Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
177Trip End Jun 12, 2007
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I found the Sun Gate itself a bit of a disappointment, the view is OK but the ruins look pretty small and, despite us being pretty far forward in the queue and it being quiet season, the area was packed
We briefly left the ruins to leave our bags etc before setting out on our tour of the Machu Picchu. Valerio took us to all the major temples (Condor, Moon, Water/Fertility, Pacha Mama/Mother Earth, Sun) and Intihuatana (the hitching post of the sun) and explained the purpose of them all and why they were important. The religion seemed to be very nature based and is actually still practiced by some people in the area. After the tour we had free time to explore the ruins on our own and, if we wanted to, climb Huayna Picchu (the Young Peak, Machu Picchu means the Old Peak). We declined on the offer of an additional hike and found a quiet spot instead and had a bit of a doze before looking around the more residential areas of the ruins. I always find these bits most interesting, all the religious stuff is very well but I love looking at how people lived and imagining how similar/different to mine their lives must have been, this also seems to be the bit that all the tours miss. With all the religious stuff you could think that all their time was taken up in temples and religious festivals and forget that they were people doing a lot of the same things as us. I must be alone in thinking that these bits are interesting though, while we had been dozing the ruins had been invaded by all the day tourists and in the main areas you couldn't move without stepping in the way of someone's video camera but the residential areas were pretty much deserted
After getting our fill of ruins we caught the bus down the windiest road ever to the nearest town Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo) for some food and to meet up with our group for the last time. Although we had only know each other for 4 days we had really bonded and it was very sad to say goodbye. We caught a different train back to Cusco from the rest of the group, changing to a bus in Ollantytambo, which is quicker apparently, but we still didn't get back to Cusco until 7.30pm, it had been a very long but enjoyable day and after thin roll mats for 3 nights it was wonderful to sleep in a proper bed.
Machu Picchu was great and very interesting and a brilliant end to the trek, but the highlight was definitely the trek itself. It was hard in parts, especially with the altitude but it was so rewarding and the scenery is spectacular, our photos don't do it justice as you just don't get the scale - I can't describe how massive the mountains are.
Dean: Alex is spot on about the highlight being the trek to Machu Picchu, rather than Machu Picchu itself. The ruins are great and rank at the top of my list but the trail is a great adventure. You can get the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu as a day trip, but I really would suggest if you are going to do it, do the Inca Trail first - it makes the whole trip much more of a challange and adventure, and makes reaching Machu Picchu feel so rewarding.