07.06.2012 - 07.06.2012
They limit the number of tickets per day to Machu Picchu and you have to purchase them in advance, plus arrange transport in and out, so if you’re not feeling great or the weather’s not perfect you just have to roll with it.
So when we woke up at 4am and headed out the door shortly afterwards we were a little less than impressed with the drizzle! This was our long anticipated big day and it was raining. It was a 20 minute walk to the bridge out of Aguas Caliente (this opened at 5am) and an hour’s walk straight up to the gate (this opened at 6am). Most people get a bus to the gate, and we were definitely tempted, cold wet and dark as it was, but decided as we were up anyway why not walk up as planned?
The magical sunrise we had anticipated was really just a general lightening of the greyness, a slight easing of the rain. The climb up to the gate was hard, really hard: totally pitch dark to begin with, the steps uneven and steep. When I imagined myself at Machu Picchu I would always have sunlight and blue sky in the vision so I spent that first hour, slogging uphill and getting wetter by the minute, readjusting the dream. The weather didn’t matter; all that mattered was being there in person. One of the new 7 wonders of the world, and a true “must visit” place if ever there was one.
The first sight of Machu Picchu was pretty special; even if it was shrouded in mist and fog. Quite dramatic really! We mooched around for a bit getting our bearings (the man in front of us at the gate got the last map) and in the process stumbled quite by accident on the path up to Machu Picchu Montana. When we had purchased our tickets a few days back we had optimistically and very ambitiously brought additional tickets to climb the mountain directly behind the ruins. It’s a pretty tough climb and we weren’t feeling that energetic but seeing as how we were at the entrance decided not to think about it too much and headed on up. We knew the view would be pretty rubbish but ever so slowly we made it to the top anyway. We had been the 11th and 12th people to register for the mountain climb that day, all of us huddled in the hut at the top, laughing at how shit the weather was, but weren’t the ruins splendid?
We were going to wait at the top for 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then just a bit longer, then just a tiny bit more. The clouds were swirling around the mountain tops at incredible speed. Every time we thought we would get an opening more cloud would come from no-where to obscure the view once again. Eventually we got the opening we had been waiting for. Still plenty of mist to be sure, but the ruins and bright green grass of the terraces clearly visible amongst it all as well. Well worth the hour and a bit we were up there.
After we got back from the Montana, we turned right up to the sun gate, instead of left back to the ruins. We thought it was close but it took the best part of half an hour to get there. By that stage though the sun had made an appearance (yay), the clouds were rapidly disappearing (big yay) and we were able to get the ‘classic’ photo we were after (massive yay). After that we went crazy with the camera, taking hundreds of essentially THE SAME PHOTO. The angle may have changed slightly but the composition didn’t. Couldn’t help it really: one of our all-time favourite views!
It wasn’t until the early afternoon that we started looking at the ruins close up. We had been at the site over 6 hours and not gone into a single room! That was quickly rectified over the next few hours as we made our way through all the districts and temples, strategically going from top to bottom so as to limit the number of ‘up’ steps lol!
Machu Picchu is so cool because so much of it still remains. The ‘city’ is thought to be unfinished and abandoned in a hurry but no one really knows why? Was it left on purpose to preserve it, or were the inhabitants driven out by war or famine? Fewer than 250 bodies were found at the site, despite there being capacity for between 750-1000 people. Was this deliberate: only the ‘chosen’ royalty, nobility or priestesses living there? Even the general Inca population didn’t know it was up there so it’s no wonder the Spaniards never found it. Machu Picchu has the only intact Intihuatana stone; all others across the ancient Incan empire are badly damaged and/or totally destroyed, no thanks to the Spaniards. The Intihuatana at Machu Pichhu has suffered some damage but the Spaniards this time are not guilty: believe it or not but a crane fell on it during the filming of a beer commercial in 2000. Sad but true. Only recently have the Peruvian government come to realise what an important treasure Machu Picchu is and what needs/not needs to be done to protect it. A cable car proposal was refused as was a heli-pad and multiple hotels.
Half of the beauty of the place, half of its magic, is the pristine and remote location. The Spaniards didn’t find it because it’s hard to find. I think it should remain so. Hidden on a cliff top, in the middle of now-where, surrounded by only nature, precisely how it was way back when. Not cluttered with ‘tourist’ extras, mod cons of the present age. Totally not necessary in my opinion; awesome just the way it is.
Some of our other favourites: