Oh my goodness!!! Machu Picchu is SO amazing in person! I didn´t realize how much better than the pictures it is! It is so stunningly beautiful there & surrounding it. Even though thousands of people visit a day, I still feel so lucky to have been there!
I went to Aguas Calientes the night before Machu Picchu, which was an adventure! Due to the mudslides they had a few months ago, the train no longer runs from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes. I had a guy organize my trip out there & he put me in a car to go to Ollytambo to get the train. For some unknown reason, he put me on a bus to get there. I got to sit right up front, which was nerve-wracking due to the crazy driving here (I´ll write more on that tomorrow). But it was a beautiful drive through the mountains. At the end, because of the construction in the town, we had to drove along the RR tracks. I was a little nervous when the tires slipped on the tracks & there is a sheer drop-off into the Urumba River right there! When we were about there, another bus wouldn´t back up, so the drivers got into an argument. Anyway, I got to the station in time to get the bus to where the train currently runs from. Apparently the train will run from here starting this Thursday, but not for me. We drove along the tracks, which is funny. We got to a point where I got really nervous because the bridge didn´t look wide enough! But we went around...phew! Wed dove through some towns that aren´t used to getting bus traffic & I wonder what the effect has been on them.
Eventually, after a scenic drive, we made it to the train station. I met some people from Canada & Japan on the ride there. The train ride was magnificent! The whole side of the train was a huge window, so the views were great! The train goes along the river & the mountains jut up all around, some with snow & glaciers.
Aguas Calientes is a neat little town. It is in a steep valley along 2 rivers & they just stuck buildings along the steep slopes. The town can only be so big due to this, but it´s pretty cool. I got to listen to some live music in the Central Plaza, which was cool.
The day I got to go to Machhu Picchu started at 4 AM to get there for sunrise on the solstice. I got in one line after the other, but then I was on one of the first buses up the super-windy road up from Aguas Caliente. I got there & when I first saw Machu Picchu, I was overcome with emotion, which surprised me. I have wanted to visit since I was younger & I have finally made it here! Again, I feel so lucky!
I looked around a little & took pictures before I hiked Waynapicchu, which is the pointy mountain in the background of most pictures of Machu Picchu. Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike it, so I´m happy I got there early. I tried to see the surise at one of those places where the sun hits the rock which throws a shadow onto a specific point only on the solstice. But, it was a little cloudy at the time :( Oh well.
Waynapicchu is so steep! It is basically a big staircase to get up it. As you go up, there are wire railings to help you out. At the top, there are a couple wooden ladders. Pretty cool! Unlike Cuzco, it is humid here, so it was a sweaty hike :) Along the way, there are ruins, so I checked them out (also to take a break from the climb). I still can´t believe they built this all the way up there! The top was amazingly beautiful! I met some people from the states...the east coast nonethless! DC & Albany, NY.
I saw more ruins on the way down. Don´t worry about pictures...I´ve already taken about 500 in a week! I even bought another memory card today :)
I was signed up for a 2 hour tour that ended up being 3 hours & very interesting. Some highlights of what I learned...Machu Pichhu means Öld Mountain¨in the native language of the Incas. Waynepicchu means ¨Young Mountain.¨There are many theories out there about Machu Pichhu, so I´ll share what my guide told us. He thinks that Machu Picchu was for people of importance like Priests, Priestesses, Nobles, doctors, etc. They think that Machu Picchu was only 70% built when they left it. Also, 25% of Machu Picchu has been renovated, mostly in roofs. They think there were some short people who lived there because there are some low windows. In the homes, there are windows & windows that look like they´ve been filled in. Those are supposed to have been closets. There are many places in Machu Picchu that use the sun´s shadow to make shapes or hit certain places. Most of the terraces were for growing food. Some are there to support the structure. There are places where they carved the shapes of the surrounding mountains. The detail there & the building with nature rather than against it is amazing to me.
After I did that, I hiked out to the Inca Bridge, which was supposed to be a drawbridge to keep people out. Again, it was very pretty there. After that, I spent some time sitting & soaking in the view & walking arounf more.
The whole place is built with stairs & I was there for 11 hours, including hiking down, so I´m pretty sore today! The hike down was very pretty. It was lush & I heard some pretty birds. This is on the edge of the jungle, so I was getting a glimpse into what the jungle will be like & I´m excited!!!