We were supposed to leave Cusco at 8am but it was more like 9 before started heading out of the city. We stopped for a 15 min break close to the town of Ollyantambo, which turned into 45 minutes of the driver doing as he pleased while we all sat and waited. We did get to see the Machu Picchu trains go past while we were waiting and it was funny to see the marked difference between the first class and normal trains. A Brazilian lady in our group was annoyed as we were supposed to stop at ruins 5 min down the road for photos but driver decided we would head straight through.

Peru has some beautiful mountain scenery – llamas and alpacas and sheep grazing the steep hillsides, our van climbing the windy roads which cut through the open fields and ascending in to the “cloud zone” at over 4000 m we could definitly feel the air is thinner when breathing. We passed a group of  the mountain bikers but realised they weren’t really doing much offroad biking as on the asphalt road so we were stoked we didn’t pay for the jungle trek. We continued driving through thick clouds and descending along windy road until we reached the gravel road to Santa Teresa. Just wide enough for 1 car, overhanging cliffs with warnings of rock slides and plummeting drops on the other side made my stomach lurch on a few occasions. More like a track than an official road. I'm glad our driver was using his horn on most of the sharpest bends unlike kalia and jakes suicide driver a few weeks before. The times that we did meet a truck or a car coming the other way there was a collective intake of breathe until we squeezed past each other.

We were supposed to stop at 4 points along the way for photos but our driver had obviously decided he didn’t feel like it as we didn’t stop again until we reached santa marta where we had time for a quick bite to eat before we headed down another 45min of dirt road to Hidroelectrica. We had been told the trip would take 6 hours, arriving at Hidroelectrica at 2pm – giving us plenty of time to walk the 2-3 hour journey along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes in daylight. In true South American style it actually took us 8 hours and we didn’t get started walking until almost 4pm meaning that we really had to boost it to avoid being on the tracks in the dark. It’s a pretty flat, but rocky walk, and the scenery is gorgeous. Rounding one bend as we approached Aguas Calientes we looked up to see our first view of Machu Picchu in the fading light – so cool!

We arrived at our hotel about 6.30, dropped our bags and headed straight up to the hot pools to soak our muscles and relax for a couple of hours before Ty cooked us a yummy pesto pasta dinner and we headed to bed early as we needed to be up at 4am the next day.

Machu Picchu has been on my travel to do list for a really long time and I was so excited that I didn’t really sleep very well – I think I was nervous we were going to oversleep our alarm and miss getting there for sunrise! Up at 4am we managed a quick breakfast at the hotel before we popped on our headtorches for the walk down to the MP gates. From Aguas Calientes there are two ways to approach MP; by bus or by walking up. We chose to walk up and 1800 stairs, and several removed clothing layers later, we made it to the top. I had been pretty nervous about whether I would be fit enough to climb them but we made it up within about an hour and although I was definitely sucking in the big ones and some points it actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
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Walking along the tracks from Hidroelectrica
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Huffing and puffing on the way up
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One of the 'bridges' we passed on our way to Hidroelectrica
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Ty exploring the city
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Ty found some local wildlife
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The awesomeness that is MP
A few other travellers had told us that if we made it up by 6am we should head to the sungate to try and watch the sunrise from there which we decided to do. What I didn’t realise was that it was another good solid 40min uphill walking to get there so was pretty glad to arrive and sit down for a bit. Due to the cloud that day the sunrise wasn’t really that spectacular – more like ‘and now there is light’ but it was pretty cool to watch the rays coming over the mountain range and see the mist clouds forming in the valleys beneath us. They would rise up and obscure our view of MP and then 2 minutes later completely disperse. 

Walking up it was funny to see a tour group who had obviously just completed the Inka trek walking towards us decked out in red, white and blue but then we realised that it was July 4th - American Independence Day. One guy had even gone to a lot of effort with stripey Uncle Sam pants and a bow tie.

We spent a couple of hours relaxing, people watching and soaking up the MP atmosphere from the sungate, waiting for the crowds to start dispersing a bit down below before we started a lazy saunter back down to the main part of the city

Half way down we stopped on a rather large rock which was a fantastic viewing platform to continue soaking up the awesomeness that is MP engineering feat when Ty told me he thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world before getting down on one knee and asked me to be his forever. Oh my god! Is he serious!? Marriage is something that I have felt is important but it had been a bit of a sticking point in our relationship as it was something Ty said he didn’t see the need for, so it was a bit of a shock to see him kneeling in front of me. Looking at him, I realised that this wasn’t a joke – he was really asking - Yes, Yes, Yes! Of course I will! Tears were welling up in my eyes as he put a beautiful emerald and diamond ring on my left finger before pulling me in for a big bear hug.  A few other tourists walked past at that moment and cast us wondering looks but I didn’t care I was so happy!

Once he had proposed I realised he had been trying to ask all morning, but he confessed he had been waiting for a moment when it was just the two of us – harder to find than expected apparently as people kept interrupting haha but Im glad we finally had some time to ourselves. 

As we walked down the track back to the main city I couldn’t stop looking at my ring finger, the light catching on the stones and the meaning behind them - ‘I can hear you smiling’ he said, before throwing me one of those cheeky grins of his over his shoulder. 

We spent the next couple of hours smiling and giggling to ourselves, exploring the main city and evesdropping on other tour groups and their guides before it was time to hike back down the stairs to Aguas Calientes and soak our aching muscles at the hot pools again. 
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me through a hole in some important rock haha
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post proposal smooch
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Huayna Picchu
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MP City with Huayna Picchu in the background
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Im a lucky girl :)
After a second round of pesto pasta we headed to an internet café to call our families and share our news. It was Poppa's funeral that day so I was a bit nervous about calling with good news and overtaking the day but we decided after we told Ty's Mum we would call anyway.  Dad was pretty speechless but the squeals down the phone from my Mum, my sister and one of my best friends were pretty loud – it was really cool to hear how excited they all were for us and saying it out loud to some of the important people in our lives it kind of made it all real! After talking to a few other people we headed to a local restaurant to celebrate with some pisco sours which unfortunately lived up to Aguas rather bad food reputation but it didn’t really matter. I am so excited about growing old together!

After breakfast the next morning we started our walk back to Hidroelectrica. When we were up the top yesterday we had spied a few points on the track so it was pretty cool to look up and see MP towering above us when we had completely missed it in the fading light on the way in. When we booked our tickets we had asked what time we would be back as we wanted to book an overnight bus at 10.30pm. As they had assured us it was a 6 hour drive, leaving at 2pm we had booked the bus tickets but after our 8 hour journey in we were a bit nervous. Arriving at Hidroelectrica our driver decided that no, we would not be leaving at 2, it would be 2.15. Then 2.15 became 2.45 or 3. Trying to reason with him resulted in a condescending ‘relax lady’ and a helpful ‘its not my problem’. There was a group of us all waiting and getting frustrated but they had decided that they wanted to wait for the next train to arrive from Aguas Calientes to see if they could get more business. Another Spanish guy who was as frustrated as us also tried reasoning with them to no avail. Resigned to missing our bus we settled in to wait for them to be ready before finally getting on the road. Fortunately we ended up in another van with a driver who took pity on our situation, deciding not to stop for a dinner break meaning we made it back to Cusco in time for our bus.

Grabbing some quick food at the hostel before we jumped in a taxi to the station we had a really funny conversation with 2 americans who were going on and on about did we see how disgusting the water was at the pools in Aguas Calientes. They didn’t realise that thermal water is not naturally clear due to the mineral content and were totally grossed out thinking that the brown colour had all come from the dirt from peoples bodies!

Next stop: Copacobana (Bolivia)
 





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