Salkantay Day 5: MACHU PICCHU

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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
August 14th 2015
Published: September 3rd 2015
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Today was the day. All my hard work would pay off. We woke up at 3AM and were out of the hotel by 3:30AM. We walked 10 minutes to the bus station and were one of the first people in line. We chatted a bit with other people in line. The 2 people directly beside us were 2 Americans from Washington who were also teachers. People came through the line with offers of tea, coffee, snacks for sale. People gratefully bought them as it was a bit chilly waiting in line. Puma got there around 5AM and he had to buy his ticket because he had forgotten to do that last night. Before he got there a minor kerfuffle occurred in the line as groups tried to clump together and people got annoyed with people cutting the line for them to do this. Security kept things under control thought and it was not a big deal because there were more than enough buses for everyone.

Shortly after 5AM we loaded the buses with everyone else. The buses were quite comfortable and there was a video playing telling us about Machu Picchu and the Cusco area. We left at 5:30AM for the 20 minute ride to Machu Picchu. Along the way you could see the people who were walking to Machu Picchu. They all had headlamps on their heads to see the way. We got to Machu Picchu a few minutes before 6AM and waited with the over thousand people at the entrance. It was a nice display of humanity all come together for the same purpose. We saw the groups we had hiked with over the last few days. At precisely 6AM we poured through the entrance and got our tickets scanned. You cannot buy tickets at the entrance you must buy them before hand in Agua Calientes or on the internet.

Puma took us through Machu Picchu and we stopped at various important points and he told us the story about the Incas. They had a vast empire and were quite advanced before the arrival of the Spanish. They were still the most powerful state in South America when the Spanish arrived but they were in the middle of a civil war at this time and that is one of the reasons their empire fell. It was a good history lesson and I remember that Hiram Bigham doesn't have a great reputation because he took full credit for rediscovering Machu Picchu and never returned the artifacts that he took from there. Machu Picchu is a beautiful and interesting place to visit and I enjoyed the end the tour where I took a picture with a group of Llamas they keep on site.

After the tour with Puma we were on our own. Robert and I tipped Puma for all his hard work as he left for his next tour. Robert was going to climb Huayna Picchu and I was going to climb Montana Picchu. I went just outside the site and used the bathroom which cost 1 sole. After that I dropped off my bag and paid 3 soles for them to store it until I got back. I wanted to be as light as possible for this hike. It takes about 20 minutes from the entrance to reach the start of the hike. I gave them my ticket and signed my name to the guest book. You put your name, age, and start time. This is so they know everything got down off the mountain. You can start the hike anywhere from 7AM to 11AM but you have to be out by 5PM when the site closes. A French couple in their 60's started right after me and looked to be in good shape. My legs were feeling ok as I started the hike but I knew it was not going to be easy. The hike is not an easy one and goes mostly at a 30 degree angle and is mostly composed of stone steps. I was a 1/3 of the way up when I started to feel exhaustion set in. I sat down on a boulder and looked at the rainbow flag at the top and thought it was still so far away. A few other people I know passed me and I chatted with them and decided I couldn't give up at this point. This was repeated a few times over the next little while as I lost energy and wanted to give up. Each time either someone I knew or some stranger would encourage me along and tell me how beautiful the view was from the top. Finally when I was 2/3 the way up I found a new burst of energy as I decided I couldn't give up at this point. I was near the top when the French couple passed me on the way down. They had made it in excellent time. I hope someday to be as healthy as they are. I passed a Scottish gentleman near this point and he appeared to be stuck as the last steps were on the cliff and looked dangerous. A few minutes later I reached the top and with a feeling of joy I saw the flag. The view from the top was beautiful I cannot describe in words how wonderful it was. It was more than worth all the hard work. I stayed up for about 20 minutes before heading down.

Now on the way down I had a problem. The painkillers failed and my legs were killing me but I struggled one difficult step at a time. I gave encouragement to people I saw struggling up and told them how beautiful it was. It took about an hour and a half to get up the mountain and little less time to get down. After this I left Machu Picchu and got on the bus and headed back to Agua Calientes.

I didn't have any other plans for the day so I rested, ate a meal at a restaurant and got a nice massage. It was a great day and I am glad I made Machu Picchu my South American trip. We took a train back to Ollytampo and than took a car back to Cusco where I checked back into my hostel. It was Pariwana hostel as well and I was exhausted. I more or less passed out on my bed and went to sleep.

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