The mysterious Machu Picchu

After, yet another short sleep, we were up at 4.30am to get ready to go up to Machu Picchu Inca City. By up at 4.30am, I mean we hit snooze so many times, that we were left with 5 mins to have breakfast before meeting our guide for the tour.

We left the hotel just after 5.30am to walk to the bus station to get the bus up to the Inca city. It was still dark as we started our walk to the bus stop. It felt like we were wandering around at midnight. When we arrived at the bus stop 10mins later, it turns out that we weren’t so early after all. Every other tourist staying in town also had the same idea to leave early. We joined the end of the 200m long queue, I think there must have been nearly 1000 people in front of us (at least it seemed like that). By the time we got to board the bus, it was nearly 6.30am. To board the bus you had to show your ticket and passport (they are very strict on seeing passports all the time here)

The bus trip was very interesting, the road to get up to the city was very narrow and windy. There was only room on the road for 1 bus at at time, however there were some passing spots, so there were a few occassions where we met a bus on a corner and one of us had to reverse to let the other through.

Near the top of the hill you could see a part of the ancient city which was exciting. When we reached the top, we all loaded off the bus and they recommend you use the toilet as there is only the 1 outside the gates and none inside. The cost of the toilet was 1 sol, which is about 25cents. We were happy enough to pay that, so we used the bathroom.

Once the group was all back together we went through the gates, we had to show our tickets and passports to get in. Once everyone was through the gates, our guide led us to the site. It was truly amazing to see. The mountain itself that were were standing on boggled my mind as to how you would think to build on the side of it. It was very steep and was surrounded on 3 sides by a river, which we later found out was actually the start of the Amazon River, which was interesting.

We walked around the ruins for 3 hours while our guide told us a bit about the history. The city was built between the 13 & 14th Centuries and was inhabited by 500 – 1000 people at any one time. It is believed that it took approximately 100 years to build the city and all of the rocks (carved into bricks etc) was sourced from the mountain. There was a pretty high tech drainage system that ran through out the city, with channels to ensure when it rained, nothing flooded.

After the tour, we were taken back out to the front gates. It was still early in the morning, so a few of us went back inside to see the “guards hut”. Up at the guards hut, we got a magnificent view over all of the city. There was a giant slab of rock up there and one of the ladies asked what it was, I announced it was the ‘Criminal Rock’ where they punish people… on closer inspection to the sign, it actually said ‘Ceremonial Rock’…. I blame the high altitude and early morning for my inability to read a sign. It then became the joke for the next few hours.

The hike up to the guards hut left us all starving, so we went back out to the front entrance for our lunch. We had a buffet lunch which was delicious, there was fried rice, noodles, salads, chicken pieces, fish pieces, numerous desserts and soft drink. Kath had an Inca Cola, which she described to be just like creaming soda.

Once we all had full bellies (perhaps I had a bit much too eat), we found a few people who were interested in hiking up to “Sun Gate” which is the end of the Inca Trail.

There were 7 of us who wanted to do the hike. We set off up past the guards hut and onto the Sun Gate Hike path. It took us about an hour to get up there, as we had many stops along the way to take pictures and catch our breaths. By the time the group had got up there, we were all stripping off layers as it was a pretty hot day.  Our backpack was getting heavier and heavier, and were were taking turns carrying it, until my shoulders got so sore Kath just carried it. The view from Sun Gate was amazing, you could see back to the Inca city and we also got to see the end of the Inca Trail path. I walked down the Inca Trail a bit of the way and then came up through the gate, the view was truly magnificent. It would be really amazing to see it for the first time that way.

Our hike down from Sun Gate was a bit tougher on the legs. When we arrived at the bottom, we caught the bus back down to town. We grabbed a beer with one of the men in our group, Tom, from the supermarket and drank that on the way back to the hotel. Once we arrived back in our room, we finished our beers, had a snack and showered and then went back out to the markets. I found a pretty cool shot glass there, it is ceramic.

