Machu Picchu via the back door route:
Hydroelectrica to Aguas Calientes
During my stay in Ollantaytambo I felt drawn to returning to Machu Picchu for the March Equinox. ~I don’t refer to it as the Spring Equinox as in Peru, it’s the Autumnal Equinox! ~With travelling on a tight budget and having plenty of time, I decided to go via what’s referred to locally as the “back door route”. So I pre-booked a seat on a bus to Quillabamba, intending to get off at Santa Teresa. When I boarded the following morning, the window seat I’d paid extra for had been double booked and I was moved to the back of the bus, sitting behind a young couple from Germany. I was grateful that I’d booked a seat as people were sitting and standing in the aisle for the duration of the 5 hour journey – not something you’d find in the UK.
The bus stopped at the top of a beautiful mountain for a lunch break and just before we were due to set off, a woman asked if anyone was going to Hydroelectrica as there was a minibus from Cusco with two spare seats. That was my destination, and also that of the German couple so we all squashed into the van which saved us time on arriving at our departure point. The lad paid £2.50 less for his fare as he sat on an upturned bucket in the aisle for the remainder of the three hour journey. We arrived at Hydroelectric Train Station at 4 pm then walked 13 km along the train tracks which ran besides the river through beautiful tropical jungle until reaching the town of Aguas Calientes. I wanted to arrive before sunset so walked at a quick pace, doing the walk in 2 hrs 15 minutes. After checking into a hostel, I went out for dinner with some people I’d met along the way then had an early night in preparation for an early start the following morning.
Machu Picchu for the Equinox
Up at 4.30 am I was ready and left my hostel by 5 am to buy my entrance ticket for Machu Picchu. I decided at the last minute to purchase a ticket to climb Machu Picchu mountain too as they hadn’t sold out. After purchasing my bus ticket, I then boarded the bus for the 20 minute drive up the steep mountain, passing brave hikers who were making the climb on foot. It was raining lightly when I arrived so put on my poncho which covered me and my daypack. A German couple in front of me had their backpack searched and fruit and snacks confiscated as it is not permitted to take food into the site. Unlike my last visit in October, I didn’t see the sun rise but what I did see was equally magnificent … the mist hanging over the mountains which made this wonder of the world look even more magical and mystical. I’d hoped for the contrast so I could get some different photos and my prayers were answered.
The rain cleared up after ten minutes and the sun came out an hour later making perfect conditions for visiting the site. It was truly breathtaking and nothing can prepare you for experiencing this sacred site at first hand. I bumped into friends I’d met on the walk who happened to be guides and ended up having a free guided tour which was brilliant. At 10 am, I started the climb up Machu Picchu mountain, meeting my young German friends at the bottom so having company on the steep ascent up thousands of stone steps laid by the Incas. The sun was very strong now and it was a challenging climb taking an hour and a half to reach the top. Wow, what a view we had over the site which looked so small from our viewpoint.
Even Huyuna Picchu, the mountain. I’d climbed in October, looked small in comparison! People who reached the summit sat there in respectful silence, taking in the majesty of the surroundings, eating snacks smuggled in and taking care to not leave any evidence. I spent time meditating in a secluded spot on the side of the mountain and recording a video blog before making the descent which turned my legs to jelly by the time I’d reached the bottom.
I really wanted to walk up to the sun gate which is the first view that Hiram Bingham had when he saw Machu Picchu for the first time and the arrival point for those walking the Inca Trail. I knew that if I stopped walking, I’d find it hard to start again so rather than stopping for a rest, I started the 45 minute walk uphill which was easy in comparison with what I’d just done and which I’d probably have thought was challenging had I not had the contrast! It was worth the effort and I took some great photos with a different perspective of the beautiful site. On the way back, I walked with a lovely young couple from Colorado and we exchanged contact details as they are setting up sacred tours in their area with Native American Indians doing peyote ceremonies.
I returned to special places in the site which were now deserted so was able to have private meditation and contemplation time for which I was grateful. It was 5 pm when I reluctantly left the site and although I’d intended walking down the mountain, my feet were aching after 12 hours walking and I needed some recovery time. A delicious vegetarian dinner in the local market cost £1.50 for two courses and I bought some fruit for the following day. I then went and had the most incredible Incan Massage to ease my aching muscles, expertly given by Miguel, followed by a welcome hot shower. I was glad to get to bed and rest.
