Sunday, December 27, 2009

Machu Picchu

The journey to Machu Picchu started in Cuzco at 8 a.m. and involved several buses and shared taxis and ended with a 2 hour walk along the train tracks arriving in Machu Picchu Pueblo (the town formerly known as Aguas Calientes) after dark. We took the alternative route described above because the train to Machu Picchu is expensive and this way only cost us a total of 33 soles (about 10 dollars) each.

There goes the last train of the day.

Backpackers walk 'illegally' down the train tracks towards Machu Picchu.

Tourist Town aka Machu Picchu Pueblo

Unfortunately we arrived at Machu Picchu in the peak of tourist season. Because we wanted to hike Wayna Picchu, a hill overlooking Machu Picchu, we got up at 4:00am to hike the hour up to the site entrance. Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike Wayna Picchu and despite the rain there were already ~200 people in line when we arrived at 5:00 am. By the time the first buses arrived at 6:00am there were already ~500 people in line. As the gates to the site opened, there was a stampede to get to the entrance of Wayna Picchu where we needed to line up again for an hour while we waited for that entrance to open.

5:00AM: Waiting for the site to open.

6:00AM: First busloads of people start to arrive.

6:05AM: The sprint to line up at the entrance to Wayna Picchu.

The line-up at the gate to Wayna Picchu

Early morning at the site, before most of the thousands of daily tourists have arrived.

Tiny orchids

Climbing the lesser-known Huchuypicchu peak

View of the site from Huchuypicchu

Climbing very old steps up Wayna Picchu.

We found this Milky Way bar, which just happened to be made in Canada, and brought it to the summit of Wayna Picchu.

Unfortunately we got our only day of pouring rain during our time in Peru on the day we were in Machu Picchu, despite it being the dry season. Most of the time the view from Wayna Picchu was completely obscured by clouds. This shot was taken during a brief clearing.

A little bit of yoga on Wayna Picchu

Wild begonias

Wild strawberry plant

Some of the fluorescent-rain-poncho-clad hoard.

The preservation of the incredible Inca architecture and the setting of the site make it a remarkable place. It is no wonder that so many people from around the world dream to visit. However, when departing the site we both agreed that Machu Picchu is one place where we never wish to return. This is because of the sharks that live and work in the town below. These were hands down the most rude, mean-hearted and money-hungry people we encountered anywhere. In a country and continent that has so much to offer we would much rather spend our time and money elsewhere.