After our tour of the Sacred Valley we hopped on a train to head to Aguas Calientes (the closest city to Machu Picchu). I met a nice Argentinian family on the train and briefly enjoyed the nice view we had of the Urabamba River before it got too dark to see. Upon arriving at our Hostal we did have a slight misunderstanding about the plans for the following day as we were told that someone would stand in line for us in the morning to get into Huana Picchu so we didn´t have to get up too early. After a bit of discussion all was cleared up, or at least, so I thought.
The next morning we were running late. We were supposed to catch a bus at 5:30 but didn´t make it out til about 5:37. We started to really get nervous though when we saw the girl who was supposed to be waiting in line for us in the hostal that morning. Apparently she was only waiting in the bus line for us and not the line at Machu Picchu. We then rushed out of the hotel to try and catch the next bus. Since the girls had been waiting in line for us we were able to cut in front of the huge line of people waiting. The bus we finally got on was the 5th bus! We weren´t sure if we were going to make it because there is a limit of 200 people who get to climb Huana Picchu in the morning.
At the entrance we luckily received our ticket for Huana Picchu. There were, in fact, more than 200 people in front of us but most of them opted to climb it at 10 am instead of first thing in the morning. This worked out perfect for us because we had a tour of Machu Picchu scheduled at 10 am and wouldn´t have been able to do it then anyways.
We aimlessly found our way through the ruins to the entrance of Huana Picchu and climbed for a little over an hour more or less straight up (7875 ft at the top – note Machu Picchu is surprisingly much lower in altitude than the city of Cusco itself). We did stop several times to take pictures of the steep and windy trail up this mountain and of course to catch our breath. While climbing we realized why everyone wanted to climb it at 10 instead of 7 am. We couldn´t see a thing because it was completely foggy around us. When we got to the top we were a bit disappointed with the lack of the view but we popped a squat and had a well deserved snack. As we headed down to meet our guide, the clouds did start to drift away and the beatiful view was revealed to us. It was not the view of Machu Picchu that you see on most post cards but rather the view of Machu Picchu from the mountain that is usually in the post card view. The mountain accross from us is where most of the classic pictures of Machu Picchu are taken and apparently is also a much easier hike. It´s now officially on my list of things to do on my NEXT visit to Machu Picchu. That´s right – I will come back!
The view on the way down is so nice that I we stopped even more often to take pictures and ended up having to run through some of the ruins to get back to our guide by 10am but we did make it. We’re just THAT good – sometimes. The tour itself of Machu Picchu was interesting. We visited all of the identified temples and discussed their likely uses as well as how the Incas may have lived, why the city was most probably abandoned, etc. This place definitely takes you back activating the power of your imagination. I was also fascinated by this lifestyle because anyone who knows me knows that if I were to decide where to build a residence it would most definitely be high up in the mountains – just like the Incas!
After our tour we were again in a rush to eat, buy a souvenir and catch our train back. This time we sat with some fellow americans and definitely welcomed this familiarness that we haven´t really had much of on our trip. They were a bit older than us, traveling with kids and definitely liked the bottle a lot. We didn´t talk much with the wives, but the husbands, who were sitting next to us, were both business owners and I found myself feeling even more comfortable since I’m apart of a very similar family.
My final words on Machu Picchu are that there is that it lives up to the hype. And although you will be admist hundreds and thousands of others in visiting this place, you will not be disappointed. It is so unique and refreshing that you will fork out the cash and the time and feel good about it – I promise!