Inca Trail Day 4: Jeebus, that's Machu Picchu!


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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
October 1st 2012
Published: November 17th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

October 1, 2012

Starting Elevation 2680m (8792ft)

4th Camp - Cusco!- Warm Bed and Shower




Well here it was, the day we had all been looking forward to: Day 4 Inca Trail and time for some Machu Picchu action! During the briefing the night before we decided to get up even earlier than we had been, 3:30am if memory serves me correctly...the deal with this day is to reach the Sun Gate by sunrise, and with this only being about a 4km hike it wasn't going to take long...plus everyone in the camps is thinking the same thing; dreading the thoughts of traffic jams on the trail for this final leg...

So we were up and doing our final packing, saying goodbye to our porters and tents before making our way down to the checkpoint...it was actually kind of funny seeing the panic in some sites as we and other groups rolled by; must have been thinking they'd be the last to see MP! At any rate made it to the checkpoint at 4:30am, two groups ahead of us...they don't open the gates until 5:30am so we had an hour of waiting around in the dark, watching groups behind us slowly lining up one after another...

Dawn began to break and the magic hour had arrived, gates are open! Took a few minutes to process the groups ahead of us but then it was our turn, permits checked and away we went...as mentioned it was only about 4kms to get to the Sun Gate, and sunrise was just after 6:30am I think so we had the better part of an hour to get there...while there was some bunching up of trekkers at the beginning, once the faster ones went by we all settled peacefully into our own paces...

Feeling better this morning, and with the anticipation of seeing Machu Picchu I was huffing it along pretty good, and with a final near vertical staircase climbed there I was making my way into the Sun Gate...

And there it was: Machu Picchu! I couldn't believe it: Here I was standing in the Sun Gate looking at Machu Picchu...a wave of emotions came over me; from satisfaction, exhaustion and relief that I had made it to the end of the Trail, to awe and wonderment of where I was standing and what I was witnessing at that exact moment in time and place, amazing...I had this overwhelming feeling that I had earned this view, that the past four days were a trial or test that had to be passed in order to have the privilege of standing here in the Sun Gate and gazing down upon one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen...

I found it quite different seeing MP from the Sun Gate: all pictures you see of the site seem to suggest it's the highest point in the area, sitting on top of a mountain...and while it is sitting on a mountain, it is surrounded by much higher peaks, and it's this context that really blew me away...and the fact that we lucked out and got a sunny, clear day was absolutely brilliant...who doesn't want to see the sun rise on MP? Perfect!

We stood there admiring the views for about half an hour, snapping picture after picture and trying to get that perfect shot...as mentioned in my previous blog, my camera was acting up (although didn't know at the time, the pics in the LCD display looked fine, wasn't until I got home that I saw the graininess...) but still managed some great pictures...

We then began to slowly make our way down from the Sun Gate, about a 45 minute walk but the views along the way were spectacular...from our vantage point we could see the first of the visitors making their way into the site, knowing it wouldn't be long before the place would be crawling with tourists...as it was early we were able to see some of the site before the big bus tours rolled in which was great, but certainly by late morning there wasn't a chance of taking a picture without someone in it...

Had a fantastic two hour tour of the place from our guide David, again wowing us with his knowledge and passion for the site...it was incredible seeing the workmanship in the various buildings, and really just soaking in the history and magnificence of the place...and once again just taking the time to stop and look at the surroundings, words just don't do it justice...

We were then left to our own designs for a couple of hours, agreeing to meet at the shuttle bus terminal at noon...spent a couple of warm hours poking
Final steps...Final steps...Final steps...

...yep, that's the Sun Gate ahead...
around, occasionally bumping into fellow trekkers but by then the hordes had arrived, looking slightly better (and certainly smelling a lot better!) than us ruffians so it was time to say goodbye and make our way down to lunch in Aguas Calientes...it was waiting for the shuttle bus that I came to fully appreciate the whole adventure: folks arriving by bus rather than the Inca Trail would not see the full grandeur of the place, it's almost like not being able to see the forest for the trees...you can hike up to the Sun Gate from Machu Picchu, which I would certainly recommend if not hiking the trail, but I would guess that the majority of folks don't...bit of a shame...

Reunited with Alison, Dominik and Ruben over lunch...at this point we were all excited at the prospect of a proper bed and more importantly a hot shower! So it was to the train station and back to Ollantaytambo where a bus was waiting to take us back to Cusco...

So, final thoughts...this was one of the most challenging things I've done, but in the end it is arguably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced travelling...it
First glimpse...First glimpse...First glimpse...

Machu Picchu!
can be rare that the actual adventure exceeds expectations, but that moment where I crossed into the Sun Gate and looked down on Machu Picchu for the first time will stay with me as one of the most beautiful sights I will likely ever witness...

Enjoy the (somewhat grainy) pics...


Additional photos below
Photos: 46, Displayed: 26


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MP IIMP II
MP II

...there will be a few of these pics...haha...


4th December 2012

Can you share any tips on how to get an awesome Machu Picchu tour guide?
5th December 2012

Oh man, no idea, sorry...I did the Inca Trail/Machu Picchu with G Adventures, and the same guide did both the trail and MP...

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