Finally! Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu Travel Blog

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waiting for the buses

**warning - this is a very long entry**

 

I think I had been asleep for only two hours when our alarm went off at 4:30.  We were out the door by 5 and off to the train station.  We waited in line a really long time to pick up our train tickets.  I had no idea the train station would be so busy at 5 am on a Sunday morning.  Where was everyone going? 

 

We went to the luggage storage only to find out it isn’t really a luggage storage place.  They pointed again, this time we saw a blue sign in the street beyond the train station that said luggage storage.   So we walked up to the door and knocked.

first view of Machu Picchu at about 6 am.
  It was a little after 5:30 am and I wasn’t sure anyone would answer the door, but a man did.  It was S/5 per bag and the storage area looked a little sketchy but we really didn’t have much choice.  We did get baggage claim tickets which made us feel a little better.

 

We hurried back to the bus stop because we didn’t want to miss the bus and we didn’t know how many buses they’d have.  Turns out we didn’t need to worry.  There was a long line of people but there was also a long line of buses.  A very smart woman was selling sandwiches at the line so we didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg up at Machu Picchu for lunch, so we took her up on her offer.  We got on a bus and began the windy road up the mountain.  I was warned about how scary this ride was with all the switchbacks and drop offs.

Wayna Picchu is the big hill behind the ruins
  I honestly have to say that I think the ride up Mt. Vesuvius was scarier - I didn’t feel like I would die at any point on this bus ride (unlike that one). 

 

We got dropped off at the end of a long line at the entrance.  A few people ahead of us had hiked up and you could see the steam rising off their sweaty clothes.  Yeah, glad we took the bus.  We wandered through the gate and had an immediate decision to make:  go straight ahead or take the longer, uphill route.  Of course our over-achieving group took the flat, shorter route.  We got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu and it was not the view I was expecting.  Where is that postcard view?  Since we worked so hard standing in line and riding the bus, our group felt it was necessary to sit on the bench for a while and read from the guidebook.

The classic photo!
  Really?  Grrr. 

 

The guidebook informed us that the postcard view that I was expecting was up the longer route (of course!) so I insisted we go up there.  And it was worth it.  It was amazing to see.  I got my photo taken (for my Christmas card) and decided that I was happy and content to do whatever anyone wanted to do.  We opted not to get a guide (no surprise there, but really??).  We wandered around the ruins eavesdropping on other guides.  Why can’t we for once just get a guide? 

 

We had met a woman in the café in Cusco that told us she was “amazed at number of ways you could plummet to your death” at Machu Picchu.

my Christmas card photo
  And she was right.  There were so many ledges that you could step off into nothing-ness.  Doorways that open into what would be considered the second floor, minus the floor.  Steep, narrow, uneven stone steps along the edge of a building or terrace and places where you can just walk off the edge if you aren’t paying attention.

 

We saw some cool things that I need to do some post-trip research on.  We found ourselves over by the guard shack for the Wayna Picchu hike.  Only 400 people a day are allowed to do this hike and we wanted to make sure we were four of them.  I tried to crane my neck up to see the top of Wayna Picchu.  What are we thinking?  That’s a mountain!  The line moved a little slowly because we had to sign in and surrender our food products.  Food wasn’t allowed at Machu Picchu in general, but most people brought some anyway.

close up of ruins
  I was disappointed because I didn’t eat any breakfast nor did I have time to smuggle food in.  I doubted I would see my sandwich again.  We signed in at numbers 83-86 (good thing we got there early, lol!). 

 

Off we went.  The trail started going downhill then uphill, then back downhill.  Once we hit Wayna Picchu, it was all stone steps all uphill.  These were some pretty good sized steps, too.  I didn’t think I was going to make it.  I was so out of breath and had to keep resting after so many steps.  Fortunately, so did most people.  We went up and up and up.  Still more steps.  Near the top we hit some terraces and ruins.  We stopped to rest at a flat area and were amazed at the view of Machu Picchu from here.

close up of ruins
  So worth the killer hike.  But we weren’t to the top yet so we kept on climbing.  The steps got narrower and steeper.  I looked up ahead of me and saw some people “rock climbing”.  Hmmm… that doesn’t seem right, but it sure looks fun!  So I followed right behind them.  We ended up on top of some terrace thing and had to use some terrace steps to get back down.  It was quite the drop off should I miss the steps and go tumbling down the hill side.  But still very cool.  When I made it down the terrace steps I noticed a dark hole underneath the terraces.  Hmmm…a tunnel?  And then some people came through it.  Apparently I don’t follow directions well because you were supposed to go through the tunnel, not up and over the terraces.  Oh well, my way was more fun.  Besides, I never saw the entrance to the tunnel.
my window (when I lived here 500 years ago)

 

