Machu Picchu Day 4 inca Jungle

 

Before the sun had risen over Machu Picchu, we had. Up before 4am for the first time in a long time, we were awake and dressed to go to watch the sunrise over the ruins at Machu Picchu. Making it for sunrise means one of two things- either you’re climbing the stone stairs up the mountainside for an hour beginning at 4am, or you’re in line for the bus by the same time and hoping you make it on one of the first to leave. Henry and everyone else in our group was going one hundred percent for the stairs, the last leg of our trek to earn Machu Picchu (and save ten dollars). As for my allergic reaction, I had experienced a mini Machu Picchu miracle. I woke up to discover that I could finally walk semi-normally again! But to stay on the safe side, I lamely watched them embark towards the bridge and I turned around and got in line for the bus. I wasn’t about to be hobbling around at the top, there had been talk of playing hide and seek in the ruins and I wasn’t missing out on that. I waited in line as the dark sky slowly lightened and the heavy fog began to lift and move amongst the mountains. I kept looking up waiting to see the mountain emerge, unable to believe it was actually right there. Now only a very thick layer of fog was between us, and that would be much easier than the previous days’ obstacles.

As the sky got lighter I worried that I was missing the sunrise but held out faith as the buses began running and I boarded with a different breed of travelers. It was all about comfort here, and I was finally very on board with that. We began winding up the mountain, zigzagging back and forth and passing the stairs and athletic tourists that cut through. I made friends with an Australian who told me he’d had everything stolen just before coming and almost hadn’t come, but was so determined he hired a car the day before and they just drove all day and night to make it. It was a nice start to the day not being alone in the bus and remembering that one way or another, trek or train or bus, everyone had to be determined to make it here, and that makes it an even more special destination than it already is.

 

 Llamas Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

As we unloaded at the top he found his tour guide, and I began to wonder how I would run into everyone from mine. Just then, I saw Carlyn’s neon pink hiking top and ran like a baby animal reunited with it’s parent. I hadn’t missed it! She sent me to where everyone else was at the front of the line, just about to enter, and I joined the sweaty members of our Inca Jungle family just in time to see the sunrise. Having been told I’d probably miss it all by busing, I knew the power of Machu Picchu was on my side. It was like I hadn’t missed a beat (except the treacherous workout and that was fine with me).

We entered Machu Picchu and found a perch on a terrace just by the entrance. Henry described to us that the clouds blanketing over Machu Picchu open like the beginning of The Simpsons (basically, Henry was our real tour guide). We sat eating our pack lunches about six hours too early and watched as the terraces around us filled like an ampitheater waiting for the show to start. The rest of the ruins were hidden in fog as well so we had no idea what was around us.

 

Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

As the sun began to break, the fog moved in and out of the mountains, and the curtain was slowly lifted over Machu Picchu. As we watched it pull back on our left, we suddenly saw hundreds of stone walls and structures emerge…I had no idea there had been that much awaiting us under that fog. It was truly impressive. Just as the ruins became visible, we had to run back outside to meet our new tour guide who would begin at 7am.

We followed our MaPi tour guide into the ruins, almost fully visible now. Some people were worried that we’d come on a bad day and that the iconic Huayna Picchu mountain in the back of the photos would never appear. Our guide assured us that it would burn off, and in the meantime I was in love with watching the fog swirl between the stones. It definitely added to the mysteriousness of Machu Picchu.

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

He took us to rooms where they the Incas had sacrificed guinea pigs and baby llamas, stargazed and held ceremonies. From the research I had done before, I knew about the animal and human sacrifices and it was a mixture of creepy and cool to peek into holes where these ceremonial corpses had been found. The stone walls were carved perfectly in the Incas famous “dancing” architecture that’s withstood countless earthquakes despite being on a major faultline (they’re so tight they don’t fall, just “dance” then settle back into place). Other stones had been carved into sacred Incan condors, replicas of Machu Picchu and windows for viewing the sun and moon at specific times of year. Looking at the precision and detail in everything was incredible, something I’ve never seen at other ruins I’ve visited.

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

After the tour, we moved up onto the terraces to take as many photos as our hearts desired. We took photos from where the first photo ever of Machu Picchu was taken, and from just about every other possible location. I’ve always wondered how people get the signature photo at such a crowded place without a million other people in it, but when you see the farming terraces it finally makes sense. Everyone spreads out on their own levels, it’s practically made for mass tourism. It’s cool to see though, it’s like a behind the scenes of a movie you’ve seen a million times and it suddenly seems so obvious what was behind the curtains (but also makes you feel like part of a private club that has seen a view other than the typical one, which is never in photos). After we sufficiently exhausted ourselves and our camera batteries, half set off to hike Machu Picchu mountain and the other half of us set off to search for a shadier lounging spot. It was still only 9am, we’d been up since 4am, and we could stay until 5pm, so we had an excessive amount of time to kill. At Machu Picchu.

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

We wandered down to the lower ruins and waded through the crowds of tourists. What I loved though was hearing each tour group pass with a guide speaking a different language. There were super gringos with their GoPro sticks (like us), as well as Peruvians from the Andes asking us to snap photos on their old school film cameras. It was the first time I’ve been at a major tourist attraction anywhere in the world and noticed so many locals…it was really incredible. It was like it qualified that the ruins at Machu Picchu were truly a wonder for all kinds of people to see, and made me appreciate even more the chance to be there.

