It’s not as bad as it sounds.
Picture it Machu Picchu just 30 feet shy of 8,000 feet or 2,430M, and intact and Inca Citadel. So perfect the design its stone buildings need no mortar and had built-in plumbing. I was sitting under a shade-giving umbrella in the cafe near the entrance, which is where the bus stop to bring in new travelers and take the weary ones back down the mountain. This is perfect because I don’t climb/hike/walk up any mountains. I saw our guide for the entire Peru trip was at the stop and pointed to the cafe where I would wait until it was time for our group to leave. I was early, so it was just 2 or 3 people from our group, out of 30.
I would look up every couple of minutes and saw some other people on tour waiting around (in direct sunlight like people who don’t burn in 3 minutes), so I kept on reading. I thought the group would wave me over when it was time to depart. The group thought I was a grown adult (not really, I’m still not an adult), and I would join them myself (like an adult would).
The next time I looked up (darn you book for being so entertaining), I didn’t see anyone from the group. I waited for the next bus thinking our guide would take the next one up to collect everyone else. It wasn’t just my group boarding. It was everyone on the mountain that doesn’t want to walk down. I waited around two bus trips and realized I just needed to go down myself, and it’s two US dollars to get down, so no issue.
At the bottom of Machu Picchu is a town called Machupicchu, Machupicchu Pueblo, or Aguas Calientes. It is literally a one-road town, and the road goes from the train station through the restaurants, hotels, B&B, shops to the Bus station. This is where you queue up for the ride up the mountain. So even I, with no sense of direction, could make my way back to the train station. Our guide told us before we left the train station that we all meet up if we break off to explore; we just had to be at the station before the last train left.
I walked to our restaurant, saw the group, and regaled them with my tale of woe. The tour guide was the most upset, thinking she had lost one. To prevent any repeat performance, she had me set in the front of the bus for the rest of the trip. The moral of the story is if you want a front seat on a tour bus, get a little lost.
The real point is don’t panic and communicate better; I should have asked my guide can you come and get me when we leave. Or just worn a bigger hat to keep me in the shade while I waited for everyone else.
Below is a beautifully rendered map to help orientate everyone.