Having realised it was a 21-hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco (the main gateway to Machu Picchu), we decided to fly instead. The flights aren’t outrageously expensive and we really couldn’t face 21-hours on a bus with three children. A mistake, as it turned out. It all started reasonably well, we were 1.5 hours delayed but we were on our way. The flight was non-eventful, the views amazing and so far so good. Unfortunately, just before Cusco we were told we were turning around and returning to Lima. A ‘maintenance issue’, apparently. And so, at about 16.30 we landed back in Lima.
We were told to collect our luggage and go to desk number 29 where we were going to be told what was happening next.
But we weren’t told very much. Through other people we found out that they were going to put us up in a hotel and a new flight at 6am was going to be arranged. Which means a very early start, we booked an early afternoon flight to avoid just that! It can’t be helped, we waited patiently, put our names on a list and waited, waited, waited… At some point the people behind desk 29 disappeared altogether. For two hours. Some customer service girl appears to get our email addresses for a survey. At this point some people are getting VERY annoyed. Turns out, the list has disappeared, they can’t find hotels and it is all a big problem. We ended up waiting for five hours before taken to a hotel (it is 21.30 by this point, with not much food or drink available) and are told that pick-up is 3.30am the next morning. In the end, we couldn’t help but feeling that the bus would have been cheaper, just as fast and we would have slept more!!
When we finally arrived at the hostel (a charity for girls that end up as house helps and are mistreated) and the welcome couldn’t have been nicer. Our room was ready from the night before, we were offered breakfast and afterwards all had a kip to catch up on some sleep. (I will gloss over the complete meltdowns we had from the children the rest of the day as they were so tired.)
Cusco itself is beautiful, with great restaurants and bars.
We tried to investigate an affordable way to see Machu Picchu but although possible, it involves 8 hours in a van on windy roads and a 2-hour hike on train tracks which we didn’t consider to be suitable for small children. So the expensive – but relaxing and enjoyable it has to be said – way it was. The train ride to Aguas Calientes (the town near Machu Picchu) was beautiful and very relaxing. We had read that Aguas Calientes is awful so were expecting the worst but were pleasantly surprised.
Yes, it is touristy and higgletypigglety but it is quite charming and most importantly of all: no cars. It is so relaxing to be somewhere with children and not having to worry about traffic.
We stayed overnight and went up to Machu Picchu early the next morning. We organised a guide when we got there and he took us around for two hours and explaining the different buildings around the site. The site is amazing, the setting is just absolutely unlike anything we have ever seen before. We were worried that Machu Picchu wouldn’t live up to its expectation and expense. But it did. Easily.
Next stop: La Paz, Bolivia.