Thursday, February 16, 2012

Machu Picchu

Its been a crazy last few days.
It started in Ollantaytambo, the town we needed to catch the train from up to Machu Picchu. When we arrived at the train station, we were told there had been a mud slide along the tracks and the train would be late leaving while they cleared the tracks. Maybe an hour....
We know that in most countries, maybe an hour could mean maybe an hour or maybe not today. So all we could do was hang out and wait. This was around 7am. We had to get up that morning at 6am, so we could catch out ride from our hotel to Ollantaytambo. So needless to say, we could use a place to hang out while we waited. The lady who met us at the train brought us to a nearby hotel to wait. She said she would come back in an hour. She of course came back in an hour and told us that she still didn't know anything, but it should be soon. Maybe another hour. Ya right...
  We finally left the station around 1:30-2:00. It was an interesting boarding process though. We had tickets with assigned seats, but because of the train delay and the mass of people who were waiting at the station, some since 5am. It was a cattle call. Ticket numbers and seat assignments meant nothing. We had to get on the train, this train or we would not make it up to Machu Picchu that day. So the 6 of us formed a line holding onto each others backpacks and tried to stay together in the mass of people who also wanted to get on that train. There were a few crazy moments with some very rude people, but we all got on that train and off we went.

1 1/2 hours later out vista dome train reached the town of Aguas Calientes. The town at the base of Machu Picchu mountain. Our guide was there waiting for us!! He quickly rushed us to the bus that would take us up to the ruins. The bus ride was another 25 minutes of switchbacks that carried many people up and down that mountain every day.

Finally, we arrived!! Our first glimps of the ruins was breathtaking. It is so hard to describe. It takes a while to walk up the hill and around the bend and then there it is, in all its majesty. It is no wonder that the world has named this a Unisco Heritage site. Set at 8000 feet above sea level, it is hard to believe why anyone would think to build a city up here in the clouds. As we listened to our tour guide tell us about the amazing engineering and arcatecual feet in building this city. You realize who special this experience really is. The Incans carved out this mountain and built up the base and the homes to make a safe haven for its most important Kings and high priests. Protected by the surrounding mountains. This empire was kept strong and protected from the Spanish, who never did conquer it, unlike most of the other Inca temples in Peru.

After our 1 1/2 tour it was getting dark, so we took the last bus off the mountain to our hotel back in Aqua Calientes. By the time we checked in and ate supper it was time to get into bed so we could get back up at 7 and take the bus back up the moutain for our second 1/2 day to tour.

Our second day we were on our own in terms of touring. We decided that we wanted to try to hike up Waynapicchu, which is the huge mountain on the back side of Machi Picchu. This mountain looked very intimidating. Towering straight up behind the ruins. It looked almost impossible to climb. But here we were and we could no9t pass up the chance to at least try. As we waited for the gate to open at 10am. We could see the 7am crowd up at the top of the mountain ruins. Every day only 400 people are allowed to climb Waynapicchu. There are two times to go up. At 7am or 10 am.

Dean and I got signed through the gate at 10:15. Our goal was to start climbing and see how far we could go. We also really wanted to make time to hike the Inca trail up to the Sun gate, so we knew our time to make it up this mountain was short. So we didn't waste time. We started at a good clip while the grade wasn't to steep and we could make some time. When we looked at the mountain before we started, it was very intimidating. It is just over 1000 feet straight up. Would all the training on the treadmill at home the last 5 months really help me now?
But as we went, we both just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Passing a few people that were slower and kept our feet firmly planted on the built up rock steps. Stopping when we needed to to catch our breath, then pushed upward and onward. We were told the hike up was around 1-1 1/2 hours. After about 15 minutes into our hike up, some people who were headed down from the earlier group told us it was only another 20 minutes more. What!! This was doable. If we had made it this far already, than surly we could finish it up to the top and still make it down in time to hike the Inca trail before 1pm!! So we gave it a little more, and pushed on to the top. What a sight we had when we looked up from the stairs and saw the majesty of Machu Picchu from 1000 feet above. This was a sight that was worth the climb. But we couldn't take to much time to sit and rest. We needed to make it down and across the ruins to the other side. So that we could climb the 1000 foot inca trail to the Sun Gate on the other side of the valley.
 Going down was so much easier and so much faster. Other than a few places that were so steep that I had to go on the bum or go backwards it was a great trip down. When we arrived at the check point gate on the way out. The lady asked us "what happened"? Why, I asked? Nothing happened. She was very surprised we had gone up and gotten back down in an hour and ten minutes. That was very fast. But she didn't know we had another challenge ahead of us and could slow down. We had to climb to the sun gate and we had very limited time to do it. So we booked it across the ruins and up the other side to the Inca trail that would bring us up the the Inca Sun Gate or Intipuncu.
Intipuncu is nestled in a narrow notch 1000 feet up on a mountain overlooking Machu Picchu. It is along the ancient Inca trail that is a long narrow stone path made by the incas to get up to their sun gate. The Sun Gate was just one more awe inspiring feet that these incas did. The sun gate was cut with stones in perfect configuration and placement so that the sun would perfectly hit in precise spots in the city. The sun gate was used to tell the incas the perfect date for the beginning on planting or harvesting.
As we stood at the top overlooking where we had just come from we couldn't help but amaze at the beauty  before us. It was amazing to think that we had walked along the same stone path that the Incas used to walk along every day. Amazing!

When we reach the sun gate we got a panoramic view of not only Machu Picchu, but of the endless mountain peaks stretching into the clouds above. We could also see the river that runs through these mountains all the way to the amazon river and the switchbacks that brought us up from the bottom of the mountain this morning.

1 comment:

malita said...

Hi Dean in Wendy I am so enjoying your blog everything is absolutely wonderful I wish I was there. And I hope you have a wonderful birthday Saturday so wishing you all the best all my love mom