South America (Part 9): Machu Picchu Summit!

The alarm went off a little after 4am. I’m not a morning person, so normally waking up at this time wouldn’t have pleased me. However, waking up early to climb up one of the greatest landmarks in the world, was somehow much easier than waking up for work! 

Climbing the Steps

We walked the 5 minutes back through Aguas Calientes village to the gated bridge, which was the start for the hike up to the summit. 

Numerous queues of ‘plastic’ tourists were already waiting for the buses that take you straight to the top. They more than likely hadn’t even done any hiking prior to this point either. My guess is that they got the train straight over from Cusco. Although they looked the part in their pristine outfits, it would be us with the sense of achievement afterwards. 

We queued for around half an hour at the bridge before the gates opened at 5am. Henry, our guide, took an alternative route up which all the guides have to take. We were to meet back up with him at the top. 

As the gates open we started our ascend up the 2,000 plus steps. It was still dark as you could imagine at this time of the morning, so I was grateful I’d brought my torch for the early stages. The higher we got, the lighter it got. The dawn views were incredible, a mysterious mist appearing as quickly as it disappeared. 

The four of us went at our own pace up the steps, this was agreed prior. Knowing I’d be much slower I didn’t want to hold the others back. I’m glad we started the hike in the ‘cooler’ early morning, I couldn’t imagine how hot it would be attempting it during mid-day heat. 

Machu Picchu’s Summit!

It took around 90 minutes to make it to the summit, after numerous stops along the way to catch your breathe and rehydrate, whilst encouraging fellow hikers along. 

Dawn had just broken, and it was an amazing feeling when I realised I was climbing my last few steps, then the opening in the dense forrest appeared. Exhausted, wet through with sweat and now sporting an attractive Afro (thanks to my inherited Irish curls!), I didn’t care, I had made it! 

Unfortunately, the first view that I saw were bus loads of the said same ‘plastic’ tourists from the village, with not a bead of sweat or a hair out of place. However, I was the one with a smile on my face. My group were there waiting for me and we all embraced in a congratulatory hug! 

After a quick toilet break and a snack we went through another gate which took us out onto the ‘Lost city of the Incas’ site. The views really are as incredible as you imagine, not just the views of Machu Picchu, but the views of the surrounding much higher mountains. I think these pictures show just how incredible! 

The Lost City of the Inca’s: 

Henry gave us a tour around the lost city, informing us about the Inca culture from the ancient sun rituals and temples, to the agricultural techniques of the stoned walls.

The name Machu Picchu actually means ‘Old Mountain’, in native Quechua language. The Incas built on the mountain around 1450 but abandoned it a century later during the Spanish conquest. The site is particularly important because it one of the few Inca remnants that was not found and plundered by the Spanish. 

Henry said his farewells and we were left to our own devices. The others decided to climb up to the Sun Gate (Intipunku), I decided to rest as my leg was feeling pretty sore, so I had 2 hours resting taking in the beautiful surroundings. 

Back Down to Reality: 

It was around midday by the time we got back to Aguas Calientes, although after being up so early it felt much later. There were just the three of us as Dan, who was staying in another few nights, had decided to go on another walk up on Machu Picchu. 

We had said we would treat ourselves to Pizza and Beer, and we felt it was well deserved. After a quick shower in our hostel we checked out, headed for some lunch, and throughly enjoyed it!

We were also entertained by a local Peruvian band, which was nice. Our train back to Cusco wasn’t until later on that evening so after lunch we had a walk around the village, and consumed a few more Cusquena’s (Peruvian beer) and Pisco Sours, whilst playing a game of cards. We had to do something to pass the time!

It was gone 10pm by the time we got back to Cusco. We said our goodbyes to the lovely Adriana, a great companion on the trip, and headed back to our hostel for our penultimate night in South America To be Continued………

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