Peru X-An Adventure in the Land of the Incas

MACHU PICCHU

Monday, January 8 2018

The day we long anticipated had arrived. This day we would finally have our first glimpse of and up close introduction to one of the 20th century’s most significant archeological discoveries - the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu!

An early start after breakfast had us at the train station in Ollaytantambo where our guide Cynthia introduced herself and helped us settle in for the ride to the Inca Trail. The 1 ½  hour ride took us to the trailhead for the one day hike to Machu Picchu. When we initially were planning our trip, Tom and I were up for the 4 day hike on the Inca Trail to the ruins. Thankfully that plan was changed to the optional 1 day hike, as we soon discovered, even the one day hike was challenging.

At mile marker Km 104, not a train station, simply a stop along the tracks, we hopped off the train and crossed a footbridge over the Vilcanota River where we connected to the Inca Trail. Near the trail’s beginning we visited the Ruins of Chachabamba, which has religious significance as well as a guardhouse to control access to Machu Picchu along the ancient Inca Trail.                         

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At the footbridge and at the Ruins of Chachabamba.

We would hike high up into the mountains behind us to the bare spot on the mountainside, the Wiñaywayna Ruins, 4+ hours. Wiñaywayna is the largest Inca site along the Inca Trail, a very impressive place with fantastic views down into the valley.

This one day hike was far more strenuous than I could have imagined. Perhaps because of the previous night’s intestinal disruption and a light breakfast, my energy levels were taxed to the max. But we plodded along slowly, just as many others along the hike were doing also. Of course, there were those whose energy was unbounded as they sailed past us. We had all day, so a slow pace was perfect as Cynthia, our guide, was always encouraging and informative as we bore on higher into the mountains. 

After 4+ hours, we arrived at Wiñaywayna. Even at a distance this place was outstanding. The steeply terraced levels with stone houses were amazing. How the pre-Inca and Inca were able to construct such elaborate structures without known mechanical mechanisms is astounding. The shear labor force needed, not to mention the skills required is a true wonder.


Before continuing with the story, enjoy the following photos as we progressed along the Inca Trail to Wiñaywayna Ruins.








Our first close up glimpse of Wiñaywayna Ruins:



The steep steps slowed us down after more than 4 hours of hiking to this place. 

Resting frequently, we did managed to climb higher up into the ruins.















Cynthia waiting for us as we climbed up the steep steps.

















We did not spend much time at Wiñaywayna, but enjoyed the spectacular ruins and views before crossing the terraces and continued on toward Machu Picchu. A brief stop for our packaged lunch along the trail provided a much needed rest, but, for me the lunch was not very satisfying as my appetite was off balance. While the lunch was substantial, I could not eat half of it. Other than being a bit fatigued (imagine that after a long steep hike), I was feeling mostly OK.

The long last leg of the trail finally brought us to the stone threshold Inti Punku known as "The Sun Gate” which was the main entrance to Machu Picchu during the Inca Period. At 9005 feet above sea level, here we were rewarded with our first siting of the renowned ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu!

Many others were milling about around the Sun Gate entrance celebrating their arrival from their own Inca Trail hikes and absorbing the views down upon the ruins. Tom and I gazed down and marveled at this place that had intrigued us for many years. 

We had made it!

Even as we felt relieved to have finally made our way to the threshold of Machu Picchu and as I stood looking out at the sight, I quite suddenly felt that very unsettling feeling of nausea welling up inside me. Finding a convenient spot to sit down and try to regain some internal balance, my discomfort only slightly calmed, I told Cynthia of my condition. She had me move away from the crowds to a quite spot whereupon she instructed me to use hand sanitizer rubbed onto my fingers and palms, then cupped over my nose to breath in. Remarkably, breathing in the scent of the alcohol miraculously calmed my nausea. She sat with me for awhile more, however,  until I felt even more settled before rejoining Tom at the overlook. 

Cynthia then offered (actually insisted) to carry my pack in addition to her own. With little protestation from me, we then continued down to Machu Picchu. 

Our arrival, later in the afternoon provided lighting that highlighted the ruins. It was brilliant in the sunlight, enhancing an already magnificent vision. After a brief walk into Machu Picchu, we walked down to the entrance where buses were lined up taking visitors down to the town of Aqua Caliente, the starting point for many of the site’s visitors. Alas, it appeared almost every visitor was waiting in extremely long lines to board the buses. Buses were coming and going constantly, but the lines of people extended far down the road which, it was obvious, would require us to stand in line for a very long time. However Cynthia, being a great guide and intermediary for us, took us to the head of the line. There she informed us the Peruvian law allows for senior citizens (those over 60 years) to board ahead of others. Part of me would like to have contested being called a senior citizen, but feeling the stress of the hiking and depleted energy, I was more than willing to take the cut in line and board the next available bus. Whew! I could not imagine having had to wait any longer than we did. 

The ride to Aqua Caliente took 20 minutes, zig zagging down, sometimes having to wait as the upcoming buses sped up to load more passengers onboard. Our ride down was made very enjoyable, as a group of women next to us began singing along to a song the driver was playing on the radio. It must have been a popular song, as many of the Spanish speaking passengers also joined in the singing. The jovial atmosphere, laughter and singing certainly made for an especially enjoyable experience after our long, tiring day.

After we were settled in our hotel in Aqua Caliente, we met Cynthia on the street and enjoyed a good dinner before calling it a wrap for the day. The next day an early start would take us back up to get a closer look at the marvel of Machu Picchu.


The road to Machu Picchu winds up from the town of Aqua Caliente. It is a 20 minute bus ride, or, one may hike up if they prefer.








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