So this is going to be a huge post, very heavy on the photo’s. We took a lot of pictures so we may as well share the whole album! I do promise however, that the pictures will become more spectacular as you scroll!
Our alarms were set for 3:30am as we were to hike out in the dark to reach the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) to watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Apparently every other hiker on the mountain was to do the same as the trail was extremely crowded. There was a buzz of excitement in the air that we all felt – today was the day we would finally reach Machu Picchu! I was still feeling rancid from the night before so it was Vikki’s turn to leave me in the dust! Never mind, press on! Our maglight torch failed at the perfect time so Celso loaned us a torch. I recall seeing some folks using their phone screens to light the way. Dawn crept up on us fairly quickly so we only had that bother for a short time. The climb up to the Sun Gate involved a scramble on all fours up a near vertical staircase. Vikki insists it was a wall!
Our view was less than spectacular! Thick cloud surrounded us but as we waited near the ruins, it began to shift. We were offered glimpses of the ancient city and the way the light played through the clouds was simply stunning. It was cold not moving so I pulled out my only remaining clean top – my souvenir “Peru Chef” t-shirt (featuring a guinea pig) and put it on to look oh so swish for my photo’s!
We started our descent to Machu Picchu. We reach a rocky outcrop and had the classic group photo with the city spread out behind us. Peter (from our Galapagos trip) and his companions joined us there after completing the Lares trek and we had an awesome photo of the whole Peru group. We also had our passports stamped at a kiosk with a Machu Picchu stamp which was kind of fantastic!
Finally we arrived were walking through Mach Picchu itself. It was hard to take a bad picture!
I’m singling out these two images below. The left one shows an extraordinarily painted hillside. Looking closely one can see another trail criss-crossing its way up (just another reason to go back one day). There is a rainbow coloured mountain in Peru called Vinicunca Mountain and this seems to have the same colouring starting to show through. The Photo on the right shows what appeared to be a scale model of the surrounding peaks carved into a block. The Inca’s were a clever lot.
We did have the option of a side trip up the mountain to obtain another overlook view of the city but Vikki and I were quite tired so we took advantage of the time to just wander aimlessly through the ruins. Time well spent! It was becoming very hot and we were feeling the sun begin to burn.
This photo commemorates our collective suffering. None of us were spared. This trip was proudly sponsored by Mountain Spew!
Interestingly some of the ruins just looked like normal stone houses with their roofs missing. It was amazing just how much of the city was open to free roaming.
All too soon, our time at Machu Picchu had come to an end. So we headed down to the station and said our goodbyes to Celso. We almost missed it! A funny thing happened on the train back to Cusco. As we were all relaxing some music kicked in and some masked people entered the cabin. The masks were the same white ones that the children had worn in the parades in Cusco. They had our attention and it quickly turned into a crazy fashion show trying to sell some of the local alpaca wool goods to the tourists. Seriously fantastic! We met Gonzalos at the station and we drove through some amazing scenery before finally reach Cuzco.
Back in town we all had one final farewell dinner with each other and Gonzalos. He invited us to head into the town square for a huge festival and to listen to his pipe band. We also gave us CD’s of his pipe band and a lovely necklace with a Chakana symbol. It was a representation of the southern cross but each side and step of the cross had a meaning. It was very lovely. The town was in serious party mode that night. It was the night before Inti Raymi, (Quechua for “sun festival”) and absolutely everybody was out on the streets. I began to worry for my wallet in the crowds as I occasionally felt a tap in my wallet area which I thought was a scouting tap. I walked around with one hand on my butt for most of the night. The pipe bands were actually quite good! The were much better than the pipe bands that wander around London train stations! We had an amazing time and it was the perfect way to end our trip. The following day we attended the actual festival at the ruins of Saqsaywaman. I’ll show you this, our final day, in the next post.