ihana.com - travels - peru 2000 - machu picchu
We somehow managed to wake up, feeling totally knackered from the long day before. It was pitch black outside and we could here other people who were already up and about. We managed to get going as the sky was beginning to get a tiny bit lighter. We still needed torches though. Descending some very big steps and I twisted my knee on the first one, not seeing in the gloom that it was a pretty big drop. This, together with a big blister on each ankle, made me walk like a total spastic. After just over an hour we made it to the Sun Gate, Initpunku where we saw Machu Picchu for the first time.
The twisty road down to Aguas Calientes
Looking back at the Sun Gate
The Sun Gate had about 50 people sitting waiting for the sun to climb above the tops of the mountains and wash the ruins with its warm light. We decided to walk down to get a closer look. We came to a good vantage point and started listening to a guide who was with a large group. He was explaining a strange stone which, when the sun hits it, makes the constellation of the Southern Cross. We got there just before the very instant when the sun hit the stone and I managed to capture the magical moment on camera.
On May 12th (I think), the top of the shadow touches the notch at the near left edge of the rock. This is the day when the Southern Cross is visible totally square on to the earth from Machu Picchu. The stone was apparently used for embalming the dead.
This is my favourite shot of Machu Picchu
Good views are afforded from Huayna Picchu which is a strenuous hour's walk. We couldn't be bothered and didn't feel physically capable of doing it! My feet were screaming (or should that be humming!) for some alternative footwear!
We were told to go to the entrance gate to leave our rucksacks there. Nearby was an expensive restaurant serving breakfast which we couldn't resist. Then we trudged around the rest of the ruins which was interesting and well worth it. There were quite a few guided groups so we tagged along with a couple to hear what was what. By 11am we were tired and felt like going down to Aguas Calientes. Its a long walk down and then a further few kms to the actual town. There was no way I was walking any further. The first tourist bus down wasn't for quite a while and it cost the same as our bus had from Cuzco to km82! Barry spotted a truck into which some porters were getting. We found the driver and he refused to let us in. Pissed off, we went to the back of the truck and were going to climb in anyway but the driver relented and let us have a lift down for 3 Sols. As we bumped down the winding road, we offered water to the porters we were sharing the truck with and they were well impressed with our water bags. They were so tired that they fell asleep despite the massive bumping and shaking. I could see one guy's feet, they were in a bad state and he was wearing only sandals. They told us that they carry up to 40kg and get 50 Sols for 4 days work. The ages of these guys seems to be from 15 to 50.
We had some Coca Tea and beer in the first restaurant we came to before sorting out our train ticket for later in the afternoon. Then we visited the thermal baths. The hot pools are a welcome (if smelly) relief after the rigours of the Inca Trail despite the big groups of Peruvian boys messing about. I found a quiet corner with a nice chica to practice my spanish on....
We got the train back to Cuzco and flew back to Lima the next day. We spent some excellent days partying in Lima before heading back home. We plan on returning to Peru next year after travelling through all of Central America first. Europe just isn't the same since.
All pictures copyright ihana.com 2000 unless otherwise stated.