Monday, July 16, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 8: Machu Picchu!

May 10, 2012
Peru Day 8: Machu Picchu!

And now for the last day of the Inca Trail trek. We started the day "bright and early"... well, at least early... at 3:40am. Ughhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! haha. We did a quick packup and brekkie of pancakes, jam, coffee, and said goodbye to all the porters taking the early train back. After a quick cleanup, we rolled out and hauled it to a big lineup that was only 5 minutes away. This was a lineup at the final checkpoint before heading up to the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu, and they held us there until it was safe and light enough to start the trek. We were there for about 30 min, slowly waking up. We got through the checkpoint and walked up towards the Sun Gate. This trail was super easy in comparison to the other days of the hike, or "easy" I suppose compared to any reasonable hike we've ever done :) There were still some big steps up and some very steep parts that required you to almost crawl up.

Up super early, and on our way to the sun gate
Intipunku, the sun gate
We got to the sun gate, threw our packs down and took a bazillion photos. It was gorgeous. Edwin had said a few days before that Machu Picchu was not the "goal" of the hike, and we should make sure to enjoy the journey... but now that we had arrived it was clearly our reward for our hard work. To see it this early in the morning from the sun gate was truly spectacular. Machu Picchu started first mostly in shadow, and as the clouds cleared further and the sun continued to rise, it kept revealing more and more of the amazingness. We took a bunch of group photos and basked in the epicness. We walked onwards towards Machu Picchu and there were some G-d rays shining down on the site as we looked back towards the Sun Gate. Beautiful!!!!!!!!!

Oh, hello there
We made it!!!!!!!!! At the sun gate, above Machu Picchu. Congrats team!
The sun comes up and shines some light on this gloriousness
Super excited
Ahhh, so THAT's why they call it the "Sun gate"
Our group with our two epic guides
Machu Picchu from above
Early-bird tourists hiking the upper portion of the Machu Picchu site
The clouds burning off
We're literally in the clouds right now :)
The sun revealing more of Machu Picchu
Everyone basking in the awesomeness and our achievement of the Inca Trail
Our awesome group!
Adventurer Frank
Adventurer Mike
Last part of the hike towards Machu Picchu
Almost there!
As we got down to the main site, we exited nearly right away to drop off our bags and chill out for a little bit before walking back in and exploring. It was really funny, we felt like (and looked) a whole lot different that all "those darn tourists!" Everyone seemed immaculately dressed compared to our 4 days of blood, sweat and tears (mostly sweat and grime) to get there. People seemed very "proper" whereas we'd literally JUST peed on the side of the trail not 30 minutes before, as was the general custom over the past 4 days. So, it was nice, but also weird, to be suddenly thrown back into actual society. I'd forgotten that if I wanted to use the "restroom", I should probably exit the park and go use the pay toilets and not just proceed to whip it out amidst many other non-Inca Trail tourists. These things you forget when you're away from non-hikers for too long :)

Dropping off our packs in the storage area and patting a local dog
Edwin telling us about the history
Now pack-less and all weighing at least 25 lbs less, we were free to sit in the sun and enjoy Edwin's description about the site and history of its "discovery". Machu Picchu is not a "ruin" because it was never destroyed by the Spanish, and its discovery by American Hiram Bingham was more like an "uncovering" as Edwin explained. Hiram Bingham had heard about this epic city built up in the hills but people only knew some stories here and there about it. He cobbled together info from many different people and finally found his way there. Though when he found it, it was already inhabited by 2 families!! The majority of the site was fully covered in brush and trees and the people were living amongst it. After this began a huge excavation and many artifacts were found.

We walked around to different places inside of Machu Picchu with Edwin, and he explained lots of different things. The stone walls were round and meticulously crafted. Edwin told us how they broke large rocks apart, and it was quite ingenious, they took wood and made small holes in the boulders along straight lines in the rock. Then then pushed the wood into the holes in the rock and poured water onto the wood. The wood expanded and then cracked the boulders along those straight lines, breaking them apart. Very cool!

