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Published: June 29th 2017
Geo: -13.52, -71.99
Its not hard to see why Machu Picchu is not only a 'Wonder of the World' but arguably one of the most hyped and famous global travel destinations. We woke this morning around 4.45 for a 5am breakfast and 5.30 bus ride to the wonder. If not for Nats coughing, I might have finally had a few hours sleep. Poor Nat, has picked up a nasty chesty cough over the last few days. One would speculate the altitude we've been to would be an agitating factor to her asthma.
By 5.30 we were crammed into buses for a 30 minute drive up a steep, winding road into the mountains. Machu Picchu gets rain over 200 days a year, so we were hoping for the best. Early signs were pretty encouraging, scattered clouds and mist with otherwise clear skies. Just as we arrived at the summit, by the entry gates, a thick mist began to roll in. Our guide assured us this was normal due to jungle condensation and was 150% sure it would clear. I'm no weather man but I felt he would be right, that the morning sun would eventually clear the mist.
We passed through the turn styles
where we commenced a two hour private guided tour of the ruins. The first stop was a steep climb up to the guardhouse where you could get the famous "postcard shot" of the site. Well suffice to say, receiving a postcard with a photo in the current conditions would be both pointless and confusing. The mist was so thick it could have been a view of anywhere. Feeling a little disheartened, a trio of friendly llamas appeared from the dreary mist to lift our spirits, trotting by and even giving a friendly squeaky sound of urgency as they went about their business. With visibility low, we proceeded with our guided tour, heading down to explore the ruins. With every passing minute the mist continued to disperse. What an absolutely amazing place. It boggles the mind to comprehend how the Incas managed to build this city. We wandered through the ruins learning about different buildings, the history, culture and beliefs of the Incas. Noteworthy and memorable sites included, the temple of the Sun and sundial, altars of worship, offerings and sacrifice, the six homes of the prominent families that lives here, the entrance to the Wayna Picchu trail (restricted), storehouses and
the Temple of the Condor. Just being in this place was inspiring and almost empowering. Not just the site and city itself, but the grandiose, shape and majesty of the mountains that towered all around us, contrasted by the depth of the valleys below. By the time our tour was over it was around 8.30am, the mist had all but cleared, and the sun was shining.
Now we had hours of free time to explore, take photos and do a couple of mini hikes at our leisure. With Pete and Sam, Nat and I decided to take the hour uphill hike to the Sun Gate. The Sungate marks the end of the Inca Trail and offers a higher view of the Machu Pichu ruins and Wayna Picchu. It was quite a hike up there, not just the incline and steps but mostly the merciless beating heat of the sun. It was certainly well worth it though. The track was a good workout and offered spectacular panoramic views of the entire area. Stopping off at a temple along the way, we eventually reached the sungate, soaked in sweat with a fair sense of accomplishment. We spent a while just resting, having a
snack and enjoying this place. The Sungate gives a great overlook of the ruins below and looks across at similar altitude to Wayna Picchu the highest peak of this archaeological site. At the top there, a remote and isolated set of ruins can be seen.
The walk back to Machu Picchu was probably around 45 minutes and a pleasure going downhill. We still had time to take on a second mini hike, the path to the Inca Bridge. The four of us happened to run into the rest of the Intrepid Group on the way, fresh from a few days hiking the Inca trail. Via some friendly llamas, a few of us headed to the entrance of the Inca Bridge track. This track isn't particularly difficult but it is dangerous and scary. For that reason, all hikers are required to sign in and sign out before starting the track. The metre wide path winds around amazingly high mountains and cliff edges with mostly no barriers whatsoever. The drop from the path edge is terrifying. It looked a kilometre down to the valley, with mountains of apparently equal height still rising above us. It wasn't too far (15-20mins?) before we arrived at
the Inca Bridge. In its current state, that consisted of about 5 wooden planks, suspended over a crevasse on the cliffs edge, leading to a staircase that seemed to go nowhere. Apparently, said stairs do wind along and across the cliffs to a secret temple somewhere. This is inaccessible. These steps looked 20-30cm wide..As we navigated our way back to sign out we were practically charged by another duo of adventurous llamas! Refusing to sign in, the llamas started to hike the Inca Bridge path themselves against all advice, firm in their belief that the grass could be greener out there. I'm glad we didn't have to negotiate right of way on a metre wide track with a llama!
After another hour or so exploring and taking photos in perfect weather conditions we returned to the buses to descend the mountain to Aguas Calientes. We had spent around 7 hours at Machu Picchu. The second we boarded the buses it began to rain. Lucky us again.We had a couple burgers at the town square then collected our bags from the hotel. With rain now belting down, we made use of the ponchos wed purchased for our journey to the train
station. I felt like Grimace wearing it, but my poncho kept me relatively dry until we boarded. The 3.38 train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo took us around 2 hours. It was comfy enough, but included the most bizarre, unexpected train entertainment Iv ever experienced. I'm still not sure exactly what happened. Some bizarre colorful combination between a demon and a clown with a terrifying mask started dancing around in a flamboyant fashion, forcing people to dance against their will. If that wasn't enough, he marked the beginning of a "fashion show". This consisted plainly of two train staff prancing down the aisles to loud music dressed in varieties of local clothing. Upon conclusion of the show, the train staff turned the carriage temperature down from 20C to -125C to encourage the purchase of the displayed clothing. Most people who didn't buy anything froze to death.
Finally, we arrived back at Ollantaytambo for a bus transfer back to Cusco for our final night. The trip back took around 2 hours, arriving at the hotel in Cusco in the dark just before 8. Our guide, Will, told the group our final nights dinner would be at 8.30. Of the 16 of us
tourists, only 5 left the hotel (most too exhausted), 1 left before the restaurant, and two left at the restaurant, not happy with the menu variety. That meant it was just Nat, Will and I for the last dinner of our tour. No complaints as our guide wanted to go back to Marcelo Batata (from the other night) so we knew we were in for some great food! So that marked the end of our final day of our Intrepid Tour in Peru! Tomorrow we fly to Santiago, Chile for the final chapter of our honeymoon.
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