My Machu Picchu Experience

Looking out at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu.

At 4:30am the alarm on my cellphone went off as I laid there staring at it. I hadn’t slept at all. I was just waiting with restless anticipation. The girls and I got dressed quick and met Juan Carlos in the lobby to set out into the darkness. It was day 4 of our trip and this was the final push to Machu Picchu.

The welcome sign at the trailhead to Machu Picchu (5am)

The welcome sign at the trailhead to Machu Picchu (5am)

My adrenaline rushed as we passed a handful of other groups leading up to the trailhead from Aguas Calientes. Within 15 minutes into the hike I found myself alone, flying up the mountain, like I was 13 again, running down the stairs on Christmas morning. Only this time, the stairs were steep, wet, rocks that led straight up and there was over a thousand of them.

The dark hike up to Machu Picchu

The dark hike up to Machu Picchu

Sweaty, tired and excited, I reached the main gate just before 5:40am. The doors opened at 6, so I waited impatiently as other hikers trickled in, followed by tour bus after tour bus.

One of the first ones waiting at the main entrance of Machu Picchu

One of the first ones waiting at the main entrance of Machu Picchu

The morning was cloudy and rainy, but it couldn’t hide the incredible feeling I got when I saw that big beautiful bastard for the first time. It was quiet, mysterious, and felt so weird to actually be standing there.

Love at first sight. Walking up to Machu Picchu for the first time.

Love at first sight. Walking up to Machu Picchu for the first time.

First Glimpse of Machu Picchu

My First Glimpse of Machu Picchu: 6:14am

After about an hour tour of the grounds with Juan Carlos, he bid us farewell and I split with the girls to hike up Huayna Picchu (or Waynapicchu, is the big mountain you see behind Machu Picchu). The 35-minute hike was steep and intense, but the view down was breathtaking. You could see Machu Picchu and all it’s dramatic surroundings. I sat up there for about an hour watching the fog roll in and out, just trying absorbing and appreciating the moment.

The view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu)

The view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu)

By the time I made my way back down Huayna Picchu, people had already started clearing out as the weather didn’t cooperate with their plans. I ducked into one of the many old doorways, watching and waiting as the rain washed everybody away.

The morning fog rolled into Machu Picchu and carried everyone else out.

The morning fog rolled into Machu Picchu and carried everyone else out.

Morning fog at Machu Picchu

Annika did not appreciate the morning fog at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Hideout

My hideout as the rain picked up at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Hey look what I found!

By 2pm, the clouds cleared and so did the crowd. It was like the Picch was just testing the resilience of people… “Amazing is worth sticking it out for.” Life lesson?

For the next 2 hours I virtually had the whole place to myself. The sun was shining and it felt great on my cold, wet face. I walked around silently, soaking it all in…

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The clouds lifting on the ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

Working to maintain Machu Picchu

Working to maintain this incredible site.

The ruins of Machu Picchu - An Inca doorway

The ruins of Machu Picchu - An Inca doorway

The ruins of Machu Picchu - View of the terraces from the window

The ruins of Machu Picchu - View of the terraces from the window

The ruins of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu

Llamas hangout out on the grounds of Machu Picchu

Llamas hangout out on the grounds of Machu Picchu

Incan Llamas at Machu Picchu

Incan Llamas @ The Picch

A lone tree in the middle of Machu Picchu

A lone tree in the middle of Machu Picchu, oh the stories it could tell.

Before the time came to leave, I made my way to the main entrance to Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail known as the Sun Gate. It’s another 35-40 minute hike (mostly flat) to get there but it provides a different look at the Picchu that is equally as stunning as all the rest.

Hiking to the Sun Gate from Machu Picchu

The trail to the Sun Gate from Machu Picchu

The Sun Gate - Main Inca Entrance to Machu Picchu

The Sun Gate - Main Inca Entrance to Machu Picchu

The view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

The view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

I walked back from the Sun Gate and stole one last glimpse of Machu Picchu just as the afternoon sun illuminated the ruins beautifully.

Machu Picchu Peru

My last photo at Machu Picchu. The money shot.

I was one of the first ones on the mountain in the morning and made sure I was one of the last ones to leave for the day. Feeling so fortune and overwhelmed by the whole experience I made my way down to Aguas Calientes and met up with the girls just in time to catch the train back to Cusco.

As the train left the station, we popped the bottle of champagne I had been carrying with me throughout the trek to celebrate our day and this unforgettable experience.

The train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco after Machu Picchu

Celebrating after we devoured the Picch!

I wish I could have shared this experience with friends and family. I will definitely back again one day.

—-

Before visiting Machu Picchu, read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield.

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CHECK OUT PART 1:  The Trek to Machu Picchu

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10 Responses to My Machu Picchu Experience

  1. Awesome post! This has been on my list of places to go before I die for a loooong time. You’ve done an excellent job capturing the spirit (as much as can be captured in pictures and words). Two Big thumbs up!!
    Paula recently posted..Traveling Yogi & Roller-Skating QueenMy Profile

    • Gareth

      Thanks Paula! I admit, I was a little intimidated about creating this post because I don’t know if the words or photos really capture the feeling. You’ll just have to go see it for yourself : )

  2. this is one of the reasons i’d love to go Peru.. Machu Picchu is really amazing.. i would love to experience this someday.. putting this on my travel bucket list.. ;)
    rdsean recently posted..El Gamma Penumbra Choose Philippines for FunMy Profile

  3. Great post & brilliant photos – anything with llamas is good in my book. Although the thought of the trek up there terrifies me (I’m deathly scared of heights) – there’s no way you’d get me up Huayna Picchu. Think I’d be quite content simply playing Indiana Jones in the ruins! :)
    Waegook Tom recently posted..Crocuses in HarrogateMy Profile

  4. Pingback: Travel Writing Round Up [March 2012] « Caroline in the City

  5. Pingback: Travel Writing Round Up [March 2012] - Caroline in the City

  6. Did you stay in Aguas Calientes the night before you went up? Which hotel, and was it decent? did you have to get a licence for your entry to the ruins, or did you just buy your ticket at 6am an enter?

  7. The highlights provide a significant archaeologica scene of Machu Picchu. I have explore the beautiful lanscapes here.

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