We had arrived at Aguas Calientes the day before after a three hour hike. Its SO touristy! Restaurant- massage- massage- souvenir shop- restaurant- fancy hotel- massage- restaurant! It’s the town at the base of Machu Picchu, where the trains go. If 3 000 people visit the ruins each day, that means that 3 000 new people arrive in Aguas Calientes every single day. We ate at a basic restaurant with the group that night, and we were so happy that it wasn’t soup, rice, dry chicken and beans! We got to order our meal, so I got spaghetti bolognesa. Our guide Aurelio explained to us the plan for the next day. We were to meet him inside the ruins at 6:00 AM Inka time (6:00 AM sharp, because the Inkas were always on time).
There are two ways to get up: bus and walking. The busses start leaving at 5:30 AM and take 15 minutes to get up, and walking up takes about an hour, so starting at 5:00. Since our family planned to hike up Machu Picchu mountain (It goes waayyyy up from the ruins) and also the Ausangate trek when we got back, we decided to bus up.
Inka Jungle Trek day #4
My dad was in line for the bus at 4:50 AM. The busses did start leaving at 5:30, and we were on the 4th bus up at about 5:32. Since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, they’re only supposed to let in 2 500 people per day, but apparently they let in more than that.
The ride up was so amazing! I felt like I was in the movie Avatar, because it was so misty and I couldn’t really see the bottoms of the mountains. When we got to the top, there was already a lineup to get in. Kate and Steve from the Galapagos cruise warned us that the only bathrooms are outside the gates, and if we went out and back in we had to line up again. After a pee and water bottle filling and purification, we were ready.
We found Aurelio, and soon our group was complete. He gave us a brief tour of Machu Picchu, showing us things we wouldn’t have noticed.
Some Machu Picchu history: Archeologists estimate that it was built in 1430 by the Inka people. It was so sacred to them, as soon as the Spanish arrived to conquer Cusco in 1532, the Inkas abandoned Machu Picchu so that the Spanish wouldn’t discover (and destroy) it. They never found it.
Fast- forward to 1911: Hiram Bingham, an American professor, heard legends of a Lost Inka City. He searched the area, and spoke with a local farmer about it, who directed him to the general area. He climbed part way up and found another farmer who said “Maybe up there”. The farmer sent his son to guide Bingham, and Bingham was so amazed at what he saw! Even though the city was all overgrown, he knew that he was in a very special place. National Geographic started burning away the vegetation in 1912.
Tourism didn’t really get going until they put a train through the valley in the 1940s.
I think that the Inka people are really amazing and smart! Our biggest question was “How did they cut the rocks so perfectly so that they fit together like a puzzle?” Aurelio told us that they would stick wet pieces of wood in the cracks and let the wood expand so the rock breaks… but that doesn’t really answer the question! I guess we don’t know much about the Inka people, they are a real mystery! I would love to learn more about them now.
At about 8:30 AM, we did a feedback page for the Inka Jungle tour, then said goodbye to our group. There are two mountains you can climb from Machu Picchu: Machu Picchu (1 hour 30 minutes up) and Wayna Picchu (45 minutes up). Wayna Picchu is the more popular one, because there’s a temple at the top. There is a limit of 400 people per day on it, and you can only spend 5 minutes at the top because of the crowds. So we chose to climb Machu Picchu instead.
On the way up, we found the picture spot!
The hike up was hot and tiring, but we saw some great views of the face and the ruins. It was so steep! An hour and a half of extremely steep stairs! For fun, we said “hello” in weird accents to everybody we went past and tried not to laugh.
We ate lunch at the top, the we walked all the way down and back through the ruins and by then there were a lot more people! We heard about a short 15 minute hike to an Inka Bridge, on a cliff, so away we went.
Back in 1912 the party uncovering Machu Picchu knew that Inkas did everything in “3s”. There was the entrance from below, and the “Sun Gate” from above. So they guessed that there must be a 3rd entrance somewhere and started looking. That’s how they found the “bridge” entrance.
Machu Picchu is a really special and mysterious place, and the Inkas are an amazing ancient civilization that worked very hard to build things. Something that surprised us was that their empire only lasted 100 years (1430- 1532)! How did they build all that? Up in that mountain? I also think that it really sucks how the Spanish came and slaughtered them. Similar to the Europeans colonising Canada, I guess. But Machu Picchu is a really beautiful place, and I understand why it was sacred in the Inka culture.
We left and decided to walk down to Aguas Calientes. It was a long way! It took us an hour to walk down; walking up would have been exhausting! When we got back to town, we grabbed our stuff from the hostel and got to the train station in time for our 4:30 PM train to Ollantaytambo.
After almost two hours on the train, we got a bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco. The ride took 2 hours. This day ended with us getting our other bags from our Cusco hostel, learning that they were full, finding another hostel and going to bed. What a fun but exhausting day!