Thursday, 17 February 2011

Marvelous Machu and piccante Picchu


So as the alarm went off in the early morning ( make that the middle of the night) we sleepily made it out of bed, into our clothes and out into the street where we started to walk towards the bridge, the first ‘port’ on the way. Opening at 4.45 in the morning, it was already lined with about 50 people queueing up by the time we got there at 4.30.

The air was full of tension as everyone was getting ready to take off and be the first ones to the top, a bit like in the beginning of a sprinting competition.
And it was a bit rough in the beginning, with a group of people trying to sneak in front of everyone else with their guide, and no one letting anyone else pass, even though they were walking uphill relatively slowly.

After a while though, people started to succumb to the steepness of the hill, the constant downpour and the pitch darkness not making it any easier. Nuno and I kept a good pace though and started passing groups after groups of people, made easier at this point by everyone starting to be a bit more courteous as they lost energy.

Although we had passed a lot of people, we kept our speed as we were also competing against the first buses, that leaving Aguas Calientes at 5.30 would be arriving up at around 5.50 (one way of getting one of these 200 tickets is actually to take the first bus. But to be on the first bus you have to start queueing at least as early as we started walking). 

And we made it ! Arriving up at around 05.45, we had made the hike uphill in about 50 minutes, quite a good time, allowing us a place in the queue after perhaps 35 people and before the first bus made it up.

And it was definitely worth it as the view from up Waynapichu was amazing. Plus, there are also some ruins up there that are quite interesting. 
Our guide giving the first instructions under cold rain, with the promise that the magic Machu Pichu would send us some sun (most of the hikers didn't seem to believe)

For a little while though, as we stood waiting for the rest of the group and our guide to arrive and were freezing in the cold rain, I wished that we had done it the bus way instead. I have rarely been that cold before and the first half an hour or so of the tour I followed the guide around shivering. But still happy that we were actually, for real, in the Machu Picchu !!


We were amazed by the ruins that we could see pointing out from the clouds. We could only see a little at this point, but were still very taken by the skills, the magic and the beauty.

As the clouds slowly started to evaporate and revealed the whole city, we were almost speechless. As Nuno explained to some fellow traveller afterwards, it probably felt like it must have felt for the first people that found the place those a hundred years ago. No matter that we were surrounded by hundreds of other tourists – as the clouds dispersed it was like if we were the first ones ever to have lied eyes on the place. Amazing.

Having a fairly early deadline, as the travel agency had decided to book the two of us on a 3h30 train instead of the 19h train agreed to, we took off to explore the place by ourselves as soon as the nice guided tour ended.

Our first stop was the ‘Inka bridge’ that is build out of llama skin and tree trunks from a steep cliff over a big empty drop. It’s a bit like the Inkas looked out over the valley and decided that the smooth mountain side at one side of the city would in fact make a great passage and then they went and built the bridge and the road. Not the most beautiful or amazing view in itself, as the bridge is fairly small, the place that it has been built in is utterly breathtaking.


The next stop, or rather steep climb up slippery stone stairs, was Waynapichu. An about 45 min climb up another narrow Inka trail (they did indeed have an inclining for putting stones everywhere), the classical postcard view of Machu Picchu lied out in the shape of a condor – the symbol of the city and one of three magical creatures in the Inka mythology together with the puma and the snake - rewards you to such an extent that a small pause to catch ones breath, both due to the exercise and the view, is recommended. 



We spent quite some time up here, but it felt like I wanted to stay there for ever. Or at least a couple of days to just take in everything. Instead, I tried to catch as much as possible of the magic during our half an hour up there. And perhaps I managed to capture some of it, as I got unbeatable in cards for a couple of weeks following this morning ;)

Our final hike of the day was up to the Sun gate. This is the arrival point for the classical Inka trail and one of the reasons many people want to come that way – but during the rain season it is actually a lot better to go up there a bit later in the day when the clouds have dispersed. 


The view from there was also amazing. You get the same kind of overview of the whole city as from Waynapichu, but from a different angle, and with different mountains as the backdrop.

We again stayed gazing down for quite some time, before remembering that we had a train to catch and hence running off a bit in a scurry. However, as we were going down the hill it started to rain again, so it didn’t seem that we missed that much by leaving ‘early’. And with the amazing day that we had, our faces were so plastered with big smiles, and our minds so full of beauty, that it was indeed time to call it a day.

Machu Picchu is for me really a once in a lifetime experience. One of these places that somehow manages to keep all its magic no matter that it is slightly overrun by tourists. And so worth the time, money and sweat spent going there. As there are talks about restricting the number of visits soon – go now if you can, before it is too late!

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