Machu Picchu

Days: 298 (19 April 2015)

Total distance travelled: 57,180.5 kilometres (35,515.84 miles)

I mentioned in our previous post that the highlight (in our opinion) of Aguas Calientes was in fact our hostel, the merits of which were proven in the fact that despite many people in the town rising at around 4am (as we did) to be at the Machu Picchu ruins, we were still offered the chance to partake of our hostels free breakfast!

Yes, some good soul was up at the same time as us (and several other guests), making sure we all had the opportunity for a hot drink, bread, and even freshly cooked scrambled eggs!

It was in truth the only positive news at that particular hour, as rains which had serenaded us to sleep the previous night, had still as yet failed to cease.

Things were shaping as a cold and miserable morning for our time at one of the worlds most famous tourist spots… typical!

At least with our stomachs satisfied it wasn’t all bad, and even as we strolled towards where the morning buses up to ruins depart from (it is very possible to walk there, not to mention much cheaper, however we wanted to maximise our time in the ruins given we had an afternoon train out of Aguas Calientes), those rains began to ease.

In fact by the time our bus (the second of the morning) departed, it had ceased completely, and the grey morning light began to reveal an admittedly damp, but lush, misty morning.

We were soon near the front of a crowded entrance gate, waiting for them to be thrown open at 6am with what felt a large group of similar minded visitors.

Tickets were scanned (despite our Lonely Planet guidebook suggesting you couldn’t, we bought our tickets online in advance), and just like that we were in, and very suddenly the crowd seemed to dissipate.

It incredibly felt like we were alone and better than just that, we were at Machu Picchu!

6am... no shower... who cares!?

6am… no shower… who cares!?

That morning rain meant plenty of misty looking clouds lingered, but in truth, they added more to the place, creating a truly mystical experience.

Obviously hard to realistically know without having been here multiple times (although this was Sarah’s second visit), but we both thought the weather was ultimately perfect!

So to complement the weather, we decided to climb, in search of own version of that iconic, perfect shot.

Searching for better views...

Searching for better views…

And got them! Machu Picchu in all its glory!

And got them! Machu Picchu in all its glory! The mountain you see in the background, Huayna Picchu.

As our gazes fell over the ruins below, it seemed ridiculous how few people could be seen, but I guess that was our ultimate reason for getting here so early.

To beat the larger tour groups, as well as the trekking groups who almost all wait above at the sun gate, awaiting the sunrise (which on this particular morning, wasn’t visible).

Coming to terms with the realisation of a childhood dream...

Coming to terms with the realisation of a childhood dream… and the lack of people!

With tickets purchased for Huayna Picchu as well (the mountain visible behind Machu Picchu, on which only four hundred tourists are allowed daily), our goal was to explore the main areas of the ruins prior to its gates opening at 7am.

Thankfully, with so much to see, it was never a case of just twiddling our thumbs until it was time to make the climb (the entrance times are staggered, two hundred people at 7am with the same number allowed to enter at 10am).

The benefits of getting here early, with not another tourist in sight!

The benefits of getting here early, with not another tourist in sight! Those buildings you see, our next stop.

We explored more of the well constructed buildings, peered through many of those distinctly Incan trapezoidal doorways, and at times just let our gaze roam up, down and all around as those puffy clouds rolled past, and different levels of light revealed old scenes in new ways.

Put simply, you could lose yourself here for hours.

Awestruck at the scale of this remote, mountain site

Awestruck at the scale of this remote, mountain site

But soon it was time for us to climb that other mountain, the one sadly, more famous as the backdrop to I’m sure millions of peoples photos of the Machu Picchu ruins themselves.

It was now time for Huayna Picchu to be the star in its own right.

Obviously there were some people far keener than us however, so we joined the back of a fast growing queue, within which we spied our American friends, Brodie and Shannon (sadly, just out of earshot).

We were a fair way back in the queue as stated, but had already decided we’d do the whole shebang, and by that I mean aim to complete the apparently four hour long circuit that not only makes the ascent up Huayna Picchu, but also down the other side so we could visit the Gran Caverna and the Templo de la Luna, and began our climb at a cracking pace.

It was probably adrenaline from the excitement of the whole morning, but we were (despite a lot of puffing and panting) quickly finding ourselves overtaking many people seemingly (at least based on their expensive sportswear) more athletic than ourselves.

Making the Huayna Picchu ascent (left) & taking in the views of Machu Picchu below (right)

Making the Huayna Picchu ascent (left) & Taking in the views of Machu Picchu below (right)

At a perfect location (as it was one of the wider places where you could grab great shots of the surrounding valleys and ruins below) we managed to catch up with Shannon and Brodie. Perfect as it meant we could finally grab a photo of the four of us altogether!

We all soldiered on, at times marveling at the views of Machu Picchu below, whilst at other moments, equally amazed by how rapidly the scene would either change, or disappear altogether as more clouds rolled past.

Losing the vista behind the clouds

Losing the vista behind the clouds

Still, the climb was completed in far faster time than any of the four of us expected, so we had time aplenty to kick back and enjoy the stellar, albeit at times blanketed views.

At least the clouds fairly raced by, so there was usually something to see in at least one direction…

On top of the world... well, at least atop Huayna Picchu!

On top of the world… well, at least atop Huayna Picchu!

After a little posturing, assuming the air of some sort of conquerors, we began our climb down the opposite side of the mountain, a far steeper proposition than the seemingly steep climb we’d just completed.

For most of the downwards journey, we were blanketed by cloud meaning the views were essentially non-existent, but it was still pretty cool nonetheless.

