Todays the day! The sun is shining , the tank is clean (actually it was pouring rain but I just wanted to use a Finding Nemo reference) and we were going to Machu Picchu! I had barely slept a wink all night because I was too excited. Before last night I hadn’t really thought about seeing Machu Picchu because we were doing some many activities but after wandering around Aguascalientes and knowing we were so, so close the excitement got to be too much.
We packed up and walked down to the meeting point about a 15 minute trek out of town. Despite the pouring rain, nothing was going to ruin my good spirits – I was going to see Machu Picchu! At 5am they opened the entrance gate and we were off, it was a race to be the first up there. What I stupidly hadn’t realised that the hike to Machu Picchu would be a direct uphill ascent. I was still half asleep and my body couldn’t comprehend standing up, let alone tackling stairs! Within minutes I was out of breath and sweaty from the humid jungle temperature. Peeling off my jumpers and jacket, I hiked in just my singlet top and plastic poncho – it wasn’t exactly the most fashionable way to trek!
The hike took about an hour and I was one of the first of the group to get to the top to the next entrance point. It was such a relief to be there, despite my wet hair and soaked through clothes – the photos later on were going to look interesting! I met with some others from the group and we waited until the entrance point was open and the rest of the group arrived. The sun had come up by now but the morning air was still chilly, I rugged up again in what dry clothes I had left and we entered the gates to Machu Picchu.
I can’t describe the feeling of seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. It was a combination of elation, amazement and excitement. It was like a scene out of Avatar, the massive mountains floated around the misty clouds and Wayna Picchu stood majestically in the background. It was funny because the most common touristic image of Machu Picchu is actually of Wayna Picchu Mountain. But it is such a grand looking bit of stone; so its understandable why they promote using this view. We had a two-hour tour around the Machu Picchu site but I didn’t take a word in, I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere. I was finally here! By now the sun had come out fully and the cool air had disappeared. My hair and clothes dried out and it was obvious that we had picked a perfect day.
We walked around the site for for awhile and I took more photos than necessary but nothing could capture how it really looked. The tiredness from this mornings hike started to kick so a group of us found a perch n the sun to lay down in until it was our time to hike Wayna Picchu. By now the sun had fully come out and the heavy clouds were now just small blobs of white fluff floating in the sky and the entire site was now clearly in view. We sat and people watched for an hour or so before putting our bags in the lockers and mentally preparing for the next hike.
Wayna Picchu or Huayna Picchu means ‘young peak’ in Quechua and is 360 metres higher than Machu Picchu. Only 400 people a day are allowed to climb up the steep and dangerous mountain and after slowly making my way to the top using the cables provided I can understand why. It was a tough hike to the top but once we got there, the view was more than worth it. Looking out over the Machu Picchu site, we could see everything from a bird eye view and it was amazing to see how big the site actually was.
We sat on the edge of the mountain for awhile, letting our eyes take in the landscape and our heart rate to slow up. The people milling about below looked like ants and the heavy flowing river that we hiked along yesterday looked like a small creek. Even the zig-zag road from Aguas Calientes looked like a small path, it was unbelievable how high we were really were.
Climbing up further past the stone buildings, I sat on a rock at the highest point of the mountain and basked in the hot sun. At this point in time, there was no place else I’d rather be. The picture of Machu Picchu that I had seen for years was finally a reality and I wasn’t about to let that go quickly. As I made my way slowly down the small and narrow steps to the first lookout, I didn’t even want to blink so I wouldn’t miss any of the view.
Hiking back down Huayna Picchu was considering quicker than hiking up, though it didn’t mean it was any easier! I’ve always thought hiking downhill was worse than going uphill – not only because you know how far you have to go but its also a killer on your hips and knees! (thanks Mumma for the dodgy knees! :p) We made it down to the starting point within an hour and by then the hunger pains were out of the world. With my housemates E and C, we took the lazy way and caught the bus down to Aguas Calientes, which went super quickly because I slept the entire way.
We were starving by the time we reached the bottom so we found the closest restaurant and ordered a feast of Mexican food. It cost a bomb but I wasn’t bothered, we deserved it after our massive day! After lunch we walked one street to a French patisserie and had coffee and chocolate cake to completely put us into a food coma. Luckily we didn’t have to go far to get to the train to head back to Cusco.
I was sad that the trip was over, we had seen so much and done so many cool things in such a short period of time. I’d made new friends and a bunch of new memories.. And I’d been to Machu Picchu – nothing was going to make me happier at this point! By the time we got back to our home stay it was 11pm at night and we all fell into bed without even getting changed. Real life could wait until tomorrow!