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