Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Machu Picchu... could not disappoint!

So, was the early start worth it?....... Uh huh!

What's missing? The 2,500 tourists.... 5:30 bus (queuing from 4:00) and a quick run up to the guard house = postcard quality shot!

As far as South American landmarks go, Machu Picchu (MP) is easily the number one place to experiance! A new seventh Wonder of the World, UNESCO is putting pressure on the Peruvian government to close it, and according to some, it is a question of time before the majority of the site is closed off.... In other words get there while you can!

No tourists? Who took the photo?
Arriving early (first 10 in the park!) meant we were able to get to some of the classic photo shots well before any other tourists managed to ruin the shot with luminous rain jackets. Later on there were thousands (2,500) making MP look like the newest location for a gay pride march.

Early on however, before the one day trippers from Cusco arrive, the place is truly magical. Words, especially mine, will never do the "Lost City of the Incas" any justice so I'll leave it up to our pictures as much as possible to convey just what I'm talking about.

Who wants cake?
So as I said 6am: Guard house. Classic photos of MP, before anyone "ruins" the ruins.

Walking around this area to get some different shots (incl. some jumping photos).

 At about 7am we remembered we had bought tickets to climb Huaynapicchu (the large pointy mountain in the background of the photos above). Only 400 people are allowed up this mountain every day, you have to buy tickets in advance with two two times to chose from (7-8am and 10-11am).

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?....
 We purchased the earlier ticket as we heard that it could start raining at 11 and that cloud would build up throughout the day. So off we traped to climb Huaynu Picchu, pausing momentarily when we came across a llama minding its own business (or, as a snap happy Luisa thought, posing for photos) queued for an hour and then started climbing at 8am.

Eh Pacha!

The proudest Llama of all time! Luisa is oblivious..

We arrived at 7:10. Big queue.
According to the info board at the entrance the walk up and down should take approximately  1 hour.. We made the top in half an hour, probably due to the weeks worth of acclimatisation in Cusco. We built up a sweat but as far as a difficult climb goes Huaynapicchu is not one!

The spectacular views are totally worth the climb. We had to climb through a tiny cave to get up to the top where you can precariously balance yourself on top of a boulder with a 360 degree view. This is a great chance for some daring planking, handstands and supermans....

Planking on top of Haunyu Picchu.

Luisa had no idea there was a sheer drop...
After an exhilarating lunch with probably the best view in the world, we continued our trek to the "temple of the moon" and "the Great Cave". This loop added another 2 hours to the trek. Seeing as we made the sumit of Huaynapicchu in ridiculous time we figured this meant it would add on maybe an hour for us....No.

I  cannot stress this enough. This was so much harder than up and down Huaynapicchu, you end up trekking well below the elevation of Machu Picchu ruins to get to the Great Cave, you then hike much pretty back to the summit of HP and then back down... we ended up taking 4 and a bit hours to do the entire loop at a good pace (+ quite a lot of time for photos)...

Templo de la Luna and Gran Caverna!
So, not taking a hint we went on to do a few more treks in order to get away form the huge number of tourists who had arrived from Cusco on a day trip.

Puente de las Incas.
First up we hit the bridge of the Incas, about 20 minutes each way from the guard house. The bridge awe inspiring cliff with a very arrow walkway carved into it and a large gap where you need to put logs over to cross. Used as a form of defence it was as close to a draw bridge as the Incas got, if anybody tried to cross who they weren’t too happy with they would simply pull the logs away... simple but effective. It was very steep, I did not like.

After that we headed to the Sun Gate. This is supposed to be 2 hours round trip from the guard house, its where the Inca trail folk arrive to, in theory, see the sun rise. The views are pretty good but Huaynapicchu is definitely more jaw dropping!

The view from the Sun Gate.

Its amazing the difference in fitness/acclimatisation levels between the majority of travellers to MP and us having acclimatised in Cusco. Having read reviews on trip advisor where most people climb only up to the Sun Gate and seem to really struggle managed to get up in about 30 minutes and then run back in about 10, all for a photo... My knees, however, suffered for this macho behaviour later on.

Incredible terracing.
Temple of the sun.
Just before we were thrown out (the site closes at 4:30) we managed to check out the temple of the condors (apparently not a temple, it was a dungeon/torture chamber?) and the sun temple (which had fantastic Incan stonework, no mortar required).  Both were pretty cool, although it really is about the views. We bought a ticket back for $9 and went to bed in Aguas Calientes, sore but very happy!

Overall, visiting Machu Picchu has been one of the most spectacular things we have ever seen and the highlight of the trip so far.

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