Machu Picchu

May 31 (Day 13)

Boom, boom, boom!  There's a party in my room!  

Unfortuantely, there isn't. 

It's just before midnight and we wake up to what sounds like a marching band right next door.  But it's the middle of the night.  It must be some idiot downstairs blaring his stereo.  I get up and look out the window and sure enough, it's a bloody parade complete with a marching band and dancing women!  I must be dreaming.  I pinch myself, rub my eyes, look out the window again, and still see a parade circling the main plaza square just feet away from our hostel!

Don't these people know that the only reason people stay overnight in Aguas Calientes is to wake up extra early the next morning to catch the sunrise atop Machu Picchu?  Welcome to Aguas Calientes, where they parade day and night.

Back to bed as we're waking up at 4am to get in line for the bus to Machu Picchu. Yes, that's right. 4am!  We talked to quite a few people the day before, and there was consensus that if you wanted to catch one of the first set of buses to Machu Picchu, you'd have to get in line by 4:30am to have a chance.  

We purchased our bus tickets the day earlier at the kiosk, and good thing we did, because I don't think the wicket was open that early in the morning. If you're budgeting for your trip, here are the bus ticket prices to get you to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary entrance from Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Village).

So we waited in line until around 5:30am when they started loading up the buses, and it was then up the winding road to Machu Picchu.

Considering we didn't have a chance to hike the Inca Trail, I really wanted to climb Huayna Picchu (Wayna Picchu), which is the mountain rising over Machu Picchu.

In none of the literature I read about Machu Picchu was it clear where we could pick up tickets to climb Huayna Picchu.  All I knew was that they were available somewhere at the Sanctuary. It ended up not being an issue as we just lined up like everyone else at the Sanctuary's entrance and two officials just walked down the line and asked if we wanted to be part of the 7am or 10am group. There apparently is a larger demand for the seven o'clock admission but since we had the choice of either time slot, we chose the ten o'clock slot as there would be fewer tourists at Machu Picchu in the four hours leading up to 10am, than after returning from the summit.  The number of daily visitors allowed to enter Huayna Picchu is restricted to 400 so we considered ourselves lucky (and smart) to have received these coveted tickets without any difficulties besides having to wake up extra early.

After the gates to Machu Picchu opened at 6:00 am, we walked up the pathway and were greeted to the following spectacular view...

The moment had finally come.. we actually made it to Machu Picchu!  The sun was shining and it was neither too hot or too cold. Just perfect! You can read about the history of Machu Picchu elsewhere so I'll just post some photos for your viewing pleasure...

And the Inca Bridge...

To be quite honest, Machu Picchu seemed to be slightly smaller than what I was expecting.  That being said, it was still a magnificent sight to see and appreciate this historical site withstanding the test of time and in such great condition, despite all the earthquakes and torrential downpours it has encountered.  It's amazing how they used to build things to last with what is considered "primitive" technology.

Ten o'clock was quickly approaching so it was time to head to the gateway to Huayna Picchu, and make our way up the steep stairs hugging the edge of the mountain. Climbing the mountain was a test of determination and endurance as the altitude was showing its effects on people we passed on our way up.  This trail is definitely one you don't want to rush as the scenery is simply spectacular and the limited number of hand railings (in the form of steel cables bolted to the bedrock) makes climbing the narrow and steep stairs a bit dangerous as one wrong step or slip could result in a nasty fall.  Irregardless, the hike was definitely worth it and was undeniably, the highlight of the day as the hike and view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains, canyons, and river below provided a surreal and an unforgettable experience.

The climb down the mountain was actually more difficult than the climb up as the steps are not only steep but also very small. They were barely the width of my foot so I had to walk sideways down a majority of the steps on the upper portion of the mountain or else I would have certainly fallen.

Now for some tips regarding your visit of Machu Picchu:

  • Bring a small daypack to carry your water bottle, snacks, camera, batteries, sun block, shorts, and extra t-shirt. 
  • Wear hiking shoes with good threads if you plan on hiking Huayna Picchu.
  • A guide isn't necessary.  Stick around a spot long enough, and you'll hear guides talk about it in several different languages. The funny thing is that the guides sometimes contradict one another in their explanations.
  • Get there early.  The tour groups arrive later in the day and they are pretty big.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the Sanctuary's employees for assistance in taking photos or getting directions. They're really friendly and helpful..
  • Don't be in a rush. You've come a long way to see this. Enjoy your surroundings!

So to conclude, there's a lot of hype surrounding Machu Picchu but based on my experiences, it's definitely warranted.  A trip to Peru would not be complete without a visit to this amazing archeological discovery.

1 comment:

  1. Huayna Picchu makes Outside Magazine's list of the 10 most dangerous hikes

    I'm skeptical but now there are at least 9 more hikes on my bucket list and one of them is nearby....


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