Many people wake in the early morning to hike the steep climb to Machu Picchu’s entrance to catch sunrise. The morning of our visit, we had grand plans to accomplish such things. Our alarm was set for 5 a.m., but heavy rains and no chance for a decent sunrise forced us to sleep in until 7. Oh darn. We opted instead for the 25 minute bus ride to the entrance which was a good idea considering the exercise we would get later in the day.
There are few words for Machu Picchu. The scale of it is incredible! It’s location on top of the mountains is ridiculous! The Urubamba River that winds around it is awesome! We wandered into the park, bypassing the option of hiring a guide, and got a look at one of the New Wonders of the World.
We didn’t spend much time lingering as we had high hopes to climb Huayna Picchu, the big peak that you see behind the ruins in every postcard. Since they only allow 400 people to climb it per day, we had to head directly over to the base of the peak to secure our chance. We weren’t quite sure of the procedure of obtaining a pass and after trying to decipher the guard’s Spanish explanation, we finally got our answer. A fellow American informed us that it is quite competitive to get a spot, which we knew, but thought maybe we had low season on our side. Nope, at 9 a.m., we were too late. :(
Our informative American had headed up to the park’s entrance at 4 a.m. to get a chance at the climb! She told us that there was another peak we could climb which she had heard was better and did not require a pass to enter. With our plans foiled, we decided to wander around and concentrate on great pictures and videos. We couldn’t help but wonder what awesomeness we had missed. Also, with the thousands of tourists in the vicinity, getting great pictures might be difficult. In the end, I think we lucked out. Thank you, llamas!
After the llamas were kind enough to pose for us, we went to see the Inca Bridge which looks exactly like something out of a history book. It also made for some great photo ops. In this picture, Dusty is the little spec sitting on a rock on the right, the Inca Bridge is on the far left.
We eventually wandered to the entrance of Montana Machu Picchu. At the foot of the mountain, a guard at a shack had us sign in, I’m guessing either to make sure we came back down or more likely, to keep track of the number of daily visitors. He explained that the hike was and hour and a half up and the same back. Little did we know that the entire climb would be spent on stairs! I’d equate it to climbing the more difficult side of Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, AZ…times three. It was difficult, especially beginning at 8000 feet above sea level. When we thought we were close we asked someone coming down if we were almost there. Their answer was “Not really.” OMG!
Many people didn’t go all the way to the top which had us contemplate doing the same. That was before a snake crossed our paths which shook it’s tail like a rattle, but didn’t make any sounds. Maybe it was a baby. Some other hikers that caught up to us threw rocks at it until it got out of our way. How dare it make this climb more difficult!
Eventually we reached a point where a kind climber encouraged us and said “Only about ten more minutes!” Thank goodness! Finally, after climbing 500 feet, we reached the top and were not disappointed. Our aching lungs, quads and knees took a back seat to the incredible view. I believe this view is better than Huayna Picchu’s, although I don’t have a basis for comparison. It would be hard to beat! In the panoramic photo below, the peak just below Dusty on the right is Huayna Picchu. That’s how high we were!
At the top, we spent some time resting and taking photos. There’s a nice little hut for getting out of the sun as well as a place to put your belongings while you capture every angle of the summit. Eventually we headed back down, being sure to let the others still climbing that they were close to arriving at the top. “Only ten more minutes!”, we encouraged them.
About 15 minutes into our decent, I realized that I had left our bag with our passports and money at the top! No surprise, really. I’m always locking my keys in my car or leaving my purse in a taxi in Guatemala an hour before a flight, so why not leave our bag at the top of Machu Picchu Mountain? I repeated the climb back up to the top, huffing and puffing once again. One climber said to me, “Supposedly it’s only 10 more minutes to the top!” I said, “Yeah, I’m the one that told you that.” :) Finally, we made it back down with aching knees, sunburnt necks and our bag. Still, the climb was well worth it. I bet Huayna Picchu was so lame in comparison!
Wanna feel like you’re there? Watch our short video:
Click here to see more ruins, llamas and climbing victories.