My wife and I were a couple hours into our flight, about to start our decent, when the intercom crackled to life. “Uh, folks, this your captain. Unfortunately we don’t think the weather conditions in Cusco are safe for landing. We’re going to circle for twenty to thirty minutes and hope it clears up, otherwise we’ll have to return back to Lima.”
Landing back at the Lima, Peru airport, everyone on our flight was summoned to a mostly unused couple of gates and the agents called our names out in small groups. Instead of having everyone in a mad dash for the counter (like the US), they calmly worked through everyone on the flight, handing out meal vouchers along the way. The problem was our next chance to get out was on a four o’clock flight — eight hours from that point. This blew any chance of us catching our train, and also put us in danger of getting stranded in Cusco, which wasn’t where we wanted to be.
Where we wanted to be was Aguas Caliente. It was recently renamed Machupicchu Pueblo, but to us it was where our hotel was, and more importantly, where the ancient city in the sky is.
Some 8,000 feet high up in the Andes Mountains is where the mysterious Incan city lay preserved. No one really knows the “How” and “Why” of Macchu Picchu; although there are many theories ranging from the site was a place where virgin women dedicated themselves to the sun God, or more likely, the site being a retreat for Incan royalty. One thing is for certain, during the Spanish Conquest (mid-1500s) the Spaniards didn’t know the site existed and therefore didn’t destroy it. As a result, in 1911 Hiram Bingham (whom Indiana Jones was loosely based off of) was led to the site by an 11 year-old boy. Now the group in charge of keeping Machu Picchu preserved limits the site to just 2,500 visitors a day. However, none of this would really matter to us if we didn’t get out of Lima, Peru.
Finally at four o’clock our plane took off, and even more exciting, landed at the correct airport. From there my wife and I grabbed our bags and began talking with taxi drivers. We had missed the last train out of Cusco to Machupicchu Pueblo, but if we hustled we could still catch the final train out of this side of the mountains. After a little negotiating, we found a driver would take us the two hours up into the mountains. Thankfully we arrived in time for the train, and with a sigh of relief, we were on our final stretch to our hotel.
After the 40 hours of travel (including sleeping on airport floors and benches) to get there, it was all made worth it when the jungle opened up and before us was Machu Picchu itself. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, nor could I take my eyes off of it. The centuries-old Incan site lay there bathed in the warm light of the late-afternoon sun. Since it was so late in the day, so many tourists had departed and we had the site nearly all to ourselves.
We’re very fortunate and grateful to be able to travel and experience such wonderful things in life. We’re pretty lucky to have made it out of the Lima airport too.