Michael and I woke up at 4 a.m. to make sure that we would be on the first bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. It’s only a half hour bus ride, but since Aguas Calientes is kind of the only town near Machu Picchu, there are a lot of people wanting seats on that first bus.
Our tour guide Ivan recommended getting there early so we could enjoy Machu Picchu without a ton of other people roaming around. He wasn’t joking, there were already folks waiting at the bus stop when we got there a little before 5 a.m. and by the time the first bus left at 6 a.m., the line was down the street at least a couple hundred people deep. The weather up to this point had been lovely which was a blessing since it would have been miserable trying to hike 10+ miles a day in inclement weather. But the day we get to Machu Picchu, the skies started drizzling a bit. It was super foggy and misty when we first arrived and I worried that we wouldn’t be able to see that breathtaking panoramic view.
I was forgetting that it was literally 6:30 a.m. and the sun hadn’t had a chance to burn off any of that fog yet. Turns out I was concerned about nothing. Around 9 a.m. the skies were blue and beautiful. At 10 a.m., it was sunburning hot.
If I had known it was going to be foggy for a couple of hours in the morning, I would have rather slept in and just gone with the rest of the tourist crowds at 8 a.m.We did an early walk-through and Ivan told us about the history of Machu Picchu and its discoverer, Hiram Bingham, then broke for an early breakfast to wait for the sky to clear up. Apple pie = breakfast of a champion. Still probably healthier than Michael’s burger.The sun came out and I could see for miles. The air was so clear. Machu Picchu is immense, at once secreted in the middle of a forest and secluded on a mountaintop, and also huge and open. It’s an insane feeling to look around and know that the Incans built this structure. Incans created the floorplans and the dwellings over 600 years ago, and carried fertile earth to fill the terraces from far-away valleys. Ivan said that though Machu Picchu now is only 40% original ruins and 60% reconstructions, the ruins are still visible toward the treeline. I imagined Hiram Bingham discovering Machu Picchu amid a tangle of jungle and rock, covered and hidden among the greenery. Tingles.
We spent the afternoon back in Aguas Calientes killing time until our 7 p.m. train ride back to Cusco. Michael and I even watched a very shaky bootlegged copy of Mission Impossible 3: Ghost Protocol at a weird little theater. Fun times.
Though the pyramids will probably forever remain my favorite wonder of the world, the Incan trail and Machu Picchu is a close second.