May 28, 2012

Mission Machu Picchu

The visit of Machu Picchu was a milestone in my journey. What an expedition! We've all seen Machu Picchu: on TV, blogs, photos from friends ... Yet no representations or even words can really recreate the sensation of being there, standing, astonished in front of the monument.
Category: Peru
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The visit of Machu Picchu was a milestone in my journey. What an expedition! We've all seen Machu Picchu: on TV, blogs, photos from friends ... Yet no representations or even words can really recreate the sensation of being there, standing, astonished in front of the monument.

What has made this visit an unforgettable moment of this trip is not only the vision of Machu Picchu but all the process of getting there because contrary to what is believed Machu Picchu is not that close to Cusco, one must first travel to Agua Calientes, a small village which lies at the foot of Machu Picchu: a real mission to get there!

There are actually several ways to get there. The easiest way is to take a train that goes directly to Agua Calientes destroying your budget at the same time. Count almost 200 dollars return. So I turned to an alternative option which is to go to Aguas Calientes in a day trip by bus, take a collectivo then finish by walking along the train tracks.

So it is with lot of motivation that I called a taxi Tuesday 1st May at 7:30, which took me to the bus terminal leaving all my stuff at the hostel. The first step of the Machu Picchu mission is to take a bus up to Santa Maria. I did not think that the trip would be too long but when buying my ticket I'm told that I'm off for a 6 hours trips! Oh well, good that I took a book with me! But actually like almost all my other bus journeys I didn't really find it that long, the scenery is so beautiful that I just stare at the landscape for hours. After a while I started talking with the two guys sitting next to me who also were going to Machu Picchu along the same path as me. Here I am with my two traveling companions: Mattias who is travelling for a year and Fincher who is on a motorcycle adventure that should take him through every continent in at least 3 years!

6 hours later here we are: Santa Maria. But it's not finished: we must negotiate with a taxi driver to take us to Santa Theresa. This time it takes us only 2:30. We shared a collectivo with two other travellers and I ended up in the trunk of the car with the bags! This time we went through very narrow dirt roads in the mountains, not very reassuring, especially when we saw a truck that had crashed right at the bottom of the cliff. Finally we reached the final stage of this expedition: the taxi took us to the train track, we just had to follow it to reach Aguas Calientes.

This 2 hours hike along the river started rather well until suddenly it started raining! We ended up walking completely sulked and after an hour we were all very happy to arrive! After a well deserved meal we went to bed quite early as we had a long day ahead of us as we wanted to be among the first ones to arrive at Machu Picchu at sunrise.

After a short night we got up at 4.30am and there stupor: I hear the sound of pouring rain outside! I had no jacket, my clothes were barely dry after the walk in the rain the previous day: in the rain this day would be a nightmare! Flincher left to check the weather and then immense relief: this was actually only the sound of the river flowing nearby! Around 5:00, we headed off with the torch. It was not too cold and very quickly we realized that with the physical exertion of the walk only a T shirt would do. We were about fifty to have set the alarm clock early; fifty starting the ascension of the mountain leading to Machu Picchu. 45 minutes walking extremely difficult. Imagine me, at 5 o'clock in the morning in the middle of a trek in Peru, 4000 meters above sea level. Image rather unusual but at that time I thought it was worth it and it really was. The higher we walked, the more the sky cleared. Finally out of breath we arrived at the entrance, along with the first morning bus which mounted the lazy guys who could not bring themselves to climb up there. We got inside bumping into a couple of llamas on the way.

Only a few more steps and finally it is with some emotion and great satisfaction that we could finally see its tip emerging from the morning mist.

Machu Picchu. We observe it, we take a few pictures but we didn't really realize that we're finally facing him. We went down to walk through the ruins rather well preserved. Remnants in which they were about 2000 to live on top of this mountain. Then there is Wachu Picchu, the famous mountain that it is possible to climb but only a certain number of people are allowed there every day so it attracts many mobs and it's necessary to book well in advance. Instead we decided to climb the mountain opposite Wachu Picccu: Machu Picchu montana which is one of the largest mountains of the site. I thought I was at the end of my troubles when we arrived at the site but in reality it was only a glimpse of what was waiting to come as you have to climb for nearly two hours to get to the top of Machu Picchu montain! Mattias gave up so it is only Flincher and I who went for the ascension of Macchu Picchu montana. That was probably the hardest walk I've ever done. With the altitude you lose your breath very quickly but fortunately the sky was still a little cloudy so it wasn't too hot. Several times I thought I would not manage to make it. I redoubled my efforts and finally we reached the top. There were a dozen people already there, however, the silence was total. Almost religious. Not a word.

Some contemplated the breathtaking view, a man on his knee seemed to be praying. Up there you are at the same level as the clouds. Unfortunately we could'nt not see Machu Picchu which was engulfed in the fog but the view was nonetheless exceptional. We stayed almost two hours just admiring the landscape. One feels a great satisfaction to have been this far and thinking that all these efforts were worth it. Then just before we left the clouds began to move away gradually and Machu Picchu was finally revealed to us, tiny from the top of this mountain.

We had seen it so we could now go back down, it was very sunny now but the descent was relatively easy compare to the asencion . We met Mattias at the bottom of the mountain. I gave Machu Picchu a last look thinking that this was probably the first and last time I was seeing it. Magnificent apparition that one should see and experiment once in their life. That's it for me, I eyed it intently and I will never forget it. We could walk down happy and grab a beer.