The big day – visiting a place on some people’s Bucket List, Machu Picchu (MP). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I’m not sure I can adequately describe what Cade and I experienced. I should explain that I think our experience was fairly unique, in that I bought the entrance tickets that included access to the tall (1,180 foot) peak overlooking MP, Huaynapicchu (also known as Waynapicchu, but I’ll refer to as HP). They only allow 400 people a day to hike to the ruins at the top of the peak that provides spectacular views of not only MP but the surrounding Andes mountains as well. It’s the peak adjacent to MP on the right in the picture above. (I’ve included more pictures at the end of this post)
I highly recommend the HP experience if you don’t take the multi-day hike on the Inca Trail into MP, as it provides a strenuous experience that I’d equate to doing a little Half Dome. It took us about 2 hours to go up and back, with healthy stops along the way for me to catch my breath and rest. Would have really helped if I’d been working out a little to prepare, particularly at the altitude we were at, and my legs were definitely shot on the way down.
Reaching the top I feel like I had my Flow moment (reference to the book I’m reading on the trip), although I thought my trip to the actual top would be cut just short. Turns out that the Inca’s built this great encampment up there that I assume had some ritualistic meaning. The final piece of the trek involved passing thru a small cave. Well, the Inca’s were a lot smaller than me, I know this because I keep hitting my head in doorways, and after two Japanese tourist tried and turned back I thought it was the end of the road for me. But after about 5 minutes of thinking, I decided to take a look and give it a shot, and I was able to make it (not sure what was wrong with those Japanese).
We were one of the first to the top, and also to descend, so the trail coming down reminded me of the Mist Trail in Yosemite with all the people on this narrow staircase. I should point out that it was a beautiful morning, which meant hot as we hiked up. We brought way too many clothes and needed to shed about half way up. In particular was Cade’s new SDSU Aztec sweatshirt, which was too bulky to fit in our pack. So we stashed it and figured we’d get it on the way down. Wrong! Seems the Inca’s didn’t take too kindly to us presenting an Aztec symbol on their sacred land, and it was gone when we got back. The shock of one of the 200 people in our morning group of HP taking the sweatshirt faded to an understanding that maybe this Inca/Aztec rivalry was for real, and we should just walk away from the sacrifice we made to the Inca people.
Quick segway, as I’m writing this on our train ride back to Cuzco, but Inca Rail rocks compared to Peru Rail. Cushy seats, great service, and white table cloth treatment. Highly recommend them given my experience so far.
After HP, we wandered around MP for a couple hours, but it was hot, crowded, and we were pretty tired from our big hike.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, and I believe went something like:
1) Bus ride down mountain to Aguas Calientes. (funny story from
Liam in the comments to my Day 3 post on his bus ride experience)
2) Got our bag from Presidente Hotel (I highly recommend), and grabbed lunch at a random pizza place.
3) 2 hour train ride to Ollantaytambo
4) 2 hour bus/shuttle ride to Cuzco (only 10 soles each)
5) Walk from Plaza to our home-stay residence (we didn’t have the energy to go pick up our bags we left at the Hostal)
6) Ate a terrific meal made for us at our home-stay, Haydee’s House.
7) Met the same couple I mentioned in my Day 2 post at the House, and learned that they’re travel writers that host the site www.worldwinders.com. I hope to help then and maybe guest post for them some.
8) Met Haydee, the owner of the house and also the mother of Yuri who runs Aldea Yanapay. Cade and her were able to talk a bit, which was great.
Tomorrow we get to sleep in for the first time in our trip. I expect that I’ll still wake up early. We’re looking forward to New Year’s eve here, as there’s a big dinner at the restaurant, and then Yuri is having a party at his place by the Plaza. Should be fun, but right now I can barely keep my eyes open. I’m expecting to wake up soar but hopefully refreshed.
Happy New Year everyone, and stay safe.