Hello everyone!It's good to hear from everyone again, as well as the couple of recent ones we haven't heard from in awhile, welcome back! Well, Machu Picchu, as all the books said, "never fails to impress". We awoke at 4am last Sunday to set out and tackle the 1700 some odd steps to reach the ancient citadel.
A little drizzle in the first hour turned into an outright downpour by the time we reached the top of the steps at 5:30am. We definitely weren't alone with about another 100 people huddling under the umbrellas out of the rain. I guessed that the average age at that point was about 23, maybe. Obviously the tour busses hadn't shown up yet...first bus comes right at six when the gates open, and the trains from Cusco don't show up till about 10am.At about 6am we stood in line with the multitudes of multicoloured ponchos cloaking all the groups of people awaiting the start of their tour.
As we made our way past the gate the rain had let up and then started in again at a steady light drizzle and the clouds were a constant mist that shrouded us. Even still as we rounded the path following the ridge of Montaña Machu Picchu the enormous stone city unveiled before us. I think I said "No f***ing way...". The perfectly put together dwellings and structures huddled in the mist, and endless terraces creeped up the hill. Huayna Picchu wasn´t visible yet as the clouds we were in were too thick. Occasionally we would catch a glimpse down the sheer cliffs to the Rio Urubamba.That fact that we had come solo afforded us the luxury of being in the top 20 to start the wet climb up Huayna Picchu, the sacred peak that is in the background of the famous shot of the citadel.
The climb up I would guess to be about another 300-400m of narrow steps, some just carved right into the huge boulders. Upon reaching the top we were still in pretty thick clouds that wouldn't end up letting up until midday. We sat atop the sacred peak for about three hours amongst the dwellings the Inca had built waiting for just a glimpse of the citadel in the distance. Some had already come and gone by that point, but the feel of comradery amongst the 30 some odd people sitting with us was electric.
After the fickle clouds finally cleared, the immense citadel was mind-blowing.After about a three hour break on Huayna we headed back down the now crowded pathway back down. The dangerous and slippery pathway back down was only matched by the incredible manners of all the other selfish tourists that had finally showed up from Cusco. After getting back down we retired for lunch under one of the few structures that afforded some cover from the rain that had been coming and going all morning.
The break was nice and our lunch seemed extravagant to some as you supposedly weren't allowed to bring food into the site...and we could see why by some of the behavior of some. Liz actually witnessed one American girl (probably was the one in a tank-top, tights and mini-skirt) leaving behind her poncho because, dunno, she didn't want to carry it? If it wasn´t the one in the mini-skirt it might have been the one that was giggly and laughing with her friends about..."oh yeah, I got this shirt at Express for like $5...God, I wish I was shopping at Express right now!". I'm sure you all can picture the valley girl tone of voice.
However, after lunch, getting back out on to the ancient terraces and stone dwellings was like a giant memory eraser, and the valley girls and ponchos seemed to just disappear into little multi-colored dots in the distance. The sheer size of the site is unexplainable. Looking at some of the steps alone is just plain unfathomable. On either side of Machu Picchu the cliffs drop quickly into the river and you are able to walk out on some of the terrace walls to a dizzying vista downwards. Liz mentioned that Linda, her mother, would have freaked if she walked up to some of these sheer drops.
We spent nearly all day at the site exploring all the nooks and crannies of the dwellings and walking the endless pathways amidst the rain. Although we ended up pretty soggy, at around 2pm we were rewarded for our patience. The clouds parted for us for about an hour and a half revealing the citadel fully and even with Huayna Picchu in the background. This obviously caused quite a stir with the remaining visitors clambering for their cameras to get "the post card shot".
One story of which I will not go into great detail about is one such group of guys that I think were from Germany.There is one spot where a rock juts out and creates a perfect spot for that "post card shot". Many people were passing by this spot obviously wanting the same pic. However, these guys were relentless. I alone took at least 12 pictures on two different cameras, in multiple different poses for them. They continued and returned several times for the next 15 minutes, no lie. I only say returned because it was impossible to hold off all the pissed off other tourists from being able to take their shot. The scene was indescribable, and even sad at times. They literally were yelling at people to get out of the frame, including security guards and innocent passer-bys. Others waiting patiently were getting pretty angry and to make matters worse, communication wasn´t easy...the four of them were all deaf. That is all I can write about this...maybe we'll try and upload the video we took of the ridiculous scene. It left me with a phrase I had been and continued to repeat all day..."It's Machu Picchu, not-yur-Picchu bro".
Again, the beauty of this site, even for Liz and I, far supersedes all of the silliness. It's pretty weird, even at Yosemite or the Grand Canyon we've been left a little frustrated until we escaped into the woods or below the rim. However, here...mortal man is just no match.
We are now in Arequipa, in the southern part of Peru about five hours from Lake Titicaca. We are planning to do some hiking in the Colca Canyon which is supposed to be twice the size of the Grand Canyon as well as trying to possibly summit Volcan El Misti. After being here for maybe just under a week, we'll move on to Bolivia via Lake Titicaca.Thanks again for joining us, and we look forward to more of your thoughts and updates!