Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19th, 2011

June 19th

            MACHU PICCHU DAY! I have been wanting to go to Machu Picchu for years, and the day finally came. I was up at 2:15 am, and we left the hotel at 3:30am. We walked in the pitch black toward the entry to where you enter to walk up to Machu Picchu, the only real illumination was the flashlight someone had, and Syeda’s headlamp. I got a rush when I could make out the jagged outline of the Andes against the navy blue sky.
            Surely enough, we were the first ones at the gate entrance. And would have to wait for over an hour for the guard to open the gate that leads to access to the path to climb to Machu Picchu. But then Henry had a brilliant idea to bribe the guard so that he’d open the gate early for us, further ensuring that we would be able to climb Huaynapicchu. So each of us gave the guard a sol, and he made out like a bandit.
            We had to climb up an hour’s worth of stone stairs in the woods to ascend to the entrance to Machu Picchu. It was painful, no doubt, but those of us who had spent the past few days marching up the mountains had already been conditioned to it and knew what to expect. Again, we were the first to the entrance. We would be the first people allowed into Machu Picchu that day. We were again, super early and had to wait for an hour or so for it to open.
            The feeling I got when I saw my first real glimpse of Machu Picchu. I swear my eyes watered and I felt my stomach drop.
            We inched our way to the quintessential, post card viewpoint you always see Machu Picchu photographed from and I almost couldn’t believe it was real. I was finally seeing Machu Picchu. One thing that was very special about our trip to Machu Picchu, and something I will never forget was how deserted it was when we got on the grounds because we were the first ones on the mountain, so we were luckily enough to see Machu Picchu really pure, without swarms of tourists. It was really moving.
            For me, this was a special day that I have been waiting for for years. And I really wanted to take some time for myself, away from the rest of the group, so I could truly absorb my experience at Machu Picchu. I sat, eating an apple, on one of the ledges overlooking that classic view for about an hour. I watched Huaynapicchu go from dark, to completely illuminated and shining from the sunrise. I think I’ll remember those solitary 45 minutes my whole life.
            After I sat their for a while we went on a tour of Machu Picchu which was nice, but we were definitely very tired at this point, and for me, Machu Picchu was something I much preferred taking in on my own, despite its fascinating history. We went straight from our tour to the entrance to Huaynapichu. A few of  us started debating whether or not we would actually would go through with the hike up Huaynapicchu, but I had decided I had come so far over the past four days to back out now, since getting to the summit was one of our original goals. However, the majority of the group opted out of the arduous hike up. And difficult it was. It took about an hour of stone stairs, of all shapes and sizes, and even a tunnel to finally reach the top, where we were able to look down onto Machu Picchu. The top was a bit frightening since it was basically just a bunch of huge slanted rocks that people were cramming onto. There was one man up there who worked on the mountain. We were not allowed to stay on the top too long because he had to usher people on and off the summit to control the flow. But it was a beautiful to look out at the Andes and feel on top of the world.
            Later we took the bus back to the town of Aguas Calientes, where we had a few hours to kill before our train and bus rides back to Cusco. On the train, we continued the tradition that we started during the trek of playing the game ‘Contact.’ We arrived in Ollanatambo on the train and then boarded a bus for the final leg to Cusco. We checked into our hotel at about 1:30am and passed out.

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