Finally! Machu Picchu!
Machu Picchu Travel Blog› entry 14 of 26 › view all entries
**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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
**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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.