We met with the group in the bar for a drink before dinner, then went to another restaurant within the hotel area. This meal was not as nice as the night before. For an entree, Kath had a vegetable lasagne, the pasta was in fact not pasta and was carrot, and I had a spicy meat filled capsicum thing, which was pretty nice. For our main meals Kath had a steak and I had a beef stirfry with rice and chips. For dessert, we both had chocolate tart with ice cream, Kath had eucalyptus flavoured and I ordered vanilla but got quinoa flavour… mmm chunky bits in ice cream.. We had another bottle of wine with Tom for dinner.

We went back to our room and I found it hard to get to sleep, I didn’t go to sleep until about 11.30pm.

When the alarm went off on Friday morning at 4.30am, one of us was good enough to get up and shower (that was Kath) and the other kept sleeping… We were down at breakfast slightly earlier than the day before, but not really that early. We managed to have a more substantial breakfast, which was nice.

We left the hotel at 5.30am again and went back to the bus stop. The line was even longer than the day before, however it felt like it moved quicker. We were up at the Inca city, by 6.30 and by the time everyone went to the bathrooms we were all set for our big hike. Today we were hiking up Mt Machu Picchu. Not everyone in our group wanted to do the hike, the others did Sun Gate hike and some just stayed back at the hotel.

We were told the hike would take approximately 2 hours up and 2 hours back, meaning we would be done by about 11:15am.

Challenge accepted.

Kath and I set off ahead of the group (which the guide said was fine), once we signed in at the gate (yes they checked passports again). There were some seriously spectacular views on the way up. The track was all uneven steps and some parts were so narrow, you could only go single file. We had our backpack with us, which weighed about 8kg, we had our jackets and 7 bottles of water with us, along with everything else we couldn’t fit in my backpack that was left in the hotel. I ended up carrying it for most of the hike and Kath carried some of the bottles of water, which was good as it saved us having to open and close the bag so much.

When we finally reached the summit an hour and 15 mins later (smashed it), the views were truly magnificent. You had a 360 unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains (half of which had snow on them), a view back down to the city and the river. The summit was over 3000m high. There were loads of people up here and over half of the guys had their shirts off cause it was hot and they sweated a lot obviously and needed them to dry.. It stank of BO! We went back to another viewing point (which did not smell) and had a rest for a few mins.

We then started the hike back down. This was a bit more challenging than the way up as we had to dodge people coming up and take it in turns to cross narrow paths etc. We got down in 1 hour and 10 mins (nailed it again!). We ran into the guide on the way down and he asked us to let Jacqui (our Marathon Tours Guide) know that the others were still on their way up and it would take a bit longer than expected.

When we reached the bottom we signed out and went to find the Inca Bridge Hike, which Jacqui said was really flat and good. We ran into Jacqui on our way to the other hike and spoke with her for a while to let her know how the others were going.

We set off on our next hike, which after the other huge one our legs were quite sore, so when we arrived at the check in gate we were puffing like we had sprinted up the hill. This hike was a 30min round trip (we did it in 27mins!). The paths on this were narrow and it was all in the shade which was nice. We saw the Inca bridge, which you cannot cross as it is beams across a huge cliff.. scary!

We met up with Jacqui again and sat with her while we waited for the rest of the group to come down the mountain from a nice view point overlooking the Inca City. We missed 4 people in our group come down as we hadn’t moved to the exit point in time. We then placed bets on how long the last people would come down…. I WON. We then made our way out of the Inca city and back to the bus. It took us a while for the bus to come and when we got back down to the city, we jumped off and grabbed some lunch. Kath and I shared a pizza and then went back to the hotel.

We met the group and made our way back to the train station to come back to Cusco. The train ride was really long and it felt like we were on a boat most of the time the way it was rocking. They gave us some gooseberries (look like cherry tomato, same consistency but taste like citrus) and a vegetarian pizza (covered in mushrooms). They then put on a fashion show, which was really odd and some rainbow character did a dance down the aisle. At the end of the fashion show they come and try and get you to buy the stuff that was displayed, I fell asleep during this part.

We eventually got to our station after 4 hours (train trip was meant to be about 3 hours) and got our bus transfer to our hotel. The check in process was much easier this time as they already had our details from last time. We are in a room right by a courtyard this time, which is a bit noisy. We pretty much fell asleep once we got clean.

Today is our last night in Cusco, before flying back to Lima and onto New York.

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