After a month in Cusco, the anticipation for Machu Picchu grew rather intense. Nearly everyone we met would ask us if we’d been yet, if we were hiking the trail, and when we were going. People couldn’t believe it took us a month in Cusco before we went.
So could it possibly live up to that kind of hype? Could we possibly enjoy it as much as we thought?
The answer was yes. This place is majestic.
Now in all fairness, it does look exactly like every photo of it you’ve ever seen. But then there are amazingly steep mountains surrounding it, which you cannot properly appreciate without really being there.
And you don’t really get a sense for the scale of the ruins from photos, either. It’s quite large, and in really excellent condition.
Scholars don’t actually know what Machu Picchu was used for, so we decided to skip using a guide. All they can tell you is theory and conjecture, anyway. Instead we made up our own tour. “This is where the Incas performed improv comedy, and that is where the zip line ran from one condo building to the next.” You know, insightful commentary like that.
Of course, there are terraces for doing yoga poses…at least that’s what I decided they were for.
You really do have to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds. We were up before 5am and were on the second busload to the ruins. Totally worth the early wake up call to be there before sunrise (and the 2500 other tourists who visit daily.)
These llamas have to tolerate every tourist coming up to pet them, but in return they enjoy excellent mountain views and a buffet of grass. Not a bad gig.
After wandering the ruins for a few hours, it was time to climb Huayna Picchu, the tall peak that you can see in the middle of the first photo (it’s the iconic peak you see behind the ruins in all of these photos.) Only 400 people are allowed to do it daily, and we had to sign up in advance. The climb took about an hour and has some serious stairs. It’s a very steep climb, with a beautiful view of the mountains and the ruins from the other side.
After we descended Huayna Picchu (no small feat), we continued on to climb down the mountain from the ruins rather than taking the bus. That winding road in the photo above is the top portion of the road the bus takes – we did the stairwell that cuts through it and continues all the way down. It was intense. Only after we made it down did we learn it is over 4,000 stairs to the bottom of the valley. Trust me, going down 4,000 steep stairs isn’t as easy on your legs as you may think.
We’re still working through the soreness, but at least now we are down at sea level in Lima. No more hills and stairs to climb like Cusco – finally our legs can have a bit of a rest!