Machu Picchu / Peru

What can I say about one of the most famous historical sites on the planet that hasn’t already been said, with better writing, better photos, and better facts?

Honestly, not much.

Millions of people have traveled to Peru, hiked, bused, trained to Machu Picchu, walked its historic grounds, photographed the incredible views, and documented it in magazines, books, videos, TV shows…

And yet… it is still epic in every sense of the word.

Annie wrote about our experience on the Salkantay Trek, but even if you cut that out, it’s an amazing experience. Rising in early morning darkness to march down to the trailhead, hundreds of other excited travelers itching to get on the final steps of the Inca Trail, to climb, step by step, all the way up to the park entrance, and on to Machu Picchu…

Despite days of trekking to get there, Annie and I bolted up the stairs – sweating in the heat and humidity of the dense forest around us – wondering how the hell the Incas even built these stairs, let alone what lay in store…

And when we finally reached the park, walked through the grounds to a lookout above Machu Picchu, we saw…

Fog.

Dense Fog. Everywhere. Machu Picchu was nowhere in sight.

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Fog sucks for views, but makes for some cool silhouettes…

Until some time later, a ray of light poked through, and then some blue sky, and then, Machu Picchu revealed itself to us in its full glory. We sat and awed at it for awhile before walking down into the intricately built kingdom. Our guide Lenny explained all of the detailed work that went into Machu Picchu, and I encourage you, if you can’t visit yourself, to at least read the Wikipedia entry to learn more.

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Fog clearing… 
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…and then, BOOM. Machu Picchu in all its glory. Thank god for my fisheye lens to capture all of this in one frame. That green peak in the back is Huayna Picchu. 

After a couple hours of touring around, we parted ways with Lenny. Our legs were pretty shot, but there was one final trek… Huayna Picchu.

Huayna Picchu is an additional site that you can trek to from Machu Picchu. It’s thought to have been a religious site. In my experience, I was grateful to god that we made it up and down alive! The trail to the top is narrow, steep, and without guard rails… but so worth it.

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Climbing strategy for Huayna Picchu? “Don’t slip.”

After an additional hour, sweating our way up the stairs, we got to the top where we had a stunning view of Machu Picchu, the valley below, and the mountains beyond. 100% worth the extra effort, and should you go to Machu Picchu, be sure to book this additional hike in advance.

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The Sacred Valley from Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu hidden behind my big head. That snake-y looking thing on the left is the road the bus takes up the mountain. We, of course, walked instead… 

Out of water, getting dehydrated, famished, and sun burnt, we eventually made our way back down, enchanted by the ingenuity, vision, and determination of the Inca.

  • Do… hike up Huayna Picchu. You have to book in advance, and you only have a certain time window in which to hike it, but well worth it. Check the photos.
  • Don’t… take the bus up the road to Machu Picchu. You gotta hike it! Exceptions made for elderly, handicapped, and recent knee/hip surgeries.
  • Do… bring some snacks. Food is expensive at the top. You can’t eat inside the park, but you can come out, eat, then go back in.
  • Don’t… bring hiking poles unless they have plastic/rubber tips. If you bring metal poles, they’ll make you check them.

 

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