"Some lads those Incas"
Trip Start Aug 14, 2010
188Trip End Aug 05, 2011
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Coming up to 5:30am the queue was considerably longer, so much so that we could not see where it ended. As more people began to arrive, some attempted to just slot in. Thankfully the drivers and security staff were on hand and obviously used to this
At exactly 5:30am, the first bus revved up. The queue began moving. They counted out the exact number for the first bus and then began loading the second bus. We were on the second one and within two minutes we were out on the road on our way to Machu Picchu. We were so happy that we'd opted for the bus over walking up. We could not imagine walking up that mountain side, Inca step after Inca step at this hour of the morning!
After a lot of twists and turns in the road we arrived at the top slightly dizzy and a little nauseas. We were delighted to see that there weren't too many people there ahead of us. Would we be in the first 400 to get our Wayna Picchu stamp? Well we just had to wait a further five minutes until the security staff came down along the line with their stampers. We opted for the 10am slot (200 go up at 7am, and the other 200 at 10am). Apparently the clouds clear by 10am and you get a much better view - well now we were going to find out. Delighted with our Wayna Picchu stamps we took a little rest and had some more breakfast. At 6am the gates opened and the queue began flooding in. As we walked in we were somewhat in awe, the one place we've truly being looking forward to and we were here - 'unbelievable'! It truly was remarkable and we had to stand back and just try take it in and remind ourselves how lucky we actually were.
As our guided tour didn't begin until 7:40 am we had some free time to explore Machu Picchu ourselves. To start we walked in via the lower agricultural terraces and made our way to the fountains
The first destination on the guided tour was a short climb to the Caretaker's House quite high above the rest of Machu Picchu. This is where you take the typical 'post card' shots. As we arrived here the cloud had steadily been clearing and visibility was a whole lot better
From the Caretaker's House we made our way towards the Original Main Entrance gate, along the very end of the Inca Trail where people who have spent the previous four days trekking through the Sacred Valley arrive in Machu Picchu. Here Ceferino told us more about some of the Incas construction techniques, like the use of supporting terraces built into the side of the mountain to provide stability in earthquakes and prevent day to day soil erosion from winds and rain. This was the sole purpose of these terraces, unlike others which were used for agriculture. He showed us the location of Hydroelectric projects across the valleys which were constantly failing and being abandoned due to mudslides and earthquakes, whereas this Inca empire built hundreds of years ago had stood the test of time against everything thrown at it.
Making our way through the quarry area we saw that like Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu actually had freshly produced stones cut and ready to be used on projects showing that it was still being developed and hadn't yet been completed
Behind the sacristy we saw the Sun Dial, used not to tell the time but the passing of the seasons. It's quite rare to see such an example of a sun dial because when the Spaniards arrived to colonise they destroyed anything to do with false gods such as the sun. Also, this remarkable sundial was almost destroyed rather more recently when a TV crew filming a beer commercial slammed a massive crane into it 12 years ago! Fortunately, only a large chip came off but how something like that could be let happen nowadays we don't know
We made our way by The "Intiwatana" Astronomical Observatory towards the entrance to Wayna Picchu. Here we saw more thatched house reconstructions as well as the massive ceremonial rock. It was here that the group and Ceferino said their goodbyes as those with Wayna Picchu tickets started to queue for entry. At 10:00am exactly we started to queue but it wasn't until 25 past that we officially signed the register and started our huge trek! The beginning didn't seem so bad as we descended down massive Inca steps. However after about ten minutes we had passed through the small valley and began to ascend again. It was here that we realised how very difficult this was going to be!
We slowly progressed up the mountain taking breaks every few minutes to get our breath back because of the altitude and effort involved in the climb, as well as the sun that beamed down on us now that the cloud had totally cleared. As we reached the halfway point we started to get the "why are we doing this to ourselves?" feeling, but with a lot of self motivating (and John pushing Anne-Marie up!) we eventually appeared at the summit to be greeted by an amazingly awe inspiring view and the reason why we had gotten up so early and put our bodies through this ordeal was totally apparent
We had a clear view of the citadel perched high on top Machu Picchu directly across and below us. We sat in admiration as a constant flow of people arrived huffing and puffing before seriously having their breath taken away by the view! Having taken it in as much as possible, as well as a few photos, we made our way off our rock and down the ladder through the tunnels of stone towards the highest terraces. We then slowly crawled down the combination of massive and tiny Inca steps giving those still approaching the top some words of encouragement. Eventually we made it down, signed ourselves out and darted for some well earned lunch. Our cold Coke Grandes went down sooo well and we sat there looking at the sheer point of a mountain thinking "how did we ever make it all the way up there?"
Feeling very satisfied after our lunch we decided to get our passports stamped before heading back inside the main gate for one last stroll around and a final photo or two. We then had one last wander around - there weren't too many people around at this time as the morning crowds had left and so we took some more photos before calling it a day. As the rain started to pour down we waited under the marquee for the next bus to come. Originally we had planned to walk down the mountain and back to Aguas Calientes but having climbed Wayna Picchu and seeing the dark clouds looming in we thought that the bus would be a much better option
We had a few hours until our train back to Cuzco. We spent the afternoon sitting down chatting with the Israeli father and daughter staying at our hostel who had been in our tour group. They told us about how young people in Israel when they reach the age of eighteen must join the army. Women must do a minimum two years and men three. The daughter had just finished her two years and had decided to go travelling, meeting up with her father along the way. It became very apparent that we really don't know how lucky we are.
We then got all our things together and headed for the train station. Thankfully our train was on time and a lot earlier than our previous train. We met an American guy in the train station who had been to Ireland quite a few times and he loved to talk so we passed the waiting time in the station chatting with him. We then boarded the train and honestly, it was one of the more bizarre train journeys that we've been on. We had dinner (omelette and chocolate cake) from proper ceramic dishes followed by some entertainment that included a strange dancing monster type clown
Two hours later we arrived safely in Ollantaytambo where we were met with the usual frenzy of taxi men trying to get us to go with them. We walked past them all and politely declined while searching for the 'collectivos' that we'd been assured would be all lined up ready to take passengers back to Cuzco for 10soles. The collectivos we did not find but we did meet a nice Danish couple who were in the same situation as us. They'd also been told that they would easily find a collectivos for 10soles. After a lot of negotiating, a search of a car and inspection of a taxi license we agreed to take a taxi. We shared a taxi with the Danish couple back to Cuzco. An hour and a half later we arrived in Cuzco and got dropped off just behind the Plaza de Armas. It had cost us 50 soles between the four of us. We were starving at this stage so after quickly checking back into our hotel we went out to find some food. A lot of places were either closed or closing up but we did eventually manage to get a pizza from a pizzeria on the main square - delighted. We fell into the bed and were sound a sleep in no time. A long day but an amazing one at that!