DAY TWO: MACHU PICCHU AT LAST
Machu Picchu is the main reason we’ve come this far. I decided early on that this was going to be one of the first places we were going to visit. Several websites recommend to stay in Cuzco for a few days to adapt to the altitude. We went backwards, starting at Aguas Calientes (Now known as Machu Picchu Town). The longer we waited to get to Macchu Picchu the more tourists arrived from the US due to Memorial Day Holiday and I wanted Machu Picchu all for myself. So we were going to take our chances with altitude sickness. One blog recommended to start at Aguas Calientes to adapt to the altitude, because Cuzco is 3180′ higher than Machu Picchu itself. Where Machu Picchu is only 1279′ higher than Aguas Calientes.
We prepared our supplies the night before: water, fruits and lunch. You can take all of these into Macchu Picchu as long as you don’t leave the trash behind. The day has finally come….I am so excited that I barely slept the night before. We woke up at 3:30AM because we wanted to catch one of the first buses going to Machu Picchu. The first bus leaves at 5:30AM. Along with tourists it also takes the employees. Machu Pichu opens at 6:00AM and closes at 5:00PM. We got to the bus stop at 5:00AM, it was dark and cold and the line was already 2 or 3 blocks long. Many buses started to shuttle people at 5:35AM. We got in a bus after 6:00AM. The bus ride is nerve wrecking. The buses zigzag the mountain and sheer drops await careless drivers. I am glad that the bus driver knows the road. After about 10 minutes going up Huayna Picchu shows itself. We got off the bus, and we’re just a few steps away from the most beautiful site.
As soon as we go through the gates, we saw the first houses and immediately we started to take pictures. We walked some more steps and Machu Picchu unexpectedly presents itself with all of its grandeur. It was around 6:45AM, fog was still lingering around, but the fog made it looked even more beautiful. Our jaws dropped and we spend like 20 minutes in this place just taking pictures, there’s no rush we’re ready to spend the entire day here.
After an extensive research, I found out that the entrance tickets can be bought the following way: Macchu Picchu entrance only, MP + Huayna Picchu mountain hike, or MP +Machu Picchu mountain hike. I got a little confused and I thought that Huayna Picchu was another mountain and that Macchu Picchu mountain was the one in the background. I understood that the Huayna Picchu Mountain was the most challenging hike. Boy! Did I get it all wrong!! Let me show you….
As you can see on the pictures above, the Inkas even built on top of the Huayna Picchu but they also built on top of the Macchu Picchu mountain. We hiked Macchu Picchu mountain but we didn’t know that this was the most challenging hike of the two. One hour and half after we started our ascend we decided to have lunch with the best view ever. 4 hours later, after sweat and tears we made it to the summit. Let me be clear, we’re not physically fit for such a challenge, don’t ask me how we did it, because I still don’t know how we managed it but we did it and we have pictures to prove it!!
Let me tell you a little secret: I am a bit afraid of heights!!! Hiking Machu Picchu was an accomplishment I achieved thanks to my husband’s motivation. In some areas you are walking almost on the edge of the mountain. The steps are uneven, and they are not the same size. This is the original road that the Inkan priests walked to get to the summit whenever they made offerings to their God. At the summit, you get a 360 view of all the mountains and its surroundings. You can see how the stairs are at the edge of the mountain in the pictures below.
The fog quickly gave away and the day was clear and sunny. It is cold at this altitude, so you don’t feel the sun burning your skin. We ended up burned even tough we applied sunscreen.We came back into the ruins at around 2pm, most people were already gone. So we had Machu Picchu for ourselves. Everything just seems so surreal. Pictures will never do justice to this beautiful place, you have to see it with your own eyes.
At around 4pm, we rode the bus back to Aguas Calientes. Our legs were hurting, our skin was sun burned, we were hungry and tired…but we were elated that we had the blessing to experience Machu Picchu in all of its magnificence. We had enough time to pick up our luggage at the hotel, eat dinner and take our train back to Ollantaytambo. Luckily, we haven’t had problems with the altitude, at least not just yet.