(Day 133 - 135)
02.04.2010 - 04.04.2010 22 °C
As mentioned briefly in the “Sacred Valley” post, this area of Peru has suffered terrible rains and floods about 7 weeks ago, causing mudslides and destruction of many homes, roads, bridges and train tracks. Because of this Machu Picchu had to be shut for that time and only reopened the day before we had booked our trek there. We were incredibly lucky as this was booked about 6 months ago and if it had been for an earlier date we would have had to change our whole trip around.
Our day in Ollantaytambo started nice and early with a 4am wake up call. After breakfast we took a bus to Piscacucho and a train from there to take us in direction of Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. There are currently no train services running directly from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes because parts of the track have been destroyed after the mudslides mentioned above.
Sadly for Steph, with her ankle and knee still giving her trouble, she had to skip today’s trek and spent a rather long, boring day in Aguas Calientes waiting for the group to return for the night.
As for me and the rest of the group (2x Swedish & 3x American), we got off the train in the middle of nature to start our trek. We decided not to do the full 4 day Inca Trail because of time and money. The trek was relatively easy, but others in our group really struggled. I’m not sure if it was because of the altitude, or if I’m just fitter than I think after several gruelling walks through our time in South America. The path and many of the bridges we came accross both on the train, road and trail had been washed away by the recent floods but a lot of work has gone into the opening of the trail and Machu Picchu again.
Along the way we came across several Inca ruins, each one a place for the Incas to stop and pray on their way to Machu Picchu. We passed old Inca towns such as Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna.
Wiñay Wayna is a fortress almost as impressive, but much smaller, than Machu Picchu. It means “Forever Young”. It was probably used as a stop over point to wash and rest for travellers before they arrived at the grand Machu Picchu, as it only takes another 2 hours to get there from this point.
Like most Inca towns, Wiñay Wayna had several layers of fine terraces and stone baths with about 19 springs feeding them; set on the mountain slopes with a beautiful waterfall nearby.
Later in the afternoon we finally arrived at the Sun Gate, the point where trekers first see Machu Picchu from a distance. What an awe-inspiring sight. We then walked down to Machu Picchu where we spend a short time enjoying the view before taking the bus down to Aguas Calientes where we spent the night before waking up at 4am to catch the first buses back up again to enjoy a full day wondering the ruins.
So the next morning, we arrived at the top to see: NOTHING but thick fog and mist covering absolutely everything! (and secretly wondering if waking up at 4am was worth it all). Steph was slightly disappointed at first as we had all seen it the previous day and she was eager for her “Waw” moment too.
Our guide gave us a rundown of the history of Machu Picchu (which incidentally means Old Mountain) and the mist slowly rose and the sun struggled to break through, shining onto these magnificant ruins. It was certainly a very mystical sight and no amount of photos seen beforehand prepare you for this magnificent place..
As we wondered through the ruins with our guide the mist cleared even more and it was amazing to realise we were actually in Machu Picchu - where llamas now wander around making the city their own!
I decided to get another view over the runs from the top of Wayna Picchu (Young Mountain) which towers over Machu Picchu. It is the one seen behind in all the famous pictures, and the one you see below. Personally I found the views from the Sun Gate and the terraces at the other end to be far more impressive.
After a full morning we returned to Aguas Calientes where Steph got quite sick with violent spasms in her stomach. After it lasted the whole afternoon, we eventually had to take her to the local clinic as we were taking a train back to Cusco at 7pm and there was no sign of her getting better. No-one really knew what was wrong and even after an injection by the nurse she didnt feel better. We struggled back to Cusco via train and bus and arrived at midnight hoping she would feel better. Finally in the morning the pain had subsided and we were fit and strong again to face another day in Cusco, our last, before heading to Lake Titicaca.