Day 3: Getting to Machu Picchu, COMPLETE! Bucket List Day.
I will only ever wake up at 4 am if its to go up Machu Picchu. Thats it. It is such an ungodly hour. Pitch black and the sun is still sleeping and not planning on getting up for a couple hours, but nevertheless we choked down a couple granola bars, took out our flash lights and left the hotel, heading for the roughly 1400 Inka Steps that awaited us, up to, the one and only, Machu Picchu.
Olli dominating those last few Inka Steps to Machu Picchu entrance
Stumbling along the road to the base of the climb, it was actually quite brisk, the first time I had been up that early in a while and actually felt the cold of the morning. It felt amazing. We crossed over the bridge, handed out documents to a security guard, and started up the switch back bus road until the first step of the trail appeared. There was a very strong mist that morning that encompassed everything around us even at the lower altitudes. Being fitness guys, Olli and I laced up tight, and tried to tackle this Inka trail that "will take an hour and a half or so" the guide said, in under 40. As we climbed, the vegetation cuts in and out exposing a big rock in front of you, almost like a small Machu Picchu. The sun was rising and our footsteps became more sure as we could now see the floor, and we picked up speed still stopping to enjoy the view whenever necessary. As we approached the top, Olli looked at his watch "Not bad, 31 and a half minutes." We were now at the entrance to Machu Picchu.
Huayna Picchu in the distance
Travellers Tip: If you are doing the hike up in the morning, bring a spare shirt! We swapped out for some fresh clothes as we were absolutely drenched with sweat. As we waited for the others to arrive, and the busses who those who took that route, we saw the clouds were still hanging around, obstructing the view. However, impossible to really be in a bad mood in a place like this, we just chatted about facts and bits of information we had read prior to our arrival. Once our whole group was assembled, we entered the gates and walked along the path to the first real viewpoint. Almost like something out of a Hollywood movie, the clouds seemed to pick up speed and disappear like on a National Geographic time lapse. Our guide explained stories and facts about the location, the civilization, some of the facts about the Inkas and Machu Picchu, and then let us go along on our own, arranging to meet back at the front gate in the afternoon. Olli and I headed straight for Huayna Picchu. We had purchased the Huayna Picchu tickets in advance and breezed through the gate and up the first ascent. This walk will be taken with much more caution than the one leaded up to Machu Picchu entrance because of the sheer drop.
Olli climbing a ledge up Machu Picchu
Again, my fear of heights being tested. Once you get closer to the top, the peak starts to come together like a needle head and with quite a few people at the top, you need to take turns to get the famous photos looking down on Machu Picchu. Something I had no problems waiting for. The clouds started to part and the view down to Machu Picchu was simply stunning, but the most impressive and most moving thing, is that no matter how many photos you see, you can never really get a sense of where you actually are. The sheer magnitude of what it must have taken to not only get here, but to create buildings and a life in the middle of this mountain range. Mountains, jungle and the river that winds its way through all of it, is all you can see.
Me, very happy up Huayna Picchu
As we descended from Huayna Picchu, we clambered to the edge of the rock face to get a view of the height, and to our amazement, there was the bridge from the day before staring right back up at us. Our guide was right. Yesterday, crossing that large bridge that now looked like the width of a pencil, we had been looking up to the backside of Machu Picchu, with now evidence to suggest their could be, or could have been any form up civilization up there. For some reason, looking down at that bridge, and speaking about it to this day, gives me goosebumps.
We sat quietly on the ledge with the best view over looking Machu Picchu is all its glory with the alpaca's wandering around behind us. Its a moment we had looked forward to for so long, and you have to consciously run the thoughts of "you may never be back here" through your head constantly, to fully realize and appreciate where you are and how blessed you are to enjoy it. With our tired legs, we walked back down all 1400 plus Inka steps and into Aguas Calientes talking with fascination like kids who had just seen James Bond for the first time. After a soak in the natural baths in the town, and a bite to eat, we boarded the train back to Cusco and watched the landscape pass outside the window. I built up Machu Picchu in my head so much before coming here, and Machu Picchu delivered. And some.