I still wasn’t at the top yet, so I climbed up some more steps and then a wooden ladder and then I was at the top!  Almost.  I just had to climb up on one big rock and there I was!  At the top of Wayna Picchu!  So very cool!  Great view, too.  I somehow lost everyone in my group and no one around me was speaking English so I had to enjoy my moment of glory by myself.  Wow, what a tough hike.  But I think Long’s Peak in Colorado was harder, mainly because of the altitude.  But still, this was pretty awesome.  I began to feel some glares because I was taking up the “high point” so I got down off my rock and worked my way back down.  There was no easy way down.  I basically slid down a sloped rock and caught myself before tumbling off the edge of the mountain.

quarry and terraces
  I sat down by the elevation sign and wrote in my journal because I didn’t know where anyone else was and this was a good place to people watch.

 

**still reading?  need a bathroom break?  here's the midpoint J**

 

It was so peaceful and quiet and amazing and then BEEP!  (talk talk talk in Spanish)  BEEP!  Stupid Nextel phones.  Why would you come to Machu Picchu, climb Wayna Picchu and then make a phone call from the top of it!  I wanted to strangle the guy.

huge, square cut blocks
  Or at least throw his phone off the mountain.  Really?  You have a business call when you’re at Machu Picchu?  Can’t you leave your work at home when you go on vacation?  I got to hear the entire conversation thanks to those speakers and rude people that use them in public.  Soon the call started breaking up and they had to talk by phone instead of walkie talkie.  And then that started breaking up too.  I could just imagine the call:  “ Can you hear me now?  How about now? Hello?  Hello?  Can you hear me?  CAN YOU HEAR ME?  HOW ABOUT NOW?  HELLO?”  Only it was in Spanish, so I’m just guessing.  I gave him some dirty looks.  Okay, a lot of dirty looks.
lots of green here
  Okay I glared at him during his entire phone call.  And now everyone knows you can get Nextel service at Machu Picchu but don’t even think of using it unless you want to get thrown off a cliff. 

 

Finally Sara and Amanda appeared and we worked our way down.  Or at least I did.  I guess they decided to sit and rest again or do whatever it is they do all the time.  I kept on going.  I knew Steph was ahead of me and thought I’d try to find her.  I went down a bunch of really narrow steps.  I actually had to hold on to the terrace walls behind me so I wouldn’t fall down the steps.  My foot was bigger than each step and I have really small feet.  But that sure makes the hike more exciting, knowing you can fall to your death at any moment!  Once I got off the terraces and ruins, it was back to those big blocky steps.

this is something...I'll have to look it up
  Going down was a lot easier than going up but I had to keep slowing down my momentum to keep from hurtling off an edge.  Okay, I wasn’t really going that fast but sometimes it felt like I was. 

 

I found Steph at the trail break to the Great Cave.  So we sat and waited for the other girls to catch up.  I assume they knew we were ahead of them because I don’t know how you can possibly move that slowly when hiking and I certainly wasn’t going back UP to look for them.  I guess they were taking in the sights but maybe they forgot they wanted to do the hike to the Great Cave and we didn’t have all day.  Eventually they caught up to us and we continued on.  We were getting a little low on water (and empty on food) but decided to keep hiking.  The trail continued going down stone steps - yay!  And then it went up stone steps… And then it went down many, many steps, maybe two hundred thousand of them.

window frame
  We descended deep into the jungle, lower even than Machu Picchu was.  It got warmer and stickier.  And the trail kept going down, down, down… 

 

We finally came to the Great Cave, also known as the Moon Temple.  It was very cool - a bunch of Inca blocks set inside a cave to make little rooms.  I parked myself on the couch (carved in a big rock) and reclined.  It was quite comfy.  I would come here to be alone and worship my astrology gods when the view from my window at my Machu Picchu home got old.  Or at least I would have if I had lived here 500 years ago. 

 

My legs were really tired and I had no idea how we were getting back.

the river
I certainly wouldn’t be going back up all those stone steps.  There must be a way back around the bottom that's more level... But I tried anyway.  It was really tough going back up.  I had to rest every 5 steps.  At least that’s what it felt like.  I only had about three swallows of water left so I had to ration myself and that just made the climb harder.  It seemed like we were climbing for 3 days in the desert with no water before we finally reached the part where we go back DOWN the steps.  Yay!  We went under the cool rock overhang and then back up more steps L  Eventually we made it back to the original trail and we knew the end was in sight! 

 

We did it!  When we signed out, we saw that we had been on our hikes for almost 5 hours!  The sign said it was 2 and a half hours with the Great Cave hike, but as Amanda pointed out, we’re below average hikers ;) Wow!  At least we got our food back.

ruins with the quarry in the back
  We had to leave the site so we could buy more water and eat our food.  There were a ton more people here now than before.  After our break we decided to look around for another 30 minutes or so, even though that meant more stone steps.  We saw a few more things and a few more places where you could easily plummet to your death. 

