Machu Picchu

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Saturday, May 26, 2012

Finally it was time to start our day at Machu Picchu. We got up at 4am, probably the earliest I've ever gotten up in my entire trip. All of us were exhausted, but we hauled ourselves out of bed, got dressed, grabbed our bags, and were out of the hostel by 4.30am. It was then a 20 min walk to the beginning of the steps up to Machu Picchu. It was still pitch black and the sky was full of stars, so we were lighting our way with our torches and head lamps. We didn't have time for breakfast, so I gobbled down a Snickers bar as we walked to give myself some energy for the climb. Then we had our tickets and passports checked before being allowed to start our climb. 
Now, one (slighty strange) thing I've discovered on my trip is that I absolutely hate steps. One thing I dread is climbing up steps. It's effort, hurts my knees, and I just hate it. Weirdly, I don't mind walking upwards if it's a slope, no matter how steep, but steps I can't do. So I was really, really not looking forward to the 1600 that we had to climb to get to the top. But I told myself if I could climb them I had earned the right to see Machu Picchu, and with that thought in mind, we started our climb. There were loads of people going up at that time, as everyone wanted to be the first ones into Machu Picchu before the tour groups arrived. Up, up, up we climbed. Very soon everyone climbing up was out of breath, and no one was going particularly quickly. It took me every ounce of energy I had to get up those steps, but eventually I got there, just as the sun was coming up. But there was no time for resting, we jumped straight in the queue to get in, and before I knew it, I was turning a corner and seeing my first view of Machu Picchu. I actually pretty speechless and just had to stand and look at it for a few minutes. Like many times in my trip, I couldn't quite believe I was there. Machu Picchu had been one of the big moments of my trip, one of the things I was most excited to see and had been planning for the longest. So to finally be there was quite overwhelming. 

We spent an hour walking round and taking some photos while it was still empty, before meeting up with our guide Sam, who gave us a tour of the ruins. Machu Picchu was built around 1400, as an estate for one of the Inca kings. It was later abandoned, and although known of locally, was undiscovered by the outside world till 1911, when American historian Hiram Bingham found it. Unfortunately, he took many of Machu Picchu's treasures and artefacts back to America, and to this day they remain at Yale University. Yale and Peru are still in talks about the return of the artefacts to Peru. Sam explained about the different uses for the terraces, as some were for agriculture and some were ornamental. Then we saw some examples of houses, every one with little alcoves for offerings to the gods. He showed us the Temple of the Sun, where they conducted ceremonies and sacrifices. One interesting thing he told us about sacrifices, was that the human sacrifices were typically beautiful young girls, around the age of twelve, and that the animal sacrifices were usually black llamas, as they were seen as the strongest. Interestingly we never saw any black llamas around! 

 We also saw a couple of other temples, the sacrifice table, a sort of compass they had, and the main square. There was also this cool rock which was the same shape as the mountains. Sam swore it was naturally made, but we were all a little sceptical. Sam also explained the difference between the stonework. Some had the blocks cut exactly, and smoothed down, and others were rough and seemed to be made for for practicality than for looks. Apparently the stonework on the sacred areas was the carefully cut stone, and the rough hewn one was called rustic, used for general walls or farm areas. 

After our really informative tour, we said goodbye to Sam, and then had the rest of the day free to explore. Most of our group has passes to climb the mountains, but myself and my friend Mike didn't, so we needed something else to do. You can walk to the Sun Gate, which goes along the last section of the Inca Trail, so we decided to do that instead. We were actually pretty glad we weren't climbing the mountain, as we were both knackered, and it was incredibly hot! So we trekked up to the Sun Gate, which Sam had told us would take 15 minutes, but it took us an hour! Maybe he runs it. We didn't mind though as we had so much time to spare! We eventually got there, and spend an hour or so resting in the shade. The views were amazing. We seemed so far away from Machu Picchu, and it was cool to see it in the context of the whole area. 

After the Sun Gate, we decided to explore the right side of Machu Picchu, which for some weird reason seemed pretty much deserted. We were getting pretty sick of the huge tour groups, so we went over there, found some empty terraces, and had a nap! It was so nice, and meant we could escape the midday heat. After that we just walked round the houses on that side, and joked we were house hunting, and ended up comparing all the houses. There's a couple of spots where you have the quintessential 'Machu Picchu photo'. But these were always packed full of people, so we decided to wait till most of the tour groups went home and then we'd have our photos there. Whilst waiting we ended up running into the llamas, and had one pose perfectly for us. Then we legged it up to the photo spot whilst it was empty and took all our photos. By this time it was about 4pm, and the lighting was great. We sat and watched the sun start setting, and then when the park closed at 5pm, we slowly made our way down. 

 As we went back down the steps, a little dog who Mike and I had seen at the sun gate started following us. He came with us down all the steps, and I ended up naming him Ferdy, as he looked like a little fox. By the time we were at the bottom of the steps, it was almost dark. We started to make our way along the road back to Aguas Cailentes. As we were walking, I spotted a little dog in the darkness. For some reason, I ended up calling out Pasha. My friends looked at me like I was a bit crazy, but lo and behold, the dog trots over to me, and it was actually her! She wagged her tail at me and gave me her paw. I gave her a huge fuss, and was like 'Pash, what are you doing here?' When Ferdy came over to see me too, she quickly defended me and told him in no uncertain terms to back off! I guess I was 'her' person, haha. So we carried on, with Pasha walking alongside me as usual. Suddenly as we were walking, these little lights kept flashing in the darkness. Fireflies! I'd never seen them before, and they were pretty amazing. So with fireflies lighting our way home, and with my reunion with Pasha, it was an awesome end to the day. As we were walking, my friend Andrea ended up being quite far behind, so Pasha stopped, waited for her to catch up, and then came back to me. Andrea was like, 'thanks Pasha!' Such a loyal little dog.

 But when we got back to the hostel, it was time to say goodbye to Pasha. Of course, I ended up crying. She was the sweetest, most loyal little dog I've ever met, and if I could have taken her home with me and paid for her quarantine I would have! I still think about her a lot. We then went and had dinner and waited for our train. That evening we had a pretty horrendous journey back to Cusco. We waited for ages for our train to turn up, then we had to get a minibus back to Cusco, but we couldn't find it and started worrying it hadn't turned up. Luckily it was there, and by the time we got to our hostel in Cusco it was 2am. I had been awake for 22 hours, and all I wanted to do was sleep. It took forever to check into the hostel, and when I got to my room I collapsed into bed. But of course, it was a Saturday night, and the hostel had a big party going on, and my room was right next to the street, so all night I had to listen to drunken people spilling out onto the street, taxis hooting, people shouting. It was horrible. So after 4 hours of little sleep, I got up at 6am, to catch my bus to Puno. 
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