“You’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.”
3:30 am wake up for the Machu Picchu climb. I wanted 4, but my Chilean roommate had other ideas. We walked in the damp morning towards the mountain to find the entrance was closed. The gates for hikers open at 5 am. We sat around, a couple of other hikers around us and a street dog that had followed us from our hostel. By 5, a huge crowd had arrived, we were yelled at to get into a single file line, which was ignored and a general mass of people formed something resembling a queue. Pablo and I were close to the front.
The climb was mostly vertical. Pablo steamed ahead and I told him not to wait for me. I took several breaks as scores of other trekkers walked past me. The one word I kept hearing, from different groups, was “endless”. And it did feel endless. The more I climbed, the more tired I became, and yet the top never seemed any closer. After an hour of climbing I got there.*
It was cold and still dark. The main reason for the early start was to see the sunrise. But because we were surrounded by mountains, it wasn’t special. The sun just appeared between the mountains, bright yellow at 7 am. No pretty red or purple colours. Standard sun yellow. It barely counts as a sunrise.
The ruins of Machu Picchu itself were amazing. Made of this world, but from a culture that must have been so different. What a fascinating society they must have had, and without written documents, most of our understanding is guesswork.
There are various mountains and points you can climb on Machu Picchu, but they tend to cost extra. And sell out quickly. And after the morning climb, my hiking was done for the day. The only downside to the site is how many tourists there are. It’s close to impossible to take a picture without getting ten other people in the shot. I know I was a part of that problem, and it’s still an amazing place to visit.
I wanted to take the bus back down but the queue was so long, I just walked. It took longer than coming up, I guess because my legs were so tired. I soaked my body in the hot natural springs of Aguas Calientes, before getting my train to Ollantaytambo, near Cusco, for some sleep.
*There is a bus that saves you from this nightmare, but I’ve never liked waiting for buses…