Machu Picchu is probably the best known archaeological site in South America and one of the best known in the World. No-one knew it even existed until some American stumbled upon it in 1911. He had been looking for the lost city of Vikabamba. Interestingly (or not?, you take your pick) it is said that Bingham is who Indiana Jones is based on. Knowledge of the site still remains sketchy and even today its function is based heavily on speculation and educated guesswork.
So it was a pre-crack of dawn start in a bid to be at least somewhat at the front of the queue for an early morning bus up to the ruins. Of course it appeared that everyone else had the same bright idea too. Even at 0520hrs they were queuing up the street to get on a bus. Thankfully the buses run frequently in a kind of sweatshop manner and so we were soon on board and heading up into the clouds. And the sun wasn't even up yet!
First impressions? Queue, queue, queue & queue. It was a bit like Disney World with the crowds and this wasn't even the mad rush! That apparently falls between 1000hrs & 1400 hrs. It kind of puts a dampner on the experience... at first. But then you walk through the entrance gate and are greeted with the sight that is known Worldwide and so even had Mickey jumped out to say hello all would've been forgiven. What greets your eyes simply is unbelievable.
If you want to be one of 400 people to be able to hike up Wayna Picchu (the mountain you see in all the classic shots just behind the ruins) you have to queue again for one of ONLY 400 tickets and hope you get in either the 0700 hrs or 1000 hrs group. This lead to an Amazing Race-esque sprint through the grounds to the ticket booth and of course that was right at the other end. Nic. Needs. Oxygen. It didn't help that I am full of a cold either and trying not to sneeze or cough up a lung every 5 minutes. I just made it. I was #349 out of 400.
I chose the 1000 hrs trek namely because I wanted to see the sunrise at around 0720 hrs from within the ruins. It was worth it even knowing that I would be thus trekking up there in the heat. So I picked a spot and just watched & waited for the sun to grace the ruins with its presence. For a brief moment one wonders if there is going to be this huge flash of light as everyone's cameras go off simultaneously but thankfully that didn't happen. I didn't come to Machu Picchu to see the Inca version of the winning goal in the World Cup final after all! It was worth the wait. One of those things that goes onto the internal hard drive for life.
The grounds are a great cardio workout. The never ending series of stones steps and of course the altitude. I had to have my classic postcard shot... or lots of them which of course was the case so cue the kind of workout a stairmaster would be proud of. But it was Wayna Picchu that I set as my challenge for the day. They say it takes about 45mins to an hour to get up there... it took Little Miss A Type just under 25 mins. I basically ran up there for a very hard workout - I was humbled. The trek itself is a series of steep stone steps with not very much room to pass anyone going up or coming down. Cue a Rocky-esque moment when I reached the Temple of the Moon at the top all covered in sweat & rosy-cheeked.
And then of course I looked down and literally crapped my pants trying to get back to the start point waaaaaaaay down below. Needless to say it took me slightly longer on the return journey. But the fabulous views from the top were definitely worth the effort and the pseudo soiling of pants.