We steadily climbed the pre-dawn stone Stairmaster known as the entrance to Machu Picchu, silently moving around those who fell off to the side; panting, shaking or puking from exertion.
The farther we got up the 1500 or so steps to the top the more of the land we were able to see around us, eventually able to shut off our headlamps and appreciate the heights we were reaching.
“So we basically woke up before dawn to madly charge up steep-ass steps for about 50 minutes straight in order to gain the privilege to climb another 100 flights or so up another mountain, after trekking about 8 hours a day for the last three days, in the rain?” I glanced back at Tom to see his answer.
He looked up at me thoughtfully with sweat pouring down his face “yup, that about covers it.”
“Oh good, was just making sure I had the gist of it” I said back laughingly.
Truthfully I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. Steadily climbing above the clouds, watching more and more of the jungle below me come into focus as dawn spread across the sky was pretty freakin’ magical.
We arrived to Machu Picchu well ahead of the crowds and walked in, ready to see what all the fuss was about. I for one was prepared to not be impressed. I mean it’s just another ruins site- right?
How wrong I was. Machu Picchu is seriously impressive on both the minor and major scale. That is the vastness of the site takes your breath away just as equally as the details. Blocks of stone were cut to fit together so tightly that mortar was unnecessary. 500 years later the buildings are still standing just as firmly and perfectly as ever!
The clouds covered everything, occasionally lifting to reveal new wonders and we were able to pretty much climb all over and explore this abandoned estate as much as we liked- making it a pretty magical day.
Once we reached the zenith of Huayna Picchu, towering about 1,180 ft above Machu Picchu I was really thankful for our early morning climb. I was also really thankful that It hadn’t been closed down due to rain as it often is in weather like we had. I guess it’s pretty understandable seeing as the steep and mostly exposed climb to the summit is so slippery at points that visitors rely on steel cables set into the rocks for support.
That said, I don’t think I would have truly appreciated Machu Picchu without getting to see the breathtaking view of it from Huayna Picchu.
After hearing from others on the mountain that the treks stopped being able to go the day after we left due to landslides, flooding and dangerous roads we were very happy that we had managed to make it on the trek. Seeing first hand the distances that needed to be covered to bring in supplies, and the remoteness of this architectural masterpiece made us appreciate it in a way I don’t think we would have had we simply boarded the Machu Picchu express and chugged our way there from Cusco. The jungle whipping prettily, but distantly past behind glass windows.
Back in town we settled down with a nice cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake- civilization has its perks. And who did we see in the coffee shop but the landslide victim from the beginning of the trek! Turns out he had 3 stitches and turned around to finish the trek, determinedly limping across all the ground we covered. A happy ending for everyone!