July 30 2013
Day 5: Today we woke up at 4:30 to leave the hotel at 5:00 and get in line for the bus to Machu Picchu. Our hotel is a simple one (steady hot water - no macarena shower dance, clean, good beds) but best of all, it was right across the street from where we needed to line up. When we got outside at 5:30, huge lines had already formed for the 6:00 bus to MP. We bought hot coca tea from a local woman selling breakfast items on a tray while we waited. The line started moving promptly at 5:30 and while we did not make it on the first bus we did get up to MP in time for the 6:00 opening. The ride up to MP entrance was beautiful (albeit crowded) as the sky got lighter and the outline of the mountains that we were going up and around came into view. Standing in line at MP, then we needed to show our tickets and passport to get in and once we all were through, we organized ourselves to sit with great vantage to the famous MP! Bernie gave us a nice 2 hour tour of the place (big like Disneyland w many people so you can't see everything). I especially liked the Southern Cross rock which was cardinally true to the Southern Cross constellation, the sun dial rock and the temples of the Sun, Water, Air and Earth (Pachamama). There was also the Chakana with the top half carved from a rock and placed so that when the sun shone through one of the three windows, the bottom half of the Chakana was made by the shadow of the top half. This chakana symbol contains representation of Inkan cosmology- very cool. The llamas grazing made for fun photos - it was amazing to finally have made it here! We then said sad goodbyes to Super Bernie - the best guide EVER! Three of us had prearranged (paid) to go up Machu Picchu Mountain so after going to the bathrooms and eating a good amount of snacks, we started on our climb.
The climb to the top took me an hour and 50 minutes. It was very very hard for me. My legs were tired from 4 days of trekking and it was incredibly steep in many places. It was a lot of rock stairs, some so narrow and steep that I got quite scared. I took my time and stopped a ridiculous amount of times. The poles were super helpful as I was able to use by upper body to help me climb. I did not really know where the top was and had planned to take 3 hours to get to the top. On the way up, the view to MP just got more and more amazing as well as the surrounding mountains. At one point, I had an interesting view to the right of MP and to the left of the Hydroelectric. I thought how man had come to either place for the energy that was of that particular site but how different the relationship was to the earth past and present. It was a profound and disturbing view.
After many many stairs, I finally made it to the top!! Aner and Daniel were there and cheered as I arrived. The feeling of making it was like nothing else. (Was THIS the hardest thing I've every done??) I was now at about the same elevation of the tops of the surrounding mountains around MP. I could also see the beautiful snow capped Salkantay mountain where we crossed on Day 2 of our trek. The view and feeling of being on top of that mountain was stunning and special. I took a lot of pictures including 360 deg videos. I stayed there for 1 1/2 hours which included taking a nap in the sun with a look-over view to MP - it was fantastic!
While coming up, I thought it would be very scary to go down the stairs as they were so steep but the hike down was an easy and quick hour. I signed out (in at 9:50am out at 2:10pm). I then strolled around MP ruins with considerably less crowds and a calm, appreciative and relaxed feeling. I took a ridiculous amount of pictures (do they all look the same - like the postcards and more ruins?). I just couldn't stop taking pictures, the views were so stunning and impressive. And of course, how can I not take a little llama video with the famous ruins as a backdrop?! The waterways were amazing and at one particular place, I stepped into an alcove and used the flowing water to wash my face, neck and arms of all the dust, grit, sweat and sunscreen from the day. The water was so cool and refreshing and I felt quite special thinking that I was using the very same spot and water as Inkans had used...it was one of those special moments.
I had now spent 9 and a half hours at Machu Picchu and was ready to take the bus back to Aguas Caliente so I bought my ticket and got in line. I was fortunate to get the front row seat and seeing people walking back to AC, I was so glad to have decided to take the bus. I was done with hiking - at least for this trip!
I had 30 minutes in the AC market which was perfect time to get a few more gifts. I met my friends back at the hotel at 4:30 and we went to dinner. Amanda and Sonia had gotten massages in the meanwhile and Aner and Daniel had plenty of time to do their shopping. The market is actually quite nice (a maze of mostly the same stuff but no hassles and lots of stuff to buy if you like). You can bargain but I try not to go too low as the prices were reasonable and the people here work so hard in the first place.
I couldn't resist ordering the grilled trout again as I was tired of surviving on candy and snacks all day. My lunch was great. We then headed to the train station.
AC gets a bad rap (touristy and very expensive) but it is actually a cool little town. The best part being that everything is very close so you don't have to walk very far which was such a good thing after all the trekking we had done. The train (PeruRail) to Ollantaytambo was very nice but crowded. Funny how we saw many of the same trekking groups that we had camped with along the way. I had nice conversation and comfort which felt good after roughing it for 5 days.
Arriving at Ollantaytambo, I could not find my taxi driver but the Trekking driver was a great help and took me to the Plaza de Armas. He asked until he found someone who would take me to my hotel. It was so interesting to walk up the cobble stone street (he carried my suitcase on his head) with water running down a canal alongside. The streets and canals were all original Inkan and still in use today! My hotel (Apu Lodge) was a nice distance away (a quiet respite) from the Plaza but not too far. My room was such a welcome site and after some questions about hot water, I finally was able to take that long needed shower and go to bed.
What another incredible day it's been. I feel so fortunate to have been able to do this trek and make it to Machu Picchu and most of all, climb MP mountain! That climb really made me appreciate my physical health that took me to the top as well as all the other gifts in my life that have aligned themselves to get me here.
Tomorrow, I look forward to a good and leisurely breakfast then hopefully, a tour of some of the sites in this area. I understand the Ollantaytambo ruins are fantastic as well as Moray and the salt flats. I will see what I can arrange taking advantage of my
tourist ticket that will expire tomorrow. Then I will have one last full day in this little town that has Inkan streets, canals, and buildings that are still quite preserved and in use today.