Day 7 – MACHU PICCHU

We made it! We hiked for seven days and made it to Machu Picchu, with two thousand of our closest friends!

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This was such a surreal and bizarre day – I actually need to go back to the day before.

If you read the post about Day 6, you will hopefully remember the trail I pointed out on one of the photos where the two-day treks meet up all at the same campsite. All of the treks, two-day, four-day, five-day, seven-day – they all end up at this one campsite which is right at the main gates for Machu Picchu. There are a second set of gates on the other side of Machu Picchu. These gates are for the train and bus people.

Two things happened the morning of Day 7.
First, it’s a day off for the porters. They need to catch the cheapest and earliest train back to Cusco. In Cusco they drop off all of the stuff they have been carrying and then have their day off – total crap. That is not a day off. In order for them to be able to catch their 6:00 a.m. train all of the tourists have to be cleared out of the camp site, so they can pack up, walk down the side of the mountain, and peace out. Definitely NOT a day off.
Second, the gate for Machu Picchu opens at 5:30 a.m. In order to get a good photo of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate you have to be there first, otherwise your photos will just be of other tourists. Our guide warned us that people try to run this trial to get the best photos. “It’s like Walmart on black Friday – people go crazy,” he said. “Just let them pass and stay safe. The stairs up to the Sun Gate are very steep and very narrow. Let them pass.” He said pointedly to Matt.
The solution to both of these issues. Everyone gets up at 3:00 a.m. in morning packs their shit, and attempts to be first in line at the main gate. While the tourists are waiting in line the porters pack up and vacate. I went back up to the camp site at 4:30am to pee, the entire campsite was abandoned – ghost town.

Since there were only two of us on our tour, and our guide was young and maybe a little too ambitious he got us up at 2:45am. We packed quietly, so as not to wake anyone else in the campsite and rushed to the gates. We were first in line – obviously. Did I mention it had rained all night? Being first in line also meant having a covered area to sit for two and a half hours while it poured rain.

At 5:30 the gates opened our guide signed us in, asked if we were ready and then he started running. WE WERE THE CRAZY ONES!! We ran / speed walked the entire way – yelling THUNDER DOME and cackling manically as we went! A one-hour hike up wet treacherous stairs and stone paths took us 40 minutes, but we were first! No matter that Machu Picchu was engulfed in clouds and fog since it was still raining – we were first!
Close on our heels the entire way was two couples from Utah. We had met them on the trail a few days earlier, and they did not seem surprised to see us at the gate when they got there at 3:10 in the morning. They also had a Jill, and she also was swathed in purple all of the time. We bonded.

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Saul signing us in.

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The first photo of Machu Picchu! Fully engulfed in clouds.

 

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We are exhausted in these photos. It’s 6:10 a.m. and we had just ran for 40 min. flat out, up hill. I can’t even keep my one eye all the way open. 

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Second take – still can’t get my eye all the way open. Machu Picchu still covered in clouds. 

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This is the other Purple Jill – we had the same Buff in purple. 

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Myself – eyes still closed, Matt, and Saul – wearing jeans like it’s no big deal.

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Clouds slowly clearing away. 

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Jill! No idea when she stole our phone, but I respect her for it. 

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Down at the site waiting in line to get our photo taken at Machu Picchu.

After resting and having a snack at the top near the sun gate we leisurely wandered down to the actual site. There was no need to rush as the other set of gates also opened at 5:30 a.m. and hoards of train and bus tourists had already flooded the site.

Saul gave us a tour of Machu Picchu the history and all of the important parts.

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More llamas and babies!

Then, because we are fools and we paid $75 US dollars each. We climbed THIS.
After anxiously not sleeping, waking up at 2:45 a.m., sitting in the rain for 2.5 hours, sprinting for 40 min. up hill, tourist-ing for two hours, we got in line to climb Waynapicchu.

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Waynapicchu – it’s the big one!

Waynapicchu is the most terrifying thing I have ever done. It was so steep, the stairs were the most narrow and harrowing we had experienced thus far. There are no photos of us going up because we were hanging on for dear life. If you are interested search YouTube for people falling off Waynapicchu – it’s a thing. There are cables attached to the mountain, but they end at the most inconvenient times. The photos at the top were taken only because Saul insisted.

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Machu Picchu waaaaay down there.

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Not dead yet. Too bed we still have to get down.

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As close to death as I’ve ever been. 

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Going down. 

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Matt at the top. Park rangers supervising the whole up top procedure. Or counting the bodies falling, not sure which. 

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Spent! We lived and we are 100% done. 

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Got the tee shirt.

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We took a bus down the hill, had lunch in the small tourist town at the base of the mountain, and waited for the train to take us back to Cusco. I fell asleep on the train, Matt drank a lot of beer, and while we loved every single second of our trek, we were so happy to shower and to sleep in a real bed. It was without a doubt the trip of a lifetime!

 

Day 6 – Crocodile Tears

I didn’t wake up overly tired on day six, which, when you consider how harrowing day five had been was a small miracle. However, a small insignificant sigh in the wrong tone set me off for about two hours. I was not ugly crying by any means, there were just small rivers of uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. I wanted them to stop, the tears were making Saul very uncomfortable, but I had no control over these tears. They were the tears of the overly tired and worn the fuck out. And again I found myself in a situation where the only way out was to go up. And up we went.
After I got my blood pumping, the tears slowed and eventually stopped. With a clear head I was able recognize my mistakes. In the cold chilly rain of the day before, I was so focused on the wet trail in front of me, I had neglected to take care of myself. I had not ingested a single salt pill, zero electrolytes, not one ounce of additional protein, goo, or gel – nothing. I was officially spent. It was a rookie move, and I know better, but it just goes to show how even experienced hikers get themselves into trouble.