Making the descent on the opposite side of the mountain

Making the descent on the opposite side of the mountain

Eventually the path bottomed out, and by now the trail was now surrounded by moss covered growth meaning we could see little at all.

Then suddenly we emerged, our views would have been unimpeded had there been no cloud, and immediately below us, covered in lichens and ferns was the Templo de la Luna and the Gran Caverna.

In truth, there wasn’t really a whole heap here to see, but we had certainly enjoyed the walk down, and the path did continue on from here (after all, it is called a circuit).

Exploring the barely visited Templo de la Luna (Temple of the Moon)

Exploring the barely visited Templo de la Luna (Temple of the Moon)

The only downside however, we were now actually much lower than the original path on which we’d come, which meant a lot of the journey to follow, would in fact be uphill!

At least the at times, cliff hugging path on which we trod, wasn’t as steep as our descent had been from the from the summit…

With our path clinging to the cliff face as we complete the Huayna Picchu circuit

With our path clinging to the cliff face as we complete the Huayna Picchu circuit (yes, there is a path in the picture on the right)

Eventually the paths reconnected, and we were soon finished the Huayna Picchu circuit, ultimately very happy to have completed it an hour and a half sooner than the suggested time necessary!

What we weren’t happy with however, was the state in which we now returned to the ruins (the state of the ruins, not us in our sweat bathed clothing).

The place was now a writhing sea of humanity, everywhere we looked, lines of queues snaked their way across the previously pristine UNESCO World Heritage site.

With the passage of time, we could now see the growth of previously non-existent queues...

With the passage of time, we could now see the growth of previously non-existent queues…

I was also suddenly very thankful.

Thankful that we’d made the effort to get here early, a time in which I’d been able to truly enjoy the place in a much more tranquil manner.

We explored a few more places that we’d missed, but quickly shelved any plans to return to the viewpoints higher up the terraces.

Our explorations quickly became more of a process than a pleasure, so we decided to call time on our Machu Picchu experience and head back to town.

Machu Picchu, awash with tourists!

Machu Picchu, awash with tourists!

Weeks later (yes, I can speak from the future) we met a traveler in Arequipa who said she decided not to visit Machu Picchu as, I quote, “she’d seen the pictures.”

Forget that bullshit, Machu Picchu is brilliant, an experience I think would amaze most people (even when awash with tourists if you hadn’t experienced it during quieter times).

If you’re content to simply look at the pictures, you may as well become great friends with Google and never leave home…



* A combined entrance ticket for Machu Picchu & Huayna Picchu cost each of us $150.52 US.

* A return ticket for the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu cost $25.00 US per person (approximately $150.00 Soles).

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15 Responses to Machu Picchu

  1. Mark Van Bergen says:

    Ahh, thanks Chris & Sarah. So many memories rekindled – even seemingly shit early morning turning out spectacular. Seeing the photos reminded us fondly of being there (something that traveller won’t have I’m guessing). Anyway speaking of memories – just arrived at the Riverboats festival. (Reading you post in the bar queue). Cheers

    • Chris says:

      Ah, we wondered if you’d be up there this year! We ummed and ahhed, but after only just getting home opted to save the pennies (off to see the Violent Femmes, Ratcat, the Sunnyboys & Hoodoo Gurus at Day on the Green instead)!

      Hope you guys have an amazing weekend!

  2. Joella says:

    Machu Pichu is another of those places everyone seems to have been to apart from me haha! It’s definitely on my list to go someday. I was just perusing your bucket list actually and saw you were on Easter Island when you were in Chile (I think I knew that actually but forgot)- so that must be coming up on the blog soon if we are in April now, unless I’ve missed it somehow? (You have done really well to keep to chronological order by the way!). Really looking forward to reading more about that. It is somewhere that absolutely fascinates me!

  3. Lovely post, Chris. Thx for sharing your awesome photos with us.

    I agree. It always amazes me when people don’t understand the difference between seeing a photo of a place, and actually being there. The person who said that to you is not a true traveller. It’s the same reason we pay big bucks to go to concerts and see our favourite acts in person. It sure beats listening to a CD!

  4. Chandi says:

    Gosh that place you climbed to looks so high with such dramatic drops!

  5. Milosz Zak says:

    I heard they started to set a quota for the Inca trail because it became so insanely popular. The train ride is apparently very picturesque, and Machu Pichu is actually one of many sites in the area. What incredible aboriginal heritage.

    • Chris says:

      There are quotas for the Inca trail, as well as to visit Machu Picchu as well, such is its popularity! All the more reason to visit early, and in the low season. Some of my other posts touch on the other amazing places around the area!

  6. twoscotsabroad says:

    Those photos are magic! I love the selfie. What a find that hostel is, we never get breakfast when we are up at stupid o’clock for hikes etc! Good idea beating the crowds, we got there early like you but were tripping over people by 10am.

  7. Mar Pages says:

    This looks completely magical, especially that you missed the crowd. I love misty mornings, and it looks even more special here amongst the clouds! What great morning exercise this makes, if only it could be done daily!

  8. Ashwini says:

    Wow! Machu Picchu is on my bucket list from a long long time and it is always nice to read about the place you love! You account is crisp yet with all the small details required for experiencing Machu Pichu at its best! And the photos, well, I can see them all day! 🙂

  9. Wow! It is absolutely beautiful! AND FOR SURE on my bucket list of places to go. Probably when the kids are older. Glad you had an amazing adventure!

  10. I See Bela says:

    Wow! It looks surreal! I hope that wooden ladder is sturdy enough.

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