Students observe a world wonder and the effects of tourism in Peru

On our way to Machu Picchu

Wow it’s been two weeks now that we have been taking classes and volunteering in Cusco. Time flies by and we are already past our last weekend here in Peru. One tourist attraction that we all really hoped to see before the trip was Machu Picchu. This past weekend it was time to head to Machu Picchu. Our group was very excited but also a little sad because our time here in Cusco will be over soon.



10:00 – A bus drove us from Cusco to the train station Ollantaytambo, which is two hours away.


On the way to the train station we stopped in the Sacred Valley. Our tour guide Santiago told us a little bit about the mountain and the river that flows through the valley. The view was incredible!

13:27 – Train left Ollantaytambo

15:10 – We arrived at Aguas Calientes

The train ride was incredible. We rode right along the river and were able to see the beautiful scenery of Peru. One thing that was very interesting was that the train stopped on our way before we arrived in Aguas Calientes. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden I saw two kids waiting on the side of the road. First I thought they were just curious and wanted to see the people and the train that passes them. However, after a few minutes I realized that they did not come say hi. A few crew members of the train threw the leftovers to them (sandwiches, mandarins, soda). I really liked that because it showed that they would not waste the food that was not consumed and rather give it to the people that seemed to need it.


When we arrived at Aguas Calientes some of us went to get food. As soon as we started to look for restaurants we found out that our tour guide Santiago was right when he told us that this town will be the most expensive city here in the Cusco region. Ryan and I needed to bargain with the restaurant owner to get more food since everything was overpriced. After we ate, our group went to a hot spring. Let’s say this…it was very interesting. We all expected that we will be swimming in the nature. However, it turned out that there were just a couple pools with water from the stream. Not all of our group went in the pool because it looked dirty and a lot of people were in there. After taking a shower we went to find a restaurant. We all got a pizza because we thought that is one food we probably won’t get sick from. I can tell you as I am laying in bed with food poisoning three days later: DO NOT EAT PIZZA in Aguas Calientes haha.


3:50 – Wake up call

4:10 – We walked to the bus station and people were already waiting

5:30 – The bus finally drives us up to Machu Picchu

6:10 – We are at Machu Picchu Mountain!

6:40 – Santiago guides us through the ruins for about two hours. His knowledge was very impressive and it was really interesting to listen to what he had to say about Inca history. All those houses and buildings are still in a very good shape, which was very fascinating.


8:40 – Bathroom break; getting ready for the hike.

9:00 – Mosquito spray on? Sunscreen on? LET’S DO THIS!

11:00 – We made it!


Everyone pretty much made it on the top. The view on the path was breathtaking but it was even better on the top. After taking lots of pictures we went back down to catch one of the buses.


15:00 – Bus back to the hotel.

One more meeting after getting lunch and back to Cusco.

18:20 – Train leaves Aguas Calientes

22:20 – Back at our host families.

So What:

This trip was very different from our past two weeks here in Cusco. Aguas Calientes is supported by tourists’ income only. It does not have the ability to produce its own goods as I learned from the doctor here in Cusco. They receive the food via train and do not have agriculture as in Coya or Saylla or other regions. When you google Aguas Calientes you immediately will stump on sites that provide you with the best hotels or the 30 best things to do as a tourist in the town. As we read in class about Peruvian culture and Machu Picchu it was interesting to see the effects of tourism with our own eyes.

As for our group I can say that we became a very good team these past two weeks. Everyone was encouraging each other to make it to the top of the mountain. But not only that, we also worked very well together in the past weeks with the children. I think that the classes prior coming to Peru were very helpful to learn a bit about  each other. However, working together on the past two projects in Coya and Sallye made the difference. This trade of becoming a team with people that are from a different culture (or just your classmates that you did not know before starting this program) will help us all become successful in the working world. As you will work with lots of different people, from different cultures, and sometimes different mindsets towards one goal.

Now what:

As I am writing my final paper about pollution in Peru/Cusco I can say that there is a difference of the regions between Coya, Sallye and Aguas Calientes. During the past two weeks I saw a lot of trash laying around.


When I arrived in Aguas Calientes I closely paid attention to this problem and if pollution is a result of tourism. What I found out was that Aguas Calientes looked pretty clean to me. From my perspective and talking to my professor and classmates, Aguas Calientes did not look like the other cities. Aguas Calientes separates their trash.


The streets were clean at all time even though you have thousands of tourists coming to that town every day. I almost didn’t see any plastic lying around, which was great to see after the past two weeks. One reason could be that plastic bottles are not allowed at Machu Picchu Mountain. However, everyone is taking bottles with them but inside of their bags. Thus, I cannot imagine that this is the reason why this city is so clean. I am sure as a public administration graduate student that this has something to do with larger budgets that will help this town. This town is living from tourism so that they need to make sure the tourist will be enjoying their stay. If there would be plastic bottles/trash many people would react to it in a negative way. This makes only sense to me because when I spoke to officials of the municipalities in Coya and Saylla, both officials told me that they try to work on pollution by separating trash but that the funds are very limited and people would rather spend money on other necessary things the town needs. For example, in Coya a volunteer-run effort to separate the trash lasted only for two years.  Those two towns are not heavily affected by tourism and you can see that tourism has a direct relationship with pollution. I can say that Peru is a very practical experience for me as a public administration graduate student because as we learned in our graduate classes it is sometimes very tough to make this world a better and safer place. Especially in Peru where the budgets are short, it is important to prioritize to help regions and towns in need.



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