After 3 days on the Inca Trail, we awoke at 4am on the 4th day to make our long awaited final pilgrimage to the famous mountain citadel of Machu Picchu. The porters packed up the equipment as our group of 14 ate our final breakfast in the meal tent, then we set off on the last 2 hours of hiking towards Machu Picchu to catch the sunrise from the sungate overlooking the site.
We sat at the sungate for 30 mins to watch the sun’s early rays break over the mountains onto the stone walls of Machu Picchu below us.
Here as some views as we walked from the sungate down into the city.
Once we arrived into the ruined city itself we were awed by the postcard beauty of the scene spread out below us. The best part of taking the Inca Trail is that you get to arrive as the Incas did from the Royal Road that enters the city from above. Everyone else gets to take a bus up the modern winding dirt road from the city Aguas Calientes on the river down below. Entering from above as the low slanted light illuminated the site was magical.
Here is a picture of Bonnie and I all smiles to be at this special place on such a beautiful sunlit morning.
Here is our Inca Trail group, we had people from US, Canada, England, Australia, France and the Czech Republic, as well as 2 local guides.
There was even a llama hanging out on the terrace above us to add to the exotic feel.
Next our guides sat us down on one of the terraces and told us some history about the site, below are some photos I snapped as we listened to stories about Hiram Bingham’s discovery of the site in 1911 and some conjectures about who built the city and why. The truth is, since the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu and all Incan history regarding Machu Picchu has been lost, people can only guess about the city’s purpose and history. Without a doubt though, this is one of the most magnificent locations imaginable and surely it was of great spiritual and cultural importance to the Incas. The whole place just shines with the magic of the natural location and beautifully crafted stone architecture.
Next our guide walked us around on a 2 hour tour of the site explaining the different buildings and temples. After the glorious sunny morning the weather turned cloudy and the pictures weren’t quite as spectacular. Luckily, we stayed the night at Aguas Calientes and had an entire day more to explore the city. Our whole group was pretty tired from 4 hard days of hiking on the trail, so we went into town to celebrate with pizza, beer and a dip in the namesake hot springs of the city of Aguas Calientes.
The next morning Bonnie and I took the bus back up to Machu Picchu and were lucky to see the site in a whole new way. This second morning had the site bathed in a ethereal morning fog after early rains, it was gorgeous. Watching the clouds of fog and rays of morning light dance over the city alternately was spell-binding.
There are small little treasure around the city like this below alter carved into the natural rock that makes you think about the Incas and wonder what they believed and how they lived.
We enjoyed the morning so much, we had to do a couple of our jumping pictures to celebrate.
We’ll post more photos of the city in detail in the next post.