The day has finally come, the one that we've been waiting for since Jenn first put together a bucket list of trip items together over ten years ago. Today's the day we made the trek to Machu Picchu. We woke up at around 6:30 AM and got ready with the plan to leave at 7:30 AM. At around 7 AM we realized that the train didn't leave at 8:30 AM but we needed to check in at that time to depart the station a little after 9:00 AM.
We hired a driver through the hotel who was gracious enough to come a half hour later and dropped us off at Peroy train station. The drive to Peroy station was a rough one. Not only was there a lot of traffic because of the teacher's strike but just viewing the immense poverty outside of the city was hard to reckon with. When we did arrive at Peroy station it was like we were transported to another planet. We were greeted by name by all the staff, handed glasses of champagne, shown our seats on the train, and were able to watch live singers and dancers in front of the train before it departed.
There are many paths to Machu Picchu and for us taking the Hiram Bingham was the way to go. Once 9 AM rolled around we boarded the train and were given a table for two with a beautiful dining table in between us. We felt like early 1900's royalty. Once the train left the station we were given a brief overview of the 3+ hour journey and were offered drinks, cocktails, wine, and coffee at any point during the journey. Jenn started with a mimosa and I had a cup of coffee. As we sat back enjoying the views I think I asked Jenn to pinch me over a dozen times. The beauty of this train is unparalleled. We've traveled on a ton of trains through Europe but the pure unadulterated glamor of this train is something I'll never forget.
At about the hour mark we made our way back to the back of the train which has an observation deck as well as a bar. We took some great videos and photos of the beautiful Peruvian countryside. Lunch was served promptly at 11 AM and we were given a set 3-course lunch which was phenomenal. We started off with a trout dish which was served with a cornbread. It was phenomenal. For Cusco not being anywhere near the Pacific ocean, they've had some amazing seafood.
Our second course was a beef tenderloin which was cooked medium rare. We had a very nice merlot/cab blend to accompany it. The steak was served with mashed potatoes and was perfect. Simple meat and potatoes dish that was really quite good.
We finished off our 3-course lunch with a delightful Cheesecake that Jenn devoured.
We rolled into the Machu Picchu station a little after noon and boarded a bus to take us up the mountain to Machu Picchu. When we left the train, we left our jackets behind, and I even left my long-sleeve shirt as it was actually a lot warmer than the forecast predicted. However, we also both realized we didn't have a bag or sunscreen to carry anything. So as we waiting for the bus we bought some SPF90 sunscreen and a Machu Picchu bag to carry all of our stuff.
When arrived at Machu Picchu we met with our group which consisted of a couple in their early 40's from Austin and our tour guide. Who your teamed up with on a tour is a make or break, and we really lucked out here in Machu Picchu. Once we got our bearing we were whisked past the massive 500+ people line and straight into the park. And really for the next two hours, I don't think our jaws ever came off the floor. The pure beauty of Machu Picchu is unparalleled.
We made our way up a couple hundred steps to the lookout point above all of Machu Picchu. If you ever have seen someone's pictures from Machu Picchu then my guess is the pictures were taken at this spot. We were lucky enough to be able to spend a good ten minutes taking pictures, videos, and literally just asking the tour guide to stop so we could take it all in.
From the lookout point, we made our way into Machu Picchu walking through both the royal facilities as well as that of the townspeople. Machu Picchu isn't all that big. If you just walked it on your own without a tour guide you probably could be done in 30 minutes. But at every corner, there's some other spectacular vista or Incan marvel to take in. The mystery of Machu Picchu also brings its own appeal. We don't necessarily know exactly how it all looked during the Incan time, and how often it was actually used. The entire tour was fascinating but often times we did ditch our tour guide to take more and more photos.
And this is another reason why we lucked out with the couple we were paired up with for this tour. They took as many photos as we did so it gave us plenty of time to capture over 600 photos during our time in Machu Picchu. The three hours we walked around Machu Picchu went by in a flash. One moment we were taking photos at the top of Machu Picchu and the next we were exiting and getting our passports stamped. There are rare moments in life when something truly exceeds all expectations, and Machu Picchu was that for both Jenn and I.
We left the park a few minutes before the park closed at 4 PM. We were escorted to the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge the only hotel directly at Machu Picchu. There we had high tea (included in our train tickets) for an hour. We sat with the couple on the tour and enjoyed reminiscing on a day that we won't soon forget.
We left Machu Picchu at 5 PM and took the bus down the hill and back to the train station. There we shopped for a little bit and then boarded our train to take us back to Peroy station. The train was gorgeous during the day but even more stunning at night. We sat down, were handed a glass of champagne, and given a four-course menu to look over.
While we looked over the menu we were given some hors d'oeuvres which included polenta and sushi. Pretty early on Jenn asked for red wine, and so for the next three hours, they kept the red wine coming for both of us never let our cups even get to half empty.
While we waited for dinner and wanting variety in our alcohol consumption for the evening, we made our way to the observatory car, got some Pisco Sours (famous drink here in Peru) and enjoyed the music for a couple of minutes before retreating to our seats and enjoying the peace and quiet. Our first course arrived around 7 PM and we had quinoa tabbouleh with mixed vegetables and prosciutto on top. It was divine. Simple, light, and elegant. I loved this dish.
Our second course was the leek and potato cream soup which Jenn and I talked about for a while. It must be pretty dangerous to carry hot soup on a pretty rocky train but they did a spectacular job. They grow a lot of potatoes in Peru, and specifically Cusco, and so it was no surprise that the soup was a home run.
For our main entree, we had two options, trout or duck confit. We both love duck and so we went with the duck confit that was served with one of the best pieces of corn bread I've ever had. At this point, I was about as full as I've ever been but the duck was so good that I wasn't going to leave a morsel of it on my plate. And for dessert, we finished off with the 55% Organic Cacao which was chocolate served with various fruits. I, however, having far too much to drink completely forgot to take a picture, something I don't remember ever doing in all of our travels.
We made it back to Peroy station a little after 9 PM and our driver was there ready to take us back to the JW Marriott. We got back to our hotel and literally passed out a little after 10 PM after one of the best days of our lives.
The journey home aboard the Hiram Bingham was the best travel experience we've ever had. It was easy, it was relaxing, it was luxurious, and it allowed us to see Machu Picchu in a way that so few are able to do. We talked for at least half of our journey back to Cusco about how lucky and fortunate we felt to be aboard such a beautiful train but even more than that to be able to experience something as grand as Machu Picchu. There's this feeling that you got when stepping on the grounds of Machu Picchu that very few places in this world have ever made either of us feel. Jenn brought up a quote that she loved from Anthony Bourdain that I feel like encapsulates our day perfectly:
I couldn't encapsulate our feelings any better. So until tomorrow, we will bask in the glow of what we were able to see with our eyes open today.