Thermal Hot Springs at Santa Theresa
Before leaving Aguas Calientes the following morning, I visited the Butterfly Farm and was given a private tour by the project manager who told me about the conservation work they were doing. I then took a leisurely stroll back along the train tracks, retracing my steps and spending time by beautiful streams as they met the big river and really appreciating the beauty of the nature surrounding me. I took three hours walking back and had plenty of time to get a lift in one of the minibuses returning to Cusco. I found a room in a hostel at Santa Theresa which wasn’t easy as many were fully booked. I then got my swimming gear and caught a collective truck to the thermal hot springs and wasted no time in bathing in the water which was 40 degree celsius and soothed my aching muscles. I spent from 4 pm to 7 pm in the healing waters, watching the sunset and floating on my back as the stars came out, being in awe of the magnificence of the night sky feeling like I was in heaven.
Quite time in Ollantaytambo
I stayed in this last fortress stronghold town of the Incas for 5 weeks in a hostel in the central plaza and had quiet time. The town is very small and the ruins there are my favourite after Machu Picchu. I climbed the mountain where the view was stunning; went horse riding along an Inca trail to Puma Marka ruins; had a lot of still time; I ate food at the local market most days and met some lovely people, one of who lent me some money to enable me to continue my journey. I have really learnt to trust the Universe to provide what I need and ask for help when I need it. Being away with little money for the last ten months has been a real leap of faith for me.
Easter in Pisac
I spent a few days over the Easter weekend at Pisac which is the perfect time to experience the processions and celebrations by the largely Catholic population in the town. People of all ages come together to create beautiful artwork from coloured sand
on the streets and roads along the processional route – a beautiful example of teamwork.
I loved exploring the colourful artesian market and walking in the mountains – a special experience and one I will never forget.
Urubamba, my secret paradise on earth
I booked to attend an event on Sacred Sexuality organised by Eleonora Lupyan who runs Illa Wasi Retreat Centre located at the foot of a mountain in the Sacred Valley. When I checked out Illa Wasi on booking.com and saw the beautiful round Incan Tombos, I set the intention that I’d like to stay there and asked the Universe to make this possible. Two days later, Eleonora posted a request on Facebook to say she was looking for a volunteer to work there in exchange for food and accommodation so I immediately expressed my interest, met her the following day at the event, and moved in two weeks later! I loved every minute of my stay there … the people, the work, the puppies and alpacas, the gorgeous accommodation, the gardens, walking in the mountains, the ceremonies, the friends I made, the town … It was like living in a portal with very beautiful energies. I ran the centre on my own for a few weeks and hardly left the place … just to buy fresh provisions from the market or visit a friend. I was so happy and blissful for the whole nine weeks I spent in this paradise on earth and spent time meditating in the garden and allowing myself to be still. The Dalai Llama was in Peru recently and announced that the energy from the Himalayas has moved to the Sacred Valley which may account for why I felt so drawn to spending so much time there.
The Red Tent Revival and The Pleasure Tribe
I was invited to participate in the Red Tent Revival which was an online festival for women to learn about ancient sacred sexual practices, sisterhood, birth, menopause, balancing masculine and feminine energies … It was brilliant! They announced a competition to win a six month scholarship to The Pleasure Tribe valued at $698 US … Entrants had to post a two minute video to youtube within 48 hours of the competition being announced and I’m delighted to say that I won … Woo hoo! I recorded my video whilst still covered in raw cacao and coconut oil after receiving an amazing massage from my friend Melissa which some people thought controversial as I was naked and it generated the longest thread of any of my previous Facebook postings. So my education is continuing and I’m loving being in the community of sisters from around the world who are allowing themselves to be vulnerable and share their healing journeys which helps others going through the same to know that they aren’t alone, and for those who have come out the other side to share their strategies to help others. We have monthly video content posted online for our continuing education and I’m learning so much.
Cusco, good food, good friends, good times
I’ve stayed in Cusco a few times as it’s hard to stay away! For the whole month of June, there are celebrations in the streets for Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, when thousands descent on the city. I love the selection of fresh produce in the markets, the fabulous vegetarian food, walking around the streets, browsing in the shops, bumping into friends, attending great parties, and staying in my lovely room at Sumaq T’Ikaq in the San Blas area owned by my adopted family Julia and Werner. I spent a total of ten weeks at this hospedaje during my 8 months in Peru and started writing my first book tucked up in bed to keep warm during the cold nights!
Debra Magdalene has been travelling in South America since 5 September 2013, firstly to Peru where she spent 15 days with the Shipibos in the Amazon directly experiencing her multi-dimensionality, gaining deep insights into her true nature and experiencing deep healing through working with sacred plant medicines. She then trekked for four days over the Andes to her destination of Machu Picchu which had been on her vision board for three years. After a period of quiet time in Cusco, she travelled to different parts of Peru then to Bolivia spending time at the sacred Lake Titicaca and the Islands of the Sun and Moon. After five weeks in Bolivia, she returned to Peru for a further six months with very little money and total faith that she would be looked after and guided. She followed her heart and trusted her intuition which allowed her to experience the magic as it unfolded.