If you had to give us one word on how to describe our day at the site of Machu Picchu, it would be: miserable. Now don’t go feeling all sorry for us, because it was a miserable in the “exhaused, tired, and the weather didn’t work out exactly how we wanted it to,” as opposed to the “man, this place is a disappointment” miserable. The place is absolutely every bit stunning and mythical in person as it is depicted in photographs. Ok, I feel better now that that’s out of the way.
Our day started with a 3 am wake-up from our tent, then a quick breakfast, and then it was time to jump in line and wait for the gates to open for the final 3 mile stretch of the Inca Trail to go see Machu Picchu. The good news was we got to ditch our sleeping pad and sleeping bag. The bad news was there was a steady rain falling. Since this is when the entire group of people eligible to hike the trail all start at the same time and place, it is more or less a single file march the whole way to Machu Picchu.
As daylight started to break, it was quite apparent we would not be seeing any breathtaking sunrises over Machu Picchu. Heck, at this point Dana and I were just hoping for the fog to clear so we could see anything. The Sun Gate is the first point where Machu Picchu is visible, but had I taken a picture it would’ve been a big gray blob. The fog wasn’t going anywhere for awhile. We kept going, hoping that something would be visible sooner or later.
Once we arrived near the main entrance, features started to become visible. The whole place had a spooky, eerie feel to it, as if it were slowly uncovering whatever it chose to show the visitors for the day. A few llamas were visible in the distance, put in place by the Peruvian government to be living lawn mowers and keep the grass in check. Much of the morning time was spent learning about the history of Machu Picchu from our guides.
As the day went on and we explored more and more of the ruins, one more hurdle was left on our checklist of the whole Inca Trail/Machu Picchu extravaganza: to scale Huayna Picchu, the imposing peak that looks over Machu Picchu. Only 400 people are allowed to visit it each day, and you need to check in and check out at a control point. There have been a few deaths from people falling over the years, and if the weather is bad enough, they will close it to visitors. Measuring just shy of four football fields in height, scaling Huayna Picchu is rough, especially after just completing the Inca Trail.
Well, we scaled Huayna Picchu safely, and once we reached the top, we were greeted with….. more rain. The valley in which Machu Picchu sits feels like there are about a dozen different micro climates present, which didn’t work out so well for us in terms of timing. We stood and the top and watched clouds form into a perfect blanket to cover the astonishing view of Machu Picchu below. After a good 45 minutes of watching this tedious process, Dana and I began to slowly head down. Luckily for us, we were able to snag a few photos of as the clouds lifted their seemingly permanent veil of the ruins.
In case you were keeping track, there was no mention of any food since our 3:30 am breakfast. At this point, we were running on fumes. Just as we think it’s time for us to depart, the sun decides its time to show up and grace us with its presence. So food was on hold about another hour or so while we wrapped up another hour or so of finally being able to see everything.
It was finally time to depart this amazing destination. The beauty of Machu Picchu was unforgettable, and our exhaustion at the end of the day turned into a distinct feeling of appreciation on the bus ride back to the town of Aguas Calientes. Sure, things don’t always work out like you imagine them, and the weather may not always be perfect, but the memories of such a special place will never be forgotten.