Edwin continued to tell us more about the site, why the Spanish never found it (you can't see it from anywhere really) and he also discussed issues with its preservation. It was all fascinating info. He then showed us the meaning of the Southern Cross, the "Chicana". This has an Incan spiritual meaning and relates to all the things we've learned so far on the trip - the 3 statues together that we've seen is related to this too, the Condor ontop of the Puma ontop of the Snake, representing the upper world, the current world and the under world. Very fascinating and an awesome explanation tying all of the pieces of our trip together.

Here it is!!!! Machu Picchu!!!!
Kev - relieved and happy to be there
Me - I can't believe we did it!
Our amazing group
A baby Llama
Baby Llama
Me and Grits
Ugh so tired
Super pleased with our effort

It was about 11am and the heat was really getting to me, I was pretty darn exhausted and was getting dizzy and was pretty psyched just to head to Aguas Calientes. We had fortunately planned another full day at Machu Picchu for tomorrow due to Frank's genius, so we could easily see it all tomorrow. So we decided to head out and take the bus to Aguas Calientes and get out of the sun. We dropped stuff at our hotel and it was SO awesome to be back in Civilzation. Clean, hot water!! Showers!!!!!!!!!! We were so psyched and all took showers as quickly as humanly possible. I have never been so happy to see a goose/duck-shaped folded towel in my life.

Back at the hotel, oh man it's a towel! A bed! Clean sheets! A SHOWER!!!!!

We then headed out to meet the rest of the group at El Allyu restaurant, a place where everyone from Peru Treks tends to meet up. Kev and I shared a Family Sized "Pizza de Fruitas" which was FRIGGIN' AMAZING. Plantain, pineapple, peach and papaya!!! Whaaat! It was so glorious. Also: Beer!!!

And... Pizza. This was glorious, it was a fruit pizza
Frank's face upon seeing the Pizza
Christy and Mary, psyched to be done the hike
Tired and happy
I gave everyone Canada flag patches and pins (as usual!!) That was fun and I think people liked them, those always go down well on trips! We gathered tips for our guides, similarly to how we'd done the night before for the porters. I got together an email list so we could easily get people in touch with each other post-trip. We also got a certificate of completion of the trek, which was super nice! And then it was time for some sad goodbyes... but not really. Just, the Quechua saying goes, "See you in another life". What an amazing trip. I am so happy to have had such funny and motivated and interesting fellow travelers to make new friends with. What an amazing trip, what an experience, and I was so glad to share it with such a great team. A "family". :)

After lunch and goodbyes, Mary walked with us over to a corner store and helped us buy Peruvian chocolate (she's been living in Peru for a while and knows everything well). The key winner here was the Nestle Sublime Extremo. Jess in particular loved that one and we crushed a few of them in next-to-no time at all :) And so begins the great journey in replenishing our calories from the past few days :)

We headed back to the hotel and chilled out for a while, there was internet so it was a good time for some chillin' and Facebooking. We had a really large lunch so we went out after several hours to just wander and look for some smaller items to bring back to the hotel for dinner.

I could really use a Hot Shawer
Wandering the Aguas Calientes main square at night
Other side of the tracks
Looking for food
Funny dog we found
Fruit market!!
Cool grains and stuff
Grits excited tha we found this place
Purple Corn
Some cheese open next to random meat, but looked clean, we bought the cheese and it rocked

 I found some yoghurt and excitedly bought it, later to find out it had expired a few months before and I didn't want to chance it. We got more chocolate of course, and some juices. We also happened upon the local fruit market which totally rocked. We got mini-bananas, chirimoya, passionfruit and queso cheese. Frank, Jess and I sat on the balcony and just looked out over the city of Aguas Calientes, only a few lights still on in the distance. It was so nice and just perfect to enjoy the breeze and talk about the great experience we all just shared in together.

Our haul
Sitting out on the balcony, enjoying the evening air and eating lots of tasty fruit and cheese
And now time for bed!!!!!! Oh man - soft beds, alpaca fur blanket, pillow... how sweet it is!!!!!!!!!!!!

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