It's finally here, the last day of the trek and the final walk to Manchu Picchu to enter at sunrise through the Sun Gate. We had no problem getting up at 3:30am since we were all so excited to complete our trip and we knew all the hard work had been done.
We had a quick breakfast and had to leave the campsite by 4am so the porters could pack everything up and literarily run down the mountain to catch the 5:30am train back to Cusco.
As the final check point everyone needs to pass does not open till 5:30 am this means the whole campsite waits in a line, in the cold, pitch black till it opens (thank god it was not raining!) While this seems like a totally stupid operational disconnect everyone was in good spirits and when the park rangers finally appeared and allowed us through we set off towards our final destination at a cracking pace.
As the morning started to arrive and the dark of nighttime subsides you could hear the world coming to life. Birds chirping and a train in the distance (assuming it was the one the porters were catching). The steady click, click, click of walking poles formed a rhythmical sound as we march on through winding jungle like paths through the mountains. My muscles are certainly sore from the three previous days of trekking but i ignore that as I'm so excited to get to the Sun Gate.
And there it is! A steep stairway of about 50 steps, I know this is it, the final climb and I enjoy every painful step to the top. There is no one in front of me as I climb step by step. It's a moving spiritual experience and as I take the final step to the top and gaze down at Manchu Picchu in the distance it's a moment i will never forget. It felt like the welcome to a new life phase, although I have no idea what that looks like yet.
Once that feeling passed I realised was surrounded by 50 or so other people, laughing, high fiving and taking selfies! More and more of the Trekkers start to arrive and the Sun Gate becomes fuller. We take lots of photos from our prized location. Manchu Picchu is about half a mile in the distance hidden from the outside world by beautiful mountains. It's not hard to see why this magical place was hidden from the world for so long.
We sit and wait while the sun continues to rise and bathe the mountains and this stunning site with it's soft morning glow. As the light changes the magic of this special places moves and dances around you, truely amazing.
After we have soaked up as much as we can of these views and the great feeling of accomplishment; Jackson. Breanna, Betsy and myself walk down the last half mile to arrive at Manchu Picchu itself. By now the day tripper tourists are starting to arrive and this modern day wonder of the world becomes extremely busy. The number of people allowed to visit each day is regulated but there is no getting around the fact it's extremely busy by 10am.
The three of us spend a couple of hours with an official guide learning more about this huge Inca site which was extremely interesting and then it was time to leave and make our way to Aguas Caliente, the closest town to Manchu Picchu. Here we visited the hot springs and soaked our aching muscles in the warm waters and celebrated with a Pisco Sour each.
At lunch time we were reunited with the rest of our Dragoman group, as they had spent the last four nights doing a community trek instead of the Classic Inca Trail we had done. It was so fun to see everyone again and hear all the stories and their experience. Seemed they all loved their trek as well and were in high spirits.
The whole group travelled back together to Cusco (around 2 hours) and it was at this stage that my developing cold started to come out in full force. By the time we reached the hotel I felt terrible and opted for an early night rather than going out to celebrate with more Pisco Sours.
Overall this was one of the best experiences of my life, I hope to be able to remember it for many years to come. Everyone tells you how amazing this trek is and they would be right, no one tells you quite how hard it is. I guess that memories fades :)