 

We were so fortunate to have a musician play for us on our bus ride back down the mountain.  Too bad I didn’t have any change to give him.  We got back to town and collected our bags.  We were pleased (and surprised) to find them untouched and safe.  We took them to the train station, even though we were plenty early, and sat in the bar area.  Whew, what a long and exhausting day and we still had a 4 hour train ride to Cusco! 

 

We saved money by taking the backpacker train - don’t do it!  The space is so cramped that your ride will seem 24 hours long instead of 4.
ruins from some ruins higher up...
  Steph and I shared a space with two tough looking guys.  My guy was asleep and very sprawled out.  His leg would jerk in his sleep and kick my leg.  Yep, lots of fun.  I had to squeeze both my legs into the space of about half a leg unless I wanted to play footsie (or worse) with that guy.  The other guy was really nice because he helped me lift my heavy bag onto the overhead rack.  But he looked pretty uncomfortable as well.  Finally after 3 hours of crampiness, enough people got off the train that we could spread out.  Hurray! 
wendermilliken says:
Hi! I really really enjoyed the way you described your experience at Machu Picchu, especially climbing up the Wayna mountain! It's true that you can die at any point if you get distracted and it's also true that it makes the adventure even more fun! I was there only a few days ago and came to share my photos here. If English were my native language I would write some more but...
Thanks for sharing!
Posted on: Jul 18, 2016
portia says:
great blog, thanks, and looks like a great day (trip) for you, wow!
Posted on: Jun 04, 2012
davegeddis says:
Awesome blog entry, very amusing in places haha I would defiantly like to see this, and your right about the cell phones, why bring them!!
Posted on: Aug 16, 2011
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waiting for the buses
waiting for the buses
first view of Machu Picchu at abou…
first view of Machu Picchu at abo…
Wayna Picchu is the big hill behin…
Wayna Picchu is the big hill behi…
The classic photo!
The classic photo!
my Christmas card photo
my Christmas card photo
close up of ruins
close up of ruins
close up of ruins
close up of ruins
my window (when I lived here 500 y…
my window (when I lived here 500 …
quarry and terraces
quarry and terraces
huge, square cut blocks
huge, square cut blocks
lots of green here
lots of green here
this is something...Ill have to l…
this is something...I'll have to …
window frame
window frame
the river
the river
ruins with the quarry in the back
ruins with the quarry in the back
ruins from some ruins higher up...
ruins from some ruins higher up...
me in a window
me in a window
rock that looks like mountain behi…
rock that looks like mountain beh…
this is something...
this is something...
hey little fellow!
hey little fellow!
steep terraces
steep terraces
watch your step
watch your step
walking down
walking down
hike up Wayna Picchu
hike up Wayna Picchu
me almost at the top
me almost at the top
just a few more stairs...
just a few more stairs...
Hmmm...this doesnt seem to be the…
Hmmm...this doesn't seem to be th…
Machu Picchu view from near the top
Machu Picchu view from near the top
not there yet...
not there yet...
thats a big drop down
that's a big drop down
terrace steps profile
terrace steps profile
Sara and Amanda after climbing t…
Sara and Amanda after "climbing" …
Machu Picchu and bus road from top
Machu Picchu and bus road from top
me on way down (rock in back is th…
me on way down (rock in back is t…
Just in case you werent sure wher…
Just in case you weren't sure whe…
ruins on Wayna Picchu
ruins on Wayna Picchu
some guy hiked up here in crocs?
some guy hiked up here in crocs?
strike a pose!
strike a pose!
Heading down
Heading down
Wayna Picchu ruins overlooking riv…
Wayna Picchu ruins overlooking ri…
going down steep steps
going down steep steps
Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu
Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu
Wayna Picchu ruins
Wayna Picchu ruins
Sara resting *sigh*
Sara resting *sigh*
small and steep steps
small and steep steps
the trail break
the trail break
railing on hillside is high point
railing on hillside is high point
down, down, down
down, down, down
Moon Temple
Moon Temple
me on my couch ;)
me on my couch ;)
Amanda, Sara, Steph and me
Amanda, Sara, Steph and me
Machu Picchu is way in back, view …
Machu Picchu is way in back, view…
a few more people here now
a few more people here now
the tree
the tree
Wayna Picchu from someplace that I…
Wayna Picchu from someplace that …
the tree and a bush
the tree and a bush
Hmmm...lets not take the Medium p…
Hmmm...let's not take the Medium …
the morters
the morters
Machu Picchu in the afternoon sun
Machu Picchu in the afternoon sun
me contemplating leaving
me contemplating leaving
the river from town
the river from town
our seatmates :)
our seatmates :)
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photo by: NazfromOz