The greatest Old Peak
Aguas Calientes is the village any backpacker would dread, one of these purpose-built for tourists, where everything's expensive, there's no character and people who live there are so used to ripping off gringoes you wish you never went there. But, it's the nearest point to Machu Picchu, and we preferred staying one night in Aguas Calientes rather than sharing Machu Picchu with other 1000 travellers, some of them going on their own, others going on guided tours. No, what we wanted is the perfect post card picture of Machu Picchu, without any human activity going on at the time, just silence and the remains of an empire.
We took the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and on the way to Aguas Calientes we saw some spectacular scenery. There were also parts of the Inca trail that you could see, and trekkers walking with their bags on their backs towards the same destination as us. It was a pity we didn't book the Inca trail, it would have been an incredible experience, but it was wet season and we didn't have that much time to spend in the area. Once we got to Aguas Calientes, some girls from the Pirwa Hostel picked us up and guided us to the hostel. We checked in and rested the whole afternoon, until it was time to get some dinner accompanied by pisco sours (unfortunately, these weren't made with love, unlike the ones we had in Cusco). We were forced to call it an early night as we were waking up at 04:30 am, just to be one of the first to see Machu Picchu. Jesus! It had to be worth it.
We had breakfast and left the hostel by 05:00 am. The first buses were departing at 05:30 am, and December is considered low season, but still, there was a long queue. People were not giving up on their post card picture either. We got on the third bus and started our way up to the sanctuary...we had considered walking the 8km to save up the money, but thank God we were smart enough to leave that option for the return; going up walking would have made us too tired for what was coming next. By 06:00 we were all lined up again like sheep in front of the entrance. When they opened the gates, we walked through, and just after 100 metres, we took the first glimpse at the famous ruins. And may we say WOW! The whole scenery, with the mountains behind, the green colour, the llamas walking around and the whole construction. We were very surprised to find out that it had only been built in the 15th century, and that most of the ruins had been rebuilt during the last century, since they were discovered. But still, it was impressive. We started our photoshooting, despite the morning mist, but soon it got impossible to take any because a huge cloud came over and decided to just sit on Machu Picchu; great, we had woken up at an absurd hour for this? Well, we sat and waited, staring at how some of people were smoking, eating and using walking sticks when the three are forbidden inside the park. No wonder if they ever close the access.
A while later, the massive cloud continued its way and we started our exploration through Machu Picchu; from the baths, to the main square, the Temple of the Three Windows, to the Sacred Rock, we explored every corner until it was 10:00 am. We had signed up to climb Wayna Picchu, the mountain behind Machu Picchu. We had heard it takes only one hour to reach the top, but it was one of the most aching hours Sonia will remember, as every step felt like three and the air was still thin. We didn't have any coca leaves to chew so many breaks were necessary on the way, but we made it, and when we reached the top, Machu Picchu seemed insignificant compared to the mountains surrounding it. We were so proud to have walked all the way, and we were thankful that the way back was downhill, no need to lose our breath again!
We spent six hours in total in Machu Picchu, you never know if you'll ever be going back. We took a moment to look at the ruins and memorise its beauty. Seriously, how lucky are we? (more pics available in the gallery)