Thankfully and because I’m super lucky, Day Six was a half day – for the most part. All we had to do was get to lunch, eat, nap, and then Saul our delightful guide had a “small surprise” for us. If you’ve been reading along, you will know that Saul’s surprises were always super cool, but were not free. We had to work for them.

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Our first attraction of the day was Phuyupatamarca, a small, but mighty ruin.

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Oh Good! More stairs. I was afraid we had run out.

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A slow day made for looking at bugs and other interesting bits.

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In the distance Intipata

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We spent a lot of time at Intipata, sitting in the grass, and enjoying the warm sun. We had made good time getting there, and so needed to give our chefs time to prepare lunch for us, as well as the other two day groups that would be converging on the trail with us.

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In the mountain opposite from the Inca plateaus you can see the trail coming up from the river. This is the trail that the two day treks take to Manchu Picchu.

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After resting and exploring we headed to camp / lunch.

This is the only camp we didn’t take photos of. It was a super highway of porters, tents, tourists, and super stinky bathrooms. It was the Grand Central Station of pre-Manchu Picchu. It wasn’t noisy enough to prevent me from taking a nap though I promise you that! After a HUGE farewell lunch I napped for a good two hours. Saul woke us up to go see his surprise. We almost blew him off in favor of a continued nap, but he promised us it would be worth it, and he was so right.

We went to Peru with the intention of going to Manchu Picchu, but I have to say Winay Wayna was by far my favorite place on the entire trek, and it wasn’t just because of the baby llama. It might be because of the baby llama.

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BABY!!!

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An entire family of llamas lives at this site , cutting the grass, and maintaining the site.

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OMG! He was SO CUTE!!!

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I was not shaking at all when I took this photo.

At this point day six had been the best day ever, and then it got even better!

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Our wonderful chef made Matt a birthday cake and it was GF too! Such an amazing company! If you ever go to Peru book with Alpaca Expeditions!

 

Day 4! Wait, It Was Supposed to be an Easy Day!

During breakfast the morning of Day 4 our guide, Saul said to us “I have good news, and bad news,”. Foolishly, I didn’t believe that there could be bad news in Peru, especially not while on vacation!

I was wrong.

On Day 4 we would be transitioning from the Salkantay Trail to the Inca Trail. Horses are not allowed on the Inca Trail, because their shoes break up the rocks used to pave the trail. We would be saying goodbye to our horseman, Juan, and hello to four new porters that would take the place of the horses. I promise you, I have never felt more ridiculous than I did on the Inca Trail with not just a guide and two chefs, but also four men carrying all of our stuff. As the Inca Trail became steeper and steeper I felt less and less ridiculous, and more and more grateful that I didn’t have to carry a fully loaded backpack – or cook any food.

The bad news, our four porters had gotten jammed up with the small army of porters that would be caring the gear for a 12 person trek just starting out on the Inca Trail. Our porters were supposed to meet us at 10 a.m., but due to the mix up they were going to be two hours late. The worse news, this meant our lunch would also be two hours late, as they were bringing fresh groceries with them.
The good news, our guide had a surprise for us. As a way to kill time we were going to go to an Inca site not on our itinerary. For those of you paying close attention, you guessed it.  This meant that we would be hiking for two additional hours – without lunch. My poor lonely tummy!

The hike was of course, beautiful and it was well worth the extra time hiking. The site too was very cool. The other nice part was that because it was a down-and-back trip, we dropped our packs with a local store merchant allowing us to cover more miles in less time.

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The village / town of Wayllabamba. There are no roads to this place. Horses and feet are the only transportation to and from this area.

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Watch out for small bear like animals and bathrooms!

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His bowl was bigger than his entire body!

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After our detour, we collected our packs and then hiked up the mountain to the first of many check points for the national park that contains Manchu Picchu. The number of people allowed to enter the gates each day is very heavily restricted. We purchased our permits a year ago, and I’m so glad we did!

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First check point – waiting for paperwork to be completed…

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So excited!!!!

The terrain from this point on changed dramatically. It was mind blowing! Our guide called it a micro-climate, but one moment we were hiking a river valley, and after only a few hundred feet of elevation – JUNGLE! And steps. SO. MANY. STEPS! The Inca were as extra as any one group of people could possibly be. Why build a dirt trail when a trail paved in stones and carved steps would do just fine?!?

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When our dear chef’s reached us, they were so upset at not having fed us on time. They scrambled and within minutes had a four course lunch ready. These guys were beyond amazing!

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After our quick lunch we hiked only two more hours to our camp site.  It was during this leg that we started to run into other groups and porters. Up until joining the Inca Trail we had had the trail all to our selves and in the process had gotten quite spoiled.

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LLAMAS!!!!

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A group of porters from another company – playing soccer in the field after hiking 6 or more hours with roughly 55 lbs. on their backs.

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The cutest camp invaders ever!

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This camp site also had a bathroom! It was referred to as a proper toilet, to be clear I was quite fond of the original Squatty Potty. Unfortunately, the bathroom pictured below was one of the cleanest toilets I visited in Peru. In fact I have an entirely new bathroom rating system after Peru. I used to think that the dirtiest place I had ever pee’d was a Starbucks in Paris. Again, I was wrong.

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Mom, you aren’t going to like Peru.