Machu Picchu is well known all around the world. It encourages people to travel to this corner of the globe. It bacame an icon, a symbol not only of Peru, but maybe even of the whole of The South America. For us, it was a great experience to visit the city. In addition, it felt like a grand prize we had just earned for compleating the 5-day Salkantay Trek.
Machu Picchu is actually the name of the mountain next to the city. The real name vanished in the past when the city was abandoned. The reason for that might be that it was not able to sustain its population after it had been cut out from the rural valleys, which had been taken over by Spaniards. The city was forgotten for the next couple hundreds of years. Today, it is almost impossible to find someone who had naver heard about this wonder. The city is picturesquely located on the top of the mountain, sourrounded by meandering river and green peaks of The Andes. Spectacular!
An early start
We woke up at 3:30 and, after half an hour, we met with the rest of the group and ventured forth towards Macchu Picchu. At the first control point located by the river, we had to wait till 5 o’clock when the guards started checking our tickets and passports. After crossing the bridge, we had 1700 steps to climb to the top.
There is some sort of insane race going on at this part of the trek. I could feel others heavy breath on my back for most of the time. People were rushing to the top and pushing around to be faster on narrow stairs.
The reason for all that madness is to see the city as one of the first people, before it gets flooded with other tourits. We walked in our own pace and met the competition winners on the top as they had to wait to 6:00 for the gates to open, just as everyone else. You can make it to this point by bus as well, which departs from the village below and costs 12usd.
The mystical morning
What is more, this morning Machu Picchu was covered in mist so the whole race was pointless. The mist was slowly evaporating and it added an another dimension to the view. It was almost like magic, very mystical. For the first hour, we were sightseeing and listening to the guide along with the rest of the Crazy Alpacas. In the meantime, the visibility slowly improved and eventually nothing was covering the famous views!
Visiting the Lost City
Machu Picchu is divided into 2 parts. The first one was inhabitated by the farmers and is composed of terraces used to grow crops. From there, you can see the million dollar, world-wide known view. In the center of it, you will find the second part of the city which was a district of temples where the most infuencial people of the Inca Empire lived. Nowadays, that part of the city is dominated by the large, guided groups of tourist and seemed to us the most crowded. However, it is still worth it to go and see the temples from up close. We met some lamas there as well. These animals are so efficient with grass eating that the staff do not have to use lawn mowers at all.
One-way walks in Machu Picchu
The entire sightseeing was conducted through the one-way paths, so once you make it to the temple part there is no way back to rural tarraces withouth leaving the sight. The ticket allowed us to enter twice. After the first circuit with the guide, we made another entrance to return to the lookouts. There was no more mist and and visibility was just perfect. We could see the magnificent Machu Picchu in its full glory.
If you wish to see the ruins from the distance, there are 3 possibilities. The first two are mountains: Montaña Machu Picchu and Wayana Picchu. The access to them is limited to 400 people a day and costs extra. It is necessary to book in advance. If you decide to do it, there is a steep climb of almost 2000 steps ahead of you.
We did not climb to these peaks due to the limited time we had. Our bus back to Cusco was scheduled to leave at 3pm. Apart from the stairs down, we had to walk 10 km back to the Hydroelectics to the pick-up point. If you do the Salkantay Trek it might be a good idea to book an evening train instead. It is quite pricy but you will have more time in Machu Picchu.
The Sun Gate
We chose to go to the Sun Gate instead of the additional peaks and it was great. It is free and gives you panoramic views of the ruins, river down below and the mountains all around. This is the last part of the popular Inca Trail, as well.
After 5 hours, we were happy with the views and satisfied with the pictures that we took. At around 11:30 am we had to start to head down. At the bar near Hydroelectric, we met our company that we had spent the last 5 days with. We exchanged our impressions about Machu Picchu and soon left for the bus. It was n 6-hour ride to get back to Cusco.