This just in: Machu Picchu is amazing.
Right. So, I’m not going to presume that I can provide some insight to this incredible place that hasn’t already been documented in countless ways. I’ll settle for sharing a little of our experience in visiting Machu Picchu and some of the photos we captured. Again, you can easily find perhaps higher quality photos but these pictures represent what we saw and the way we saw it.
A word about the role of weather conditions. When you are traveling and make plans to visit some important site, generally you are selecting a particular date that fits into your travel plans. Certainly, with Machu Picchu we booked our tickets weeks in advance so June 12, 2013, became our opportunity to visit. The weather conditions on that day would then play a role in our experience. You have to make the best of what Mother Nature has to offer. For our visit, there was rain overnight prior and a period of rain in the middle of the day but we were able to have several hours of our visit free of rainfall. However, there were drifting clouds all day which sometimes obscured the view.
As we previously reported, we wanted to be able to climb Huayna Picchu which is restricted to 200 people at 7:00am and 200 people at 10:00am. We wanted to be able to go up at 7:00am so this necessitated that we stay overnight in Aguas Calientes, the village that sits at the base of Machu Picchu. The only way to get there is by train from Cusco or one of the stations in between. Currently, there is some work being done on the tracks near Cusco so we took a van (collectivo) from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and boarded the train there.
The place where we stayed in Aguas Calientes offered breakfast beginning at 4:30am so this allowed us to get to the bus stop in time for one of the first buses to make the trip up to the entrance for Machu Picchu which allows entry beginning at 6:00am. Being one of the first 200 or so people into the site allowed us to walk through initially with very few other people present.
While making our way up Huayna Picchu, at times we were enveloped in cloud and at times we were allowed dramatic views in different directions since the path winds around different sides of this mountain peak. Unfortunately, once we got to the summit, we could only see mostly white mist. We waited there for maybe 20 minutes but conditions didn’t improve substantially.
Once we make our way back down, we went back out to the entrance so that we could visit the restroom and have a snack. When we got there, it began to rain and continued for about an hour. Since we were under cover we waited it out. When the rain stopped we re-entered and explored more of the site itself. So our timing was pretty good in that we were able to climb Huayna Picchu and explore Machu Picchu free of rainfall and get some photos without too much cloud cover.
Of course, a visit to Machu Picchu is well worth the effort and expense. The natural beauty of the mountains is awe inspiring and the man made achievement represented by Machu Picchu is amazing.
From Aguas Calientes we will return to Cusco and then the next day, on to Puerto Maldonado.