Match Point Machu Picchu - almost didn't make it!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Where I stayed
in a tent

Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

High up in the mountains at our camp, we get a wake up call and it is 3am. It's the fourth day and we are going to finally get to visit the Machu Pichu site. I rub my eyes and slowly unravel myself out of the sleeping bag and my warm little cocoon. I had not slept much as there was a lot of noise from the tent next door (my Dad and another Brit Andrew), as Andrew had been up in the night quite ill.
I dress in no time at all and drink tea and eat the bread and butter put out for us. It is still dark and the whole group is pumped up to finally see Machu Pichu after the long and hard 4 day trek seeing how the Inka's lived and walking the trail that they once walked.

Andrew had received oxygen in the night after waking up ill and short of breath. He looked ok when we all set off, but he was cold. We left our camp at 3.45am and got to the checkpoint first and we were pretty smug when we were saw our group were first in line.

Everyone wrapped up warm and with head torches on, Andrew next to me kept shaking with cold, he had already a lot of layers on. He was ill again and our group leader got him to lay down and sleep some in a sleeping bag, the problem was he was not calming down and was going off to sleep. I saw this and sat with him as he shook constantly, I talked to him and told him to think of tropical beaches (rubbish I know) and made idol small talk till we got him off to sleep.

It was nearing 5.30am when the gate to enter and start the last trek of about 1.5 hours was about to open. We got access the entrance hut and 5 men maybe more, I can't remember exactly, carried Andrew in for him to sleep more him. Finally he was starting to get a bit warmer and slept a bit heavier than before. Max our group leader, asked me to go outside and talk to him about the plan of what was going to happen with the group leaving and Andrew staying here. He asked me since he was much calmer with me there if I would do a great thing and stay there. I knew he would ask me somehow and I was already thinking that wouldn't it be weird if I did this big trek, came here with my Dad and then did not actually get to see Machu Pichu. It was a no brainer on my answer, of course I had to stay someones life was in danger. I told my Dad with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, gave him a kiss and gave him a quick rundown on how to use my camera. 

I sat inside the hut and this was probably one of the most memorable parts of this morning was watching the 500 hikers and their tour group leaders pass by the hatch window, me inside watching and hearing the heavy noise of the rubber stamp banging down on the wooden ledge as each ticket and person was checked entering. The last group to pass was when the morning daylight started to stream into the hut, it was the group of older Argentian men we passed many times over the last three days, I smiled and watched them enter knowing for now I was not going anywhere.

Those three hours watching Andrew checking his breathing, keeping the blankets on him as he wrestled and mumbled and making him sip water each time he woke up were the longest hours I've had to pass the time. I listened to music from Colombia that reminded me of there and had a lot of time with my thoughts. I thought about my trip, leaving Colombia, what I have enjoyed the most being the volunteering. I thought about what I might do in the future, for now I won't say here but this was the moment something occurred to me and well it could make sense. Let's see.

I thought about my Dad completing the last part of the trek without me and I hoped he was ok, I was more sad that I might not be at the site with him and somehow I hoped it would be ok. It did not matter though, as what was important was to give back to someone else and hope that Andrew was ok and was not carried off this mountain on a stretcher, which was the backup plan being organised as I waited. 

By 7.30am and a few times my patient woke up! Andrew was getting visibly better, fever was still there but shaking had stopped and he was talking and a lot which I knew was a good sign. I told him the last time he woke up that if he feels ok we are going to finish this trek together and go see Machu Pichu, that spurred him on and before I could blink he had got up, walked around and starting chatting to JC the assistant group leader who was with us about what time it was, where were the group etc. By 8am we had set off after stamping our own passports with the entry stamp, it was hard, not only was Andrew exhausted and still quite ill but so were we both as we had been through the emotions and constant updates the whole morning whilst we watched him. We passed by previous landslides, and JC and I chatted realising we shared the same age and shared life stories. It was that kind of moment.

Andrew bounced along ahead with pure adrenaline keeping him going, we got to the first hill and stopped a little and then got to the Sun Gate and saw the site covered in thick clouds. We stopped here so we could use the open air toilets, ie the grass, and talked about how we had nearly made it but it was a shame we could not see the ruins. JC gave more updates by mobile and walky talky as we sat there. Then to our luck and excitement the clouds lifted some and we glimpsed the winding paths of the site. JC said to wait more so we did and then the cloud lifted and we saw for the first time the Machu Pichu site.

All I could say as Andrew reminded me many times after this moment, was 'nice'. I think I had spent all my energy and emotions and nothing was left, I had also really condemned myself that we were not going to get here and I might have accompanied Andrew off the mountain and not saw it. But here it was. In all it's beauty, magnificence, surrounded by the thick clouds. Between us I had a mobile phone camera and Andrew's batteries kept dying so we were taking photos between us. I watched Andrew almost run to the site from the Sun Gate and we were both now so excited to be hear and to know we made it after what had happened and of course the long 4 day trek to get here.

We were so disappointed by the swarms of tourists when we got there, we were warned it is a bit like Disneyland. We got in line to take pictures at a point overlooking the site with the last bit of battery power in Andrew's camera. One tourist said to me to move for one minute so he could take a photo, I replied pretty clearly and strongly that he can wait, as I was up since 3am and I am taking this photo. He backed away. We were then reconnected with our group after a behind the scenes sprint through the ruins and I saw Dad in the distance and remember shouting out 'Dadddddd' and got a big hug, and a kiss on the cheek from Jed the American and words of you did a great thing thanks and a big hug with our tour leader Max too.

After this point, what was said or what I saw was honestly a blur, I could not take anything in and had to keep asking Dad what was said or to repeat it for me later. I was emotionally, as well as physically drained. 

We got a moment at the end of the tour to sit against the ruins and hear more about the history, how it was discovered and more from Max. Dad got his special surprise out of whiskey in a small hip flask and shared it with the five of us. Now that was the moment I was waiting for. To share this amazing experience with my Dad was very special indeed. Needless to say I will never forget this trip and what happened. They say in life things happen for a reason, maybe that will be true later in my life.

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aborder on

What an adventure! Such great karma in this story and I bet seeing those clouds part made the journey extra special indeed! So happy you got the view you wanted!!

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