of uphill climbs. Upon our eventual arrival to the Sun Gate, William, our tour guide, gave us a little history and we staged full photoshoots. We then hiked back down, all downhill!

You can imagine my excitement. Our next stop was the Inca Bridge, and the group walked along an extremely narrow path that was super steep but super cool. We then walked back and went to a location to take a seat right in front of Machu Picchu, where William explained to us some history and facts about Yale’s very own Hiram Bingham (the dude who is accredited with “discovering” Machu Picchu) and the history of Machu Picchu as an archeological site. We then ventured into the actual ancient town of Machu Picchu. We descended and walked along many paths and through doors inside ancient Incan houses. We slowly descended through the ancient city and headed back to the park’s entrance where we boarded a bus back down the mountain. Our first stop back in town was lunch. I had ceviche, even though I was told to wait until our return to Lima. I’ll compare the two when we do. After lunch, we returned to the hotel to retrieve our bags from baggage hold and rushed to the market in front of the train station. We were generously granted 15 minutes of shopping time before we had to navigate the labyrinthine market and meet the group in front of the train station. I managed to spend 150 solace with Robert in those 15 minutes. Skillful, I know. What I bought was real silver, though, so I think it’s all good.

We boarded the train as soon as we entered the station and again, it was exactly like an Amtrak. On the train ride, the crew surprised us with a dancing man in a rainbow outfit and donkey mask. The colorful donkey clown creature grabbed Cate, and they had a cute little dance. He disappeared for a few minutes, and then, he returned to MC a fashion show for a clothing line of really expensive baby alpaca clothing. Fun times. A bunch of us couldn’t catch our breath from laughing so hard. Once the train arrived in Ollantaytambo, we got off and walked about ten minutes to the Hostel. We sat down for Arepas and Mulan. Multicultural night, am I right?