Machu Picchu

Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, but haven’t made it there yet? This is how we felt about Machu Picchu (MP).

I like how Mark Adams describes the place in his book “Turn Right at Machu Picchu”, which I’m currently reading. It’s described as a “spectacular granite city…built in a spellbinding location: high on a secluded mountain range, in the misty subtropical zone where the Andes meet the Amazon.”

This modern world wonder was discovered over 100 years ago, but archeologists are still trying to reveal the mysteries of why it was constructed, the purposes it served, and the cause for its abandonment. One thing is for certain – it is spectacular.

Instead of trekking the Inca Trail to MP, we decided to take the train to Aguas Calientes (the nearest town) and make the strenuous climb up from there.

view from the train ride

View of Aguas Calientes, the town sits along the mighty Urubamba River

It was pouring down rain when we started the climb up to MP at 5am. I wondered if we would have any views at all once we arrived. Between all the rain and sweating, we ended up completely soaked.

map of the route from Aguas Calientes to MP; the black line is the road the shuttle buses take; the green line is the steep hiking trail

Upon arriving at MP, we headed straight to the guard station for the Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña) hike. We were the first to start the trek that morning. It was a relentless climb up.

steep steps

the steps to the top were unrelenting

as we approached the summit, the clouds parted a bit and we were mesmerized by the view

MP is located in a cloud forest. When we got to the top of the mountain, we were surrounded by clouds. We waited on the summit, hoping the clouds would part so we could see the ruins below.

on the Machu Picchu Mountain summit

proof we made it!

when we arrived, clouds were completely obstructing any view of the ruins below

we saw a spectacular rainbow why we waited for the skies to (hopefully) clear

After 90 minutes on the summit, waiting and hoping, the clouds opened up and the ruins came to life before our eyes. It was a magical moment.

the clouds are starting to part!

we quickly take a picture, not knowing how long the clearing will last

moments later, the skies clear even more

WOW!!!

After two hours spent on the summit, we headed to Sun Gate. From there, we could see the switchback road that leads up from Aguas Calientes to MP.

view from sun gate

The weather can change very fast in Colorado, and we learned the same is true about MP. Our first day there, it seemed every 15-30 minutes, it went from rainy and cloudy, to dry and sunny, and back to rainy and cloudy again. I was continually taking layers of clothing on and off. (Packing tip: bring lightweight layers that are easy to take on and off.)

We felt lucky that the skies parted and we enjoyed some sunshine, given it’s the start of the rainy season here.

at the end of our first day at Machu Picchu

Our second day at MP, we arrived at the ruins at the 6am opening time. It was a cloudy, misty morning, which gave the ruins a mysterious feel. And, with hardly anyone at the site yet, it was easier for me to imagine what this place might have been like back in its heyday.

MP in the morning fog

more alpacas than people at this moment

they are not afraid of people…we had to squeeze by this one to get by on the path

At 7am, we started the hike up Huayna Picchu. This is the mountain seen in the backdrop of all the iconic MP photos. It is the closest mountain to the ruins. Looking at the mountain, it would seem scalable only with climbing gear. However, there are stairs (very steep ones) all the way to the summit. At times, you are essentially on all fours, using your arms to pull yourself up.

After passing a few people at the start of the trail, we were the first ones heading up. We hiked up fairly fast, wanting the solitude of hiking without hearing or seeing anyone else.

the ruins just below the summit

We really enjoyed this hike and even had about 15 minutes on the summit before anyone else arrived. Once on top, we soaked it all in.

on the Huayna Picchu summit!

As with the day before, the sky was filled in clouds. After about 20 minutes on the summit, the clouds parted enough for us to see the ruins below, although not completely.

a cloudy morning

the mountain in the behind the ruins in this picture is the one we hiked up the day before

on the Huayna Picchu mountain summit

Instead of heading straight back down the Huayna Picchu mountain, we decided to do the extended hike that circles the mountain.

lots more steps

ladders on this route as well

Gran Caverna (Grand Cavern)

After the Huayna Picchu hike, we walked to the Inca Bridge.

on the way to the Inca Bridge

Inca Bridge

heading back from the Inca Bridge

As with most things in life, the pictures of MP don’t do it justice. I am thankful for the opportunity we had to see and experience it for ourselves. Our time at MP was an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.

got my passport stamped at Machu Picchu!

seems almost surreal that I saw this view with my own eyes and took this picture

10 responses to “Machu Picchu

  1. I can now see what your mom and dad were talking about when they described the bus ride and seeing the [crazy?] hikers going up the hard way. What a great experience and happy for you that the weather cleared so you have the experience of the incredible views! Please be careful on these challenging expeditions! Really enjoying your photos and commentary. Seems like I am there with you. Love you.

    • Haha! I was thinking about mom and dad being there…..but taking the bus!!! I am thankful the weather is not being too stubborn. Risky, when it is going into rainy season. Praying for the rest of your trip to be dry and safe….and FUN!!

    • I am really enjoying the book. Always nice to read something that’s set in the place where you’re traveling. I read Les Mis when we were in Paris a while back, it really came to life.

  2. Having spent time in MP in 1973-4, about this time of year, It’s all the same (WOW 44 years) and all very different! I envy you the zip lines, B&Bs, etc., as it was still being uncovered then and of course more is still being uncovered now. What a grand adventure!
    Cheers-
    RMac

  3. What gorgeous photos!! So glad the clouds parted at the end of the day for you to see everything below! Awesome! The worry wart in me couldn’t help but wonder if anyone checks those ladder rungs to make sure they remain secure? Love your new passport stamp! Looks exhausting—how many calories a day are you burning??—A BUNCH!!

    • The ladders felt pretty stable, thankfully; however, there are a lot of steep cliffs alongside the trails, with nothing to block you from going over. Really have to pay attention! Burning a lot of calories, but definitely eating more than enough to make up for it! 😂

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