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Saturday, May 16, 2015


So the big day finally arrived and we were on the bus and heading to Machu Picchu in order to watch the sun come over the mountains. It's a pretty well oiled machine, with dozens of buses constantly driving the circuit to get the flocks of tourists to the legendary location. Before we knew it, we were through the gates and standing on the rock that has the defining view of MP. It was kind of surreal to finally reach our goal. Photos ensued.

Elvis gave us a comprehensive tour of the site, taking three hours to talk about the history, the supposition of why it was there, the architecture, the Incan belief system and the rampant looting that took place before and after the site's discovery. While Hiram Bingham introduced Machu Picchu to the world, many others had been there before, taking what they wished and keeping it all on the down low. Yale University currently is hording 90% of what Bingham handed over. They graciously (and I use the phrase loosely) returned 10% for the 100th anniversary of Bingham's discovery. (Fie and shame!)

Sun creeps across the site.

Outside of Sun Temple

Sun alter & temple from other side.
We'd seen pictures of what state Bingham had found the place; covered in vegetation, with barely a building or stone wall visible. Some of the locals had been using the terraces for growing crops of their own, and the farmers lived where the ticket gate currently stands. Just another site for them to make a living! Incredible.

There were actually a couple of llamas grazing on the terraces and the place filled up pretty quickly with tourists, like ourselves. I like to try and imagine that I'm stepping back in time, but the illusion is pretty well killed by Tilley Endurable  hats, selfie-sticks and mini skirts...I've learned to cope, I wasn't exactly draped in Incan textiles, either.

After our tour, we made our way to the gate of Huayna Picchu. You have to sign in and out, so they don't loose anyone, I suppose. When I saw it the day before, from the other side of the valley, I thought Ron was looked huge and looming over the site, but once we hit the stairs and found our groove, it was actually pretty easy. (If we hadn't been hiking for the prior four days, I don't think that would have been the case.)
There is a main landing (as pictured above) and if you want to go to the very peak you have a bit more work to do.
This was actually the much larger of the openings
Derek waiting in the traffic jam to summit.
The weirdest part was having to wiggle through a couple of little caves near the top. There were a lot of bugs at the peak, including pretty butterflies, but also creepy flying things that were a little intimidating. A suggestion: if you visit, there isn't tons of space at the peak, so it's probably not the best place to sit, have a snack and catch up on some sun tanning. This actually happened - true story.
Top o' the world, Ma!
After the prerequisite photos, we headed down the back side of the peak to find the way to the Grand Cavern and the Moon Temple. Our new friends were all in, until they found out it would take two hours to complete the trip. They only had an hour before they needed to head back to Aguas Calientes. So we said good-bye and wished each other good journeys.
Yup, actually that steep

The attendant at the start of the path didn't seem too keen on us going down to the cave, but once he got what country we were from, he waved us towards the path and radioed his co-worked down at the bottom. The going was steep and we'd been at it for about 25 minutes with no cave in sight. That's when we came across the ladder, we had a quick debate and decided to plow on. In for a penny in for a pound, right?

When it seemed like we'd actually reach the river valley, before we found the cave, we came across an Incan ruin that indicated that we were near our goal. 

One corner more and there was the Moon Temple. We would have likely missed the cave, except for an Argentinian couple that pointed out the path to us. As we were getting ready to go check it out, the co-worker showed up to hurry us along. They closed the access to Huayna Picchu earlier than the main gates.

We checked out the Grand Cave and then headed down the path towards the checkout point. Thankfully we didn't have to go back the way we came or we would have been a couple more hours.

We didn't stay on the site much longer, we'd already been there for 8 hours or so and we headed back to our hotel. It had been an amazing day and we wanted to finish it off with a nice meal, so we headed to Chullpi, highly recommended on Trip Advisor. This is when we ran in to Pepe again. 

Oh, remember the test from the previous post??? Here's our vantage point from the previous day, taken from the back side of Machu Picchu...we walked the majority of that distance!
If I'd been smarter I would have taken a long shot, to show how far away we actually were, but you can probably get the idea from the photos on the previous blog. Next installment will be a special "food" edition...samples of what we ate on the trek and some of the food we gorged on in Lima.

For a distance reference!