Okay, where did I Ieave off? Oh yeah, just got into Aguas Calientes. Well, so my taking a tour so I wouldn’t have to worry about not getting a train ticket, paid off. I had a train ticket but it was for 10:30a.m. Friday, giving me only a couple of hours in Machu Picchu. Obviously, this was not going to fly, so instead the guide put me up at the hotel for one more night and a free dinner and would try and have a ticket faxed to me sometime tomorrow. I was a little anxious but happy enough to stay in Aguas Calientes, which although is very touristy is also I really nice town. Plus it was on the company’s tab and I had no where to rush too.
So off to diner we went and tried to turn in early since we had a 4a.m. wake-up to start up to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu opens at 6a.m., but the first buses start at 5:30a.m. and the line-up for the buses begin at 5a.m. or early. Plus if you want to be one of only 400 a day that are allowed to walk up Waynay Picchu (Young Peak) you have to be there when it opens. Hence the early rise.
So there we were in line, in darkness expect for the coffee vendors and store lights for those trying to entice the sleepy trekkers with caffeine and chocolate to wake them up.
It was a windy 25 minute but ride up through thick cloud. But that’s Peru, the clouds always go away by 9a.m.
By the time we got off the bus the sun had risen it was still cloudy and hoards of people already had their Waynay Picchu tickets. After a small kerfuffle in line I got my ticket, #306. Sheesh, that was kinda close.
We went inside and started our tour. I won’t bore you with details of the history. You can all find that out on line or through your guides or even in the maps they provide you, but I will say it is pretty amazing to see how big it is.
We continued to walk he ruins with our guide, seeing the sun temple, the calendars, the dwellings, agricultural areas etc. As we wondered we took pictures whenever the clouds seem to lift a little. However, I kept saying by 10a.m. it would be fine. You can only start climbing Waynay Picchu between 7-8a.m. or 10-11a.m., depending on your ticket. With 10-11a.m. be preferable, since less fog. However, by 9a.m. is started to rain and more clouds covered the mountain peaks and the highest points on the ruins.
By the end of the tour, most the tourists found shelter under too small weighting areas by the entrance to Waynay Picchu, while it just started to rain more and more. As the people in my tour left and found and sit and decided I would wait until the last minute, (just before 11a.m.) and make my decision. Sitting and chatting with some American and Bulgarian tourists about India and Nepal. Nepal being the highlight of almost everyone travels. A moment of sunshine came through the clouds at 10:45a.m. and I took that as my cue. I got up and said, “Well, there is my decision. I’m heading up.” The couple then got up and looked as if they would follow. Beckoning me to stop. I asked, “Oh, are you going too.” The man replied, ‘Well, this crazy Canadian girl is going, so we figured we’d follow.” 🙂
So we were off, but shortly after I lost them. I think they went back down. The climb is treacherous under good conditions. Walking on pointing slabs of mountain rocks, made to act as steps, no railings on the cliff side and only the occasional metal rope on the mountain side. However, the rain made the rocks muddy and slippery, causing many to hug the mountain and/or climb using all fours. It was amazing to watch and I was incredibly surprised they let anyone climb Waynay Picchu. I mean even I was scared I might slip at times…although I still passed those clinging to the mountain. I really hate to wait.
Finally after about 30-40 minutes I get to a landing only to look up and find ruins. I couldn’t believe it. Up here? It was amazing. Then I looked at what I had to climb. These unbelievably steep and tall steps, covered in slippery rain and mud with no railings mind you. Okay, here goes. Phew! Made it. But there is more, a bunch of kids are sitting on the very top on these jagged rocks. Heck! I didn’t come this far, not to be at the top. So I climb a little further to what looks like a dead end. The guy behind me say “I thought this was the way up? I guess not.” Then turns around starts back down. On the other hand I can see there is no other way so I walk around a narrow ledge and see and cave. I shimmy myself through on all fours and come to a wooden ladder. I can hear the guy behind me saying, “She went through someone how.” Then start following. As I climb the ladder and go through another narrow cave, I hear the guy again, “I’m not claustrophobic, but this is really crazy.” Anyway, I am on the top. Standing on large slabs of misshapen, jagged rocks protruding out of the top of a mountain I look down through the clouds in search of Machu Picchu and wonder how is it that one has fallen off this thing. About 30 seconds later the clouds part and I see the terraces of Machu Picchu. Then the Sun Temple. I take my shot, grab the nearest balanced person and get them to take a shot of me. I was incredibly thankful for my good tourist timing, that the clouds parted when they did, but I was dreading walking down this mountain. I was much easier when I couldn’t see where I may fall. But I was off, passing a bunch of nutters videoing a slinky going down in honour of Ace Venture.
If you think Waynay Picchu is all you have to see here you’d be wrong. Once I got most of the way down they is a turn off to Great Caves and Temple of the Moon. Of course I had to do that too. Unfortunately it was about 40 minutes down through lots of rainy forest, bug ridden area. Which meant a really long trek back up. The Temple of the Moon was a beautiful cave, reminiscent of the Eleplant cave in Mumbai. Wet and really tired I was back from the cave and heading out, when I saw another turn off for Huanay Picchu. After debating with myself and a French dude about whether to go for a minute or two, I then started to trek, hearing the guy say, “Okay bye, I’ve had it.” Luckily it was only about a 3 minute climb and I got a pretty good view. Weather or no weather I was here and I was going to see and do it all, even shrouded in clouds and rain. I kept thinking this probably the weather in which Hiram Bingham first saw it anyway.
It was now 2p.m., meaning Waynay Picchu and all its parts took me about 3 hours to do. Now I was off in search of the Inca Bridge. However, a long walk through the ruins I found myself on the path to the Sun Gate instead. Only a 2 hour trek out of my way. I was determined that going to pay homage to the Sun God at the Sun Gate would end the rain. As I reached the top, the rain actually did stop, the clouds parted and 20 birds came flying about chirping loudly. However, the next minute the birds were mute and a thick fog covered the Sun Gate. But the rain never came back. I trudged down the cobble stones and headed towards the exit, only to see the sign to the Inca Bridge. Only another 15 minutes I had to do it. It is nuts. I honestly have no idea how those Incas crossed that with fully loaded llamas and carts. It basically just three or four pieces of wood sticking out a side of a mountain. I wonder how many fell off that thing.
Finally at 4:50p.m., more then 12 hours after I got started I was on my way out of Machu Picchu, leaving the actually climbing of Machu Picchu mountain for my return. As I left I was sure not to forget to get passport stamped with famous Machu Picchu stamp. You got to get it.
It was a hard, knee breaking hour plus cantor down the mountain and in Aguas Calientes town.
I was beat, but incredibly happy to have walked all over that place regardless of the weather.
Unfortunately, when I got to the hostel I still didn’t have a train ticket for tomorrow. Regardless I took a shower went to diner, got back thinking I’d write a little only to fall asleep and be woken at 9:30p.m. with a knock at my door. I opened it to find my train ticket in the hand of the really pleasant hostel worker. Now I could sleep and rest my weary legs.