Machu Picchu - Stair Master 3500
Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
93Trip End Aug 15, 2013
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Michelle and I had decided back in Cusco to book and pay for our extended hike up to the top of Huayna Picchu. This was going to double our hiking for the day and the number of steps we were to take on but it would afford us views back onto Machu Picchu from above. When the option of catching a bus from Aquas Calientas to the gates of Machu Picchu came up Michelle and I discussed and sort of decided to book the bus trip and pay the extra money figuring the boys were too tired and we would never be able to get them to do both hikes. However, when we approached the boys about it they said..."No Way!!! We want to do the whole thing." "Do you realize it means waking up at 3:45 AM and doing stairs for an hour and a half, walking around the tour of Machu Picchu for a couple hours, and then doing stairs for another hour and a half to the top of Huayna Picchu"? No problem our two little troopers said. So away we went starting the hike at 5:00 AM.
Now the first part of the hike was just to get to the gate / check point at the start of the trail. Here we stood in line until the gates actually opened. We just needed to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to make it to the top and join the rest of our group for the tour with "Kenny" our guide.
Finally up we went in the dark and rain, step after step taking a break every 100 to 200 steps or so to catch our breath and have some water. The boys once again blew me and Michelle away. They just kept trudging along and never complained at all. Aiden and I counted the number of steps we took (it gave my mind something to do rather than focusing on the pain my legs and butt were feeling) and compared numbers each stop. We were always within a step or two and ended up at 2043 steps by the time we got to the parking lot at the gates entering Machu Picchu. I don't think my butt has ever felt firmer!!!
The ruins themselves were amazing. There is a special energy up there. A spiritualness that I have never felt before. I'm not sure if it was the altitude (2 500 meters), the physical exertion, the age of the ruins (15th century) or just the fact that you are walking through some of the most amazing architecture ever done by man, but I definitely felt an aweness of the area.
Machu Picchu was constructed under the rule of the 9th Incan ruler, Pachacuti in the mid 1400's and was believed to be a royal estate of sorts, used by the emperor and his family as a respite or vacation home if you will. The emperor's residence is located in the southwest part of the site away from other elite residences and adjacent to a building known as the "Temple of the Sun". Under the temple is a staircase figure that represents the Inca Cross. three steps that represent Above Earth (Condor), Earth itself (Jaguar), and the Underworld (Snake).
Several other temples are located throughout the site, "The Principal Temple", Temple of the Three Windows, and my favourite the Temple of the Condor (the rocks used formed a sort of condor figure). Once again the achitecture blew me away. The construction they did with prmative hand held tools is beyond anything I could ever imagine possible. Also amazing to me is that this incredible site was unknown to the world until about 1911 when Hiram Bingham visited the site and started to excavate it from the overgrown jungle.
After a very interesting tour of the site with Kenny, we said our goodbyes to the folks we had spent the last four days with and spent some time exploring by ourselves, checking out rooms, temples, vistas and trying to get close to llamas. We even managed to find a nice secluded little ledge to sit down on and have a little rest / snooze / snack before going off to attack the steps up to Huayna Picchu.
Off we went, climbing step after step up an even steeper grade, where at times we even had to hold onto chains and ropes to pull ourselves up. Yikes!!! It was all worth it though as the vistas of the mountains surrounding and the view back to Machu Picchu was breathtaking (or was it the 1400 more steps and 500 meters elevation gain?). We didn't spend a lot of time exploring up there as the rain was starting to come again and we were exhausted. We did find a ledge / viewpoint that we hung out on, cheering every time the clouds cleared enough for us to see down to Machu Picchu and snapping off as many pictures as we could with the few people who braved it out to the top with us.
Next came the hike down. Oh, going down is sometimes harder on the old bones than going up. My knees were a throbbing by the time we got back down to Machu Picchu and I decided we would book into the bus for the return trip down the mountain to Aquas Calientas. All told this was one of the most exhaustive things I have ever done but so rewarding!!! I was very proud of my little family for accomplishing such an amazing feat.
We even went out to one of the fancy restaurants back in Aquas Calientas overlooking the wild river, Urubamba and splurged on a buffet all you can eat dinner.