Sometimes you venture to a place where words can’t do the location, the experience, and your excitement justice. Despite my limited vocabulary range, I did happen to find the right word that was universal understood (provided you could speak American English) to summarize DBF’s and my trip to Machu Picchu: “Duuudeeeeeeeeee”
Not only were we blown away by the architectural and strategic ingenuity of the Incans, we were also challenged physically when exploring the site. If my Fitbit was correct, we climbed 400 floors that day. That’s more than 2x the height of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, what now Tom Cruise? Did that off of just 4 hours of sleep too, not recommended, but when you’re super excited for the next day, who can actually sleep? Everything below, done in 1 day, no biggie 🙂
We had arrived in Aguas Calientes by train and stayed overnight. There’s not too much to highlight there. The small town provided buses to and from the ancient site, which would be our mode of transportation the next day. The night before though, DBF and I enjoyed the luxuries a modern accommodation provided:
- Electric outlets…here’s the list of things charged between the two of us: iPhones, Blackberry, external batteries, camera, emergency phone, Fitbits (double and triple checked that everything was FULLY charged the next morning)
- Shower (much needed)
- TV (US OPEN TENNIS <- you can take the girl out of NYC but she’ll find a way to watch Roger Federer)
- Beds with proper sheets and pillows
We got up at around 5 am and made our way to the bus line by 6:30 and we still waited about 20 min in line before we were on a bus. The ride itself was another 20-25 min before we’d set foot at Machu Picchu. As any rational person would do, we scoped out the bathroom situation and found out that, to do your business, you had to exit the main site and use the only public restrooms at the site, at the bottom of the steps. It definitely contributed to those 400 floors we scaled that day, and then some:
Fotos, Fotos, y más Fotos
We went a bit photo crazy here. I was quite proud that I kept my photos under 500 for the trek up to this point. Then Machu Picchu, within a single day, outdid the rest of the trek combined. We took photos from outside the bus. We then took photos of every angle of Machu Picchu. Then we took photos of each other facing different parts of Machu Picchu. We toured the ruins and took photos of the temples, rooms, trees, llamas….yea
Between the photos though, we learned a few fun facts that made the Incan people all the more impressive in our eyes:
- The location of the site was unknown because the Incans heard the Spanish were coming and decimated the route into their spiritual stronghold
- The stones used for building the ruins were cut so precisely that they fit perfectly to this day, and were sturdy enough to preserve the houses and rooms for 500+ years and counting (Incans would’ve kicked so much ass in Tetris)
- Because the area was naturally rocky, to facilitate agriculture, the Incans carved steps into the side of the rocks to help gauge height and depth into the rock bed for planting and they doubled as a ladder
- Specific religious temples or viewpoints were built such that the sun would shine directly upon them at key times like during thesolstice
- The people who discovered the ruins were local farmers and never thought to uncover the vegetation that had grown over the area beyond what they needed for their farmland (which is why I respect their people, both past and present, for placing important on nature and preservation of their culture and history above all else)
As we walked around the ruins with our guides, we were able to get up close to the brilliant architecture of Machu Picchu as they taught us these facts. And, despite its popularity and seemingly large amount of visitors, the area only allows up to about 2100 visitors per day, with even more stringent restrictions on those who can hike the two mountains. Another sign of respect for nature and focus on preservation. This also made traffic much more manageable for us. If you notice, in our hour by hour photo shoot of Machu Picchu, it’s incredibly hard to spot more than 10 people in the pictures.
Machu Picchu is a Mountain??!!
Fun fact number 6. Machu Picchu is actually the name of one of the mountains surrounding the ruins. The other, the more famous one that appears on all the photos is called Huayna Picchu. The actual name of the sacred city? Unknown. We climbed Machu Picchu, which had a last admittance time into the peak at 11am. Needless to say, we went down, took a bathroom break Machu Picchu means “old peak” (aptly named now) and it’s from this mountain where we got:
- Some kick ass views of the ruins
- Our asses kicked by the climb
As if it wasn’t enough for our glutes to be tired and sleep deprived, we also had a friendly neighborhood bee trying to either sting us to be more than friends with us for about 100 floors. It either got bored and went away or met its fate via a nice swat in the head with my Roger Federer hat, semi western grip on the forehand, yep. We did find some prime viewpoints at just about every corner though. And, just like how we took a picture of the city for every hour we were there, we pretty much took a picture of the view of the city and its surroundings from above every 50 ft or so.
The mountain also closed at around 1pm so the last 10 floors or so was a sprint. Quads hurt but the view was totally worth it:
And when you’re up that high, what else do you do other than put your feet over the edge, stare at potential death and snap a pic?
Of course a trip like this would be even more memorable with a few bloopers. On our way down, we were behind several smaller groups of people. I want to place the blame on them going too slow, but I probably just misstepped and slid down, skinned my elbow, and literally left a piece of me on that mountain. Great pic though:
There and Back Again
The park closed at 4pm, when there was still plenty of sun out. As we boarded the train to Olly, we were quite satisfied with our trip and our successes. Once we found our seats, we proceeded to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..
The rest of the trip involved climbing hills/mountain for shits and giggles and returning to Cusco, where we started the trip. We went back to the same hostel, which had kindly stored our luggage that we did not require for the trek. The rest of the trip in Cusco was spent eating — no issues with hills within city limits 🙂