We arrive at Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu Travel Blog

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This is the view we had from the Sun Gate. You can see why Juan calls it the Cloud Gate!
      This morning we easily awoke at four in the morning, feeling anxious, exhausted, and excited all at once. Bundled in our warm layers, we all huddled inside the meal tent for a small breakfast of toast and hot chocolate. Meanwhile, the porters rushed around rapidly dismantling tents, packing sleeping bags, and gathering supplies in preparation for an early departure so that they can catch an early train back to the start of the trail with all of the trek's supplies.
      By 4:40 in the morning, we were following Wilfredo down the dark path, flashlights guiding our cautious steps, towards the checkpoint. We arrived at the checkpoint at 4:50, and a long line of fellow hikers formed behind us as we patiently waited in the dark for the doors to open and let us through at 5:30.
I am finally posing in front of Machu Picchu!! This photo is taken from the watchman's hut.
Once we made it past the checkpoint, we carefully continued along the trail in a line of eager tourists. Since the sun had not yet risen during the first part of our journey, the pace was a bit slower than usual. Every step we took was painful, especially when we had to take a step down. Once the first glimmer of sunlight lit our narrow path, the pace picked up. This portion of the trail was clearly older than other areas, and it probably best represented the Inca Trail at its earliest form. The trail contoured a mountainside and then dropped into a cloud forest before reaching a near vertical flight of steps that lead to Initpunku, or the Sun Gate. After nearly an hour and a half of climbing, we arrived at the Sun Gate, or as Juan calls it - the Cloud Gate.
      At this point, the whole of Machu Picchu was supposed to be spread out before our very eyes.
Karen and I are ecstatic to have arrived finally!
However, we were met by a dense cloud forest that only allowed the very tips of the mountains to peak our for our cameras. Juan reassured us, explaining that this weather was extremely typical at this point in the morning, and he promised that we would get our postcard picture further down the trail. We began our final descent to Machu Picchu, and we approached the "watchman's hut" twenty minutes later. Juan was correct because we were at last able to appreciate the ruins of the lost city of the Inca's in all its glory, and without too many clouds blocking the view. The stone ruins, not rediscovered until 1911, bridge the gap between two massive Andean peaks as the surrounding cottony clouds and a layer of mist create a mystical atmosphere that leave visitors awestruck. From our viewpoint, the sun casted a brilliant light onto the ruins, and it was hard to believe that we had at last arrived at such a spectacular destination.
Jason and I are jumping for joy in front of Machu Picchu!
From the watchman's hut, we were able to capture all the postcard shots we wanted on our cameras.
      After soaking up the atmosphere, we descended to the main entrance to enter the ruins and begin a two hour guided tour with Juan. We sat along a stone terrace wall as Juan began an informative, twenty minute lecture on the history of Machu Picchu. The famous ruins were rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American archaeologist from Yale, with help from a local farmer who was aware of its existence. It is now commonly believed that Machu Picchu was a royal retreat for the Inca leaders. Other evidence suggests that it was both a ceremonial and agricultural center. What is truly amazing about the site is that it escaped destruction by the empire-raiding Spaniards, who never found the structure, most likely because it is hidden so high in the clouds.
What a gorgeous view of the lost city of the Incas!
It is not known why the complex was abandoned in less than a century after construction, but some believe that it was a result of the Inca's civil war or a drought that drove the Incas elsewhere.
      We spent a couple hours exploring the ruins with Juan. We visited the room of the high priest and a few temples, both of which were constructed with near perfect stonework in contrast to the secular buildings on the compound. We also went up a few flights of stairs, passing by llamas who also wander through the ruins, to see the Inithuatana, which looks like a sundial and functioned as an astronomical and agricultural calendar. This stone structure survived in perfect form for nearly five centuries until 2001. A film company shooting a commercial for a Peruvian beer sneaked camera equipment into the site and irreparably damaged the stone Inithuatana when a 1,000 pound crane fell and chipped off its corner.
Juan lectures us about Machu Picchu's history as we sit amongst the ruins.
The crane operator was sentenced to six years in prison!
      After the tour ended and we had a chance to explore the ruins on our own, the three of us took the twenty five minute bus ride to the small town of Aguas Calientes, where we were to meet our group for lunch. As the bus careened its way down the mountain I realized that if I were meant to die in Peru, it was going to be on this very bus. The driver sped down the mountain, which offered no protective railings to prevent the bus from plummeting to the valley floor. I decided to close my eyes for the remainder of the ride because I could not bear to witness how close the wheels came to the edge of the cliff any longer.
Here is another fabulous view!

     Luckily, we made it to Aguas Calientes, a small tourist town dominated by sellers of cheap souvenirs and weary backpackers celebrating their treks along the Inca Trail. We enjoyed a nice lunch with our fellow travelers, received our "I Survived the Inca Trail" certificates, and then were required to spend four more hours in the town, longing for showers and beds to sleep in. We passed the time by finding a two-hour laundry service, which restored our hiking attire after being covered in layers of dirt, sweat, and filth. We also visited an Internet cafe and chronicled our decline in physical appearance as the days passed on the trail through photos on my camera.
      We noticed a rather peculiar practice the town employs for collecting garbage.
Llamas wander around the ruins as well!
Two men walk down the railroad tracks with large garbage cans on dollies. They start ringing bells, and then restaurant and shop owners flock to them with trash bags in arm. Once they have collected all the bags of garbage, they continue down the track and repeat the process.
      At 6:00, we boarded a train to Ollantaytambo, where we then hopped aboard a bus to Cusco. We finally arrived at our hostel around 9:30, where we enjoyed the most amazing showers of our lives, climbed into our warm, cozy beds, and fell fast asleep dreaming about our Machu Picchu adventure!
AliMcCann says:
You did it! What an amazing experience this has been, not only for you guys but for all of us following along from home! Congratulations on your "survival!" Love all the pics too, especially your celebration ones!
Posted on: Aug 17, 2009
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I am finally posing in front of M…
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Here is another fabulous view!
Here is another fabulous view!
Llamas wander around the ruins as …
Llamas wander around the ruins as…
Karen and I pose on the ruins.
Karen and I pose on the ruins.
We survived the Inca Trail!! Here …
We survived the Inca Trail!! Here…
Machu Picchu
photo by: NazfromOz