A Last Minute Dash to Machu Picchu

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I had no intention of visiting Machu Picchu.

I had decided that it would be too expensive, too touristy and too much of a hassle.

Whenever I told people this as I made my way through Peru, I was met with incredulous cries of “you must be kidding” or “don’t be a dickhead” but despite this, I remained strong, at least until I got to Cusco.

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Once I arrived in this altitude sickness inducing city, these cries didn’t just continue, they got stronger and stronger. Every single person I met was on their way to these ruins, and for the first time, I started having twinges of doubt.

I had had so many preconceived notions about Peru, majority of which had been completely incorrect – why was I still letting such preconceived notions dictate what I should see and what I should skip?

In the end, I decided that if there were both train tickets and entrance tickets still available then it would be a sign that I should go and see Machu Picchu for myself.

As it turned out, visiting in low season meant that there were no shortage of both ticket types! So, with that, I started my last minute dash to the most famous Incan ruins on Earth.

Of course, I had gone out drinking the night before this day (such a smart traveller here) so when my 5am alarm went off I am not gonna lie, I was not exactly feeling excited. My feelings were more of the hungover variety! Luckily, we were given little meals on the train, and it was just enough of a carbohydrate kick to get me out of my quasi-zombie state.

Once I arrived at Aguas Caliente, it was time to catch a shuttle bus up the hill to the entrance to Machu Picchu. I barely had to wait at all, and everything seemed to go much more seamlessly than I had expected. Everything I had read online told me it was going to be a total nightmare, that I could be waiting hours for a bus and that it was very poorly organised – but this was not the case – I think this was largely due to the fact that it was supposed to be the rainy season.

In the end, it was one of the driest December months ever recorded in Cusco, so it was the perfect kind of off season.

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After arriving and a short ascent, I was surprised at how quickly I found myself looking at the iconic Machu Picchu facade; and oh what a stunning sight it was…

It even had those photogenic llamas that you see in Instagram shots which look so perfect that you become convinced they were photoshopped!

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The day was overcast but with lots of light peeking through, which is pretty much my ideal weather for photography! I often find direct sunlight too harsh, and I love the moodiness that an overcast day can add to a shot – so I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

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I spoke before about having a lot of preconceived notions about visiting Machu Picchu, and as it turned out, one of them turned out to be correct.

Jesus H Roosevelt Christ, it was so freaking busy!… and yes, if you caught that Outlander reference, I admit to being completely addicted.

There are so many self portraits that I have taken over the years that were as easy to set up and shoot as it would be to breathe, but this next shot, yeah, it definitely wasn’t one of them.

I set up my tripod in the perfect position, my trusty little Olympus was prepped and ready to go, the lighting was perfect… but alas! Every five fucking seconds someone or a group of someones would walk into my frame and spend the next 5-10 minutes taking their own photos – it was so frustrating!

I know that it is a public space and it needs to be shared, but generally, if I saw someone setting up a tripod, I wouldn’t invite my enormous family to walk in front of it and spend an age trying to get a group shot – but maybe this just isn’t a widely known courtesy?

I would like to say that it was patience that paid off, but anybody who knows me is well aware that I have a pretty low level of patience! In the end, it was just sheer determination to get a half decent shot that paid off!

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Once I had finally got ‘the shot’, I was able to relax a lot more and the crowds didn’t annoy me… at least not quite so much.

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After a while exploring the ruins, I came across an incredible view of the valley below. I don’t know why, but this valley really intrigued me, and I stood gazing at it for so long that I got sunburnt!

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After seeking refuge in a little hut and slathering myself with SPF 50+ I decided to continue exploring the ruins, but of course, I ended up completely sidetracked.

What caused such distraction?

Alpacas of course!

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This next shot is easily my favourite from my day spent at Machu Picchu. I love how close I could get to this alpaca, I love the ruins behind it, and I especially love the kinda judgemental look on his/her face!

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In the end, I was extremely happy that I had made the trip to Machu Picchu. Yes, it was expensive, the crowds were endlessly annoying and my poor scalp was so sunburnt that it was flaky for the next fortnight, but despite all that, it was an incredible experience to explore such magnificent ruins and honestly, I can’t believe that I almost let my own misconceptions stop me from going.

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THE  LOWDOWN

Getting to Machu Picchu: MP is accessible via train with either Peru Rail or Inca Rail; alternatively, you can choose to hike the Inca Trail, either way – if visiting in high season you should definitely book in advance, but this is not so important during low season
Peru Hop: A hop-on hop-off type of transport with an element of group tour built in, I bought the ‘Get to Cusco Quick’ pass for $159 which you can find more information about by clicking here
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Wear ALL of the sunscreen! At altitude you are much closer to the sun and will burn much more quickly

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

16 thoughts on “A Last Minute Dash to Machu Picchu

  1. Great choice, Ellen. After all, you have the Pyramids at Giza, Petra, the Reykjanes, Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal, the Antarctic Peninsula and most of Bali in your repertoire. Machu Pichu was only a logical addition.

  2. awesome photos! i love those times when you think everything will be more difficult and are pleasantly surprised at how seamless everything turns out to be!

  3. hahaha, I’m pretty sure Claire is not the only person in the world who says Jesus H Roosevelt Christ, although it is a bit dated 😛 I’m glad you made it to Machu Picchu!

  4. I like your alpacas! 🙂 Point of order, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t Peruvians saying “don’t be a dickhead”. As a person who has traveled a great deal I can say with confidence that only an Aussie or a Brit would say that to you. 😀

  5. Oh look at your photos! All worth the hangover, the pesky crowds and an unforgiving sun. I want to get there and have a cuddle with the llamas despite my husband’s protests about it being a cliche of a destination. I will make him go through your photos to just accept it that there is no getting away. 😉 Cheers Ellen. xx

  6. lovely blog
    it seems a very excited place.
    i would love to see alpacas whenever i would to the place.
    the pictures are awesome.
    ” i would rather own little and see the world, than own the world and see little of it.” — Alexander Satter
    GREAT BLOG

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