Machu Picchu, Day 33

Machu Picchu, 'The Lost City of the Incas', Peru

The big day is finally here and I feel we have earned the right to view the majesty of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham’s Lost City of the Incas.  Christi and I are woken at 3:30am.  It’s raining and we’re sleep deprived, but the adrenaline is kicking in.  We eat our final, mammoth breakfast (thank you, porters) and move quickly out of camp for the 60-minute hike to the Sun Gate (Intipunku).  Of course, all the hikers are scrambling to reach the Sun Gate before dawn to see the first rays of the sun strike the Lost City, so it’s a fairly chaotic scene.

Sadly fog and drizzle obscures the view, which shouldn’t be a surprise really considering Machu Picchu is located in a cloud forest. Flavio assures us the views will improve as the fog burns off, so we trudge on.  Perhaps most disappointing of all, though, is the sight of camera flashes in the ruins below us. The day-trippers from the nearby town of Aguas Calientes have already been allowed in and are enjoying the ruins in solitude.  I thought it was the survivors of the Inca trail who had that privilege.  Apparently not.

The classic Machu Picchu view is from the Guardhouse, which is rapidly inundated with hikers and tourists, while whistle-happy park rangers try in vain to maintain order. Flavio tries to make himself heard above the dozens of other tour guides as he narrates the Machu Picchu story.  We stumble between agricultural terraces, the sun temple, the three windows temple, the Intihuatana stone and the Royal enclosures, and then, suddenly, it’s all over.  Good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

Most of our hiking group is heading back to Cusco today and have to leave now. Christi and I are staying in Aguas Calientes tonight, so we can explore Machu Picchu at our leisure. By mid-afternoon, most of the tour groups and the hikers have left and we finally have a chance to enjoy the ruins in relative peace and solitude – the odd grazing llama aside.  Now this is why I hiked the Inca trail.

We reluctantly board the last bus to Aguas Calientes, and in one final touch of Inca irony, our hotel is located at the top of a steep hill. The hot shower and cozy bed are divine.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes.

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