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

We wandered through the ruins poking in and out of various houses, seeing which offered the most shade. Some places were blocked off that looked no different from the rest, but then we’d turn and find a cave structure right in the midst of everything and nobody cared at all when we piled into them. We ended up just by the Huayna Picchu entrance where we couldn’t go any further (sorry we didn’t buy tickets six months in advance). We decided to turn around but take a different route back. As we walked towards the entrance, we saw layers and layers of terraces cascading down the front side, with llamas grazing freely and not a single tourist. It was the strangest thing, in the main passageways it was so crowded you had to be careful not to bump into people, but you move four feet off of it and the ruins would be deserted. I’d been anticipating it to be miserably crowded when someone told me that Machu Picchu gets around 5,000 visitors per day, but it was amazing how easy it was to forget that we weren’t the only ones there.

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

We wandered for almost half an hour, it was incredible how much more there was to explore that nobody even looked twice at. But the fog had fully burned off, the sun was hot and we were sleepy so we were on a mission for shade (we also our goals of playing hide-and-seek in the ruins, thank you again to our game man Jeff). We suddenly saw one llama in the perfect resting spot and had to get there. It was a wide grassy area with a significant amount of shade, but we assumed it would be off limits.

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

Until we just casually wandered down and it wasn’t at all. And that is where, after a decent amount of llama photos, we napped on Machu Picchu. And it was probably the greatest nap of my life.

 

 The best idea is have a nap so you can still exploring during the afternoon when is emptier

 

Everyone says that Machu Picchu contains sacred energy, so we laid in it’s shade and soaked it all up. It was such a dreamy nap, I’d wake up for a moment and hear a tour echo from above and catch a passing fact about the Incas. The next time I’d open my eyes and see the crazy clouds moving above, drifting past the peak of Huayna Picchu. The next, I would notice the llama had returned. Later I’d hear the train along the river below blowing its horn. It was surreal.

We finally were all awoken by a security guard yelling something in Spanish, and we figured the jig was up, until we realized he was only telling Jeff to put his shoes on and had no problem with our nap. Eventually though, another guard seemed to think it was against the rules and we were forced to leave our sacred resting spot.

At this point it was still only midday, so we took some more photos and decided to explore the trail to the Inca Bridge. Practically eighty-percent of the tourists had long left (literally, photo and leave), and suddenly there was room to roam everywhere. We had said goodbye to the other half of the group earlier and wondered where they had ended up, but knew we had no way of finding them so we headed for the Inca Bridge trail on our own.

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

Just after signing into the guestbook and heading down the trail, we saw Stella, Paul, Seldy and Will coming towards us. We were so excited to be reunited, but were going opposite ways. Paul suddenly expressed incredible enthusiasm that even though they’d just come from the bridge it was such an incredible sight he’d gladly turn around and go back with us! Which of course we were very pleased to hear since it had taken a bit to get moving post-nap and we didn’t want to get trapped climbing aimlessly. They all decided that it was worth it to see again, so they’d join us back to the bridge.

 

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No longer than five minutes later we rounded a corner and they stopped, and we saw Stella was filming us. We just stood for a moment and could see the trail ended but didn’t understand. Until we saw a little sign saying “Inca Bridge” and a wooden gate blocking it. And “it”- well, I can’t quite explain it but I would caption Stella’s video of our reactions as “greatly underwhelmed”. You’ll have to see for yourself. And if you’re in the early crew of the day, you can do what they did, which was sit there for thirty minutes just where tourists would round the corner and watch their reactions.

Somehow the ten-plus hours we had at Machu Picchu moved incredibly quickly, and we were ready to make our way back, of course only after tying up a few loose ends: touching the Intihuatana stone (used to be a ritual but is now roped off), taking some final llama photos, and trying to reach what we believed were tunnel entrances on one side of the hill (many people believe that Machu Picchu has an entire underground tunnel system below and we were some of them).

 

 Exploring The Ruins of Machu Picchu day 4 Inca Jungle

 

The llamas were very at home with the people here and we snapped away. Jeff and Carlyn climbed down the hillside (nothing said that was off limits), and stood among terrace windows that were definite evidence of tunnels. Lastly, we wandered up to the Intihuatana stone, meant to hold the pinnacle of Machu Picchu’s sacred energy, had Henry chat up the guard and went for it.

 

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And with that, we took in every last bit of Machu Picchu that we could and said good-bye. The time had flown by, and despite being someone with a problem of building things up, it was still more impressive than I had anticipated. I think because you always see that same picture, even knowing more, it’s hard to imagine all that’s there. But on top of hikes, ruins, llamas, everything to do, there really is a special energy to Machu Picchu that’s what makes it so unique compared any other type of attraction. Every steep hill or long hike during the four-day trek was more than worth all of it.

We stamped our passports and exited and went down the stairs for our final goodbye to Machu Picchu. We all had a wonderful dinner together as we waited for our night train, at a place that offered free pisco sours to everyone, cheap beer that came with free nachos, and giant wood-fired personal pizzas. Oh and the waiter walked around with a tiny monkey on his neck.

Looking Over Machu Picchu Day 4 Inca Jungle


As we rode the Peru Rail home, we all got seats together to drink our cheap pisco and try to get ready to go out and celebrate when we returned to Cusco. While most of us ending up passing out, our crew had a great mindset until the very end, we all knew we got so lucky with such a great group. Even though we didn’t make it out, we dragged ourselves into Loki hostel in the early hours of the morning and fell asleep entirely content with everything that had made up our past few days. The debate over train vs. trek was more than settled, and we’d met incredible people and made some of our favorite travel memories along the way. And Machu Picchu- it did not disappoint as a perfect reward for walking for four days, and is easily one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. The hype is real.

 

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