We decided not to try for the first bus. We had a guide booked and he wasn’t going to be there until 7 am, and assured us we would be OK both weather and crowds wise. But we woke up at 5.30 anyway, and after a quick breakfast, headed down to the bus stop, and ended up on a 6.10 bus, which after the amazing switchback ride up the mountain, dropped us at the entrance at 6.40 am. We decided to just relax and enjoy everything so sat and waited for our guide Jonathon to arrive, and once he had, we went through the gates and into the site. It is quite a hike up a twisty and steep path before you get anywhere or see anything, and you need to stop to catch your breath a few times on the way up. Suddenly you come out from the path, and see the well known scene in front of you. It is a very special moment for everyone, especially if you have been waiting your whole life to be here. The sun was behind clouds when we first got there, but at 7.45 am, as we stood there, the sun slowly came out from behind the clouds, and gradually lit up first the top of Huaynapicchu, then slowly the whole complex below us, little by little. It was almost as good as being there at dawn, and was just the most amazing sight.
Our guide Jonathon then took us all around Machupicchu for the next 2 ½ hours, and let me warn anyone who is yet to come, you do a LOT of walking and climbing stairs (more than 100 flights) and steep up and steep down in that time. By then end of the 2 ½ hours we were quite exhausted. I won’t try to tell you about Machupicchu because that would be silly – It is all in the photos. Suffice it to say that it is the most magical place, there are spectacular views in every direction, and only by seeing it can you ever fully appreciate its mystical appeal. The fact that it is one of the only Inca sites that was never found by the Spanish means that it has many special features that remain undisturbed or even destroyed.
After our tour finished, Janet and I spent another 2 hours just wandering around a few of the areas we had not visited on the tour. We even saw a , a rabbit like animal with a long tail that is apparently found only in Machupicchu – He was hiding among the rocks in one of the buildings. Then we climbed further up to the Guardian’s Hut, and found llamas grazing up on the terraces. And every so often, you see beautiful brilliant red or yellow flowers growing in small areas among the rocks. Something that is amazing is the way the Incas used immense rocks that could not be moved, including them in the walls and other structures, and adding their smaller stones to make a complete surface. How they moved some of these stones is a mystery.
By 12.30 we had been up there for over 5 hours, which was enough for us – We were exhausted ! And we had a 2 pm train to catch, back to Ollantaytambo. So we wandered down to the Lodge where you catch the bus, and found a bit of a queue. (I will say that the crowds had not really been noticeable all day – In some areas where you are in narrow corridors it becomes a bit crowded, but most of the time we were pleasantly surprised by the space and lack of people.)
In the bus queue were some local girls all dressed in their finery, and of course people trying to take their photos which they weren’t too happy about ! That’s why my pics are usually from behind ! Just as we were boarding the bus, it started to rain lightly – Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Sunshine breaking through the clouds as we arrived, and beautiful sunny, but not overly hot, day, and then the rain just as we started back down the hill. I will also add for those of you who are more energetic than us, there is NO way I could have walked up the hill from Ollantaytambo to MP, and I don’t think I could climb Huaynapicchu and climb all over MP in the same day. I would need a second day to do (and enjoy) Huaynapicchu. And as for the people who hike 3-5 days to get into MP, I am sure it is beautiful, but that would need to be a separate expedition for me !! Carrying tents and food and stuff on your back ? I think I will leave that one for the youngies. You also do need to consider the altitude as well as one’s age – We have now been at altitude for a couple of weeks, and still, every so often, even when not really exerting ourselves, we just run out of breath and have to stop for a few minutes.
By the time we reached Aguas Calientes (or Puebla Machupicchu as it is increasingly called), it was raining quite hard, and we wandered through the covered stalls selling all the tourist stuff, and went into the station where we sat and enjoyed a couple of cold beers and empanadas before boarding the train back to Ollantaytambo. This time our seats were facing forwards, and we were on the river side of the train, so we had much better views during the journey. The river Urubamba, which is quite slow moving and placid to the east of Ollantaytambo, can be quite fast flowing and wild once you get close to Aguas Calientes – We have seen photos of a major flood in 2010 which caused major damage in Aguas Calientes. A very pleasant run back down The Sacred Valley, and when we got off the train, we were far to exhausted and stiff to walk back up the hill from the station, so we caught a tuk tuk back to our hotel. Troopie was fine, and we set up camp in the garden, then staggered into town for a quick meal at a delightful little restaurant – As they had a wood-fired pizza oven right there in the restaurant, I had a pizza while Janet had a trout cooked in the oven – Both were delicious. One humorous little quirk around here is that when you order beer, or many other types of bottled drink, someone immediately runs off down to the nearest shop to buy that drink, and they bring it to your table as soon as they arrive back – So they hold no inventory of many items like that, and just buy them as you order them. If the shop is a long way away, you need to make sure you order 5 minutes in advance, and if you want 2 or 3 during the course of your meal, it is kind to tell them in advance so they don’t have to run backwards and forwards to the shop all night !!
After our supper, we went back to the hotel and slept like logs all night in Troopie. We had made it to Machupicchu, and it was as magical as we had always hoped. What a fantastic day.
Photos are here – And I make no apologies that there are quite a few of them – They are for our enjoyment and memory in the future – And probably tell you more about MP than any of my longwinded tales ever could !!
Pics are here :- https://picasaweb.google.com/117739775480775657932/0148Machupicchu?authkey=Gv1sRgCJyiq8ydu9K09wE#