The big day!! Everyone was awake by 3:30am, we had a quick breakfast and then packed up and got in line at the checkpoint at around 4:30am. The checkpoints don’t open until 5am and we (and everyone else) want to get to the Sun Gate before the sun rises over Machu Picchu at around 7am. We were the third group in line, not too bad actually. It’s only about 5k to Machu Picchu from camp, but we still have some hills to climb and stairs to descend.
Once we were through the checkpoint – at about 5:15 – we were off. Nobody was walking slow. We were either speed walking or jogging the whole way. I got warm quickly, and had to stop a couple of times to take off my jacket and then my long sleeve shirt. It warmed up much faster at our lower elevation (we were only at around 9000 feet by this time.). Being mostly concerned about getting to the sun gate, I didn’t stop for many pictures.
When we reached the steep stone staircase that had to be climbed like a ladder we knew we were close. Less than a mile to go to the Sun Gate!
The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful, we stopped for photos a lot along the way, but mostly we just kept moving. Once we got into Machu Picchu I was amazed at how big it was. I don’t know why I was so surprised, considering Machu Picchu was a city but I was amazed at the size of it.
Since we came in from the trail, we had to go out the front entrance and come back in through the checkpoint. Backpacks and walking sticks are not allowed in Machu Picchu so we had to leave them at the bag check area. Before heading back in we had a chance to use a real bathroom (inside the bathroom someone was singing Halleluiah, seriously) for the first time in 4 days. There was also a small deli where we could get sandwiches and sodas for lunch.
After getting some lunch and cleaning up as best we could we went back inside. It was a beautiful sunny day, about 70 degrees. The warmest day of the trek by far. We were taken on a tour of the city and then given the rest of the day to do whatever we want. We stayed in Machu Picchu for a couple of hours, exploring some of the higher terraces, the residential area and the agricultural area. I found a couple of Geocaches while we were in there as well. We were all exhausted from all of the stair climbing; I remember swearing to never take stairs again several times.
When we were done exploring we headed down into the valley to Aguas Calientes to meet back up with the group for lunch where we drank beer and ate fish and chips. Yum! Amanda and I were the only ones from the group prepared for the hot springs, so we split from the group and headed back uphill to the springs. The water was lukewarm and stinky but there were showers and even lukewarm water felt good on our sore muscles. It was the perfect way to finish up the trekking experience.
Things I packed/forgot
- Shoes – I packed 2 pair of my VFF’s – one Treksport and one Bikila LS. I had just bought the Treksports before leaving and hadn’t had a chance to hike in them to be sure they fit right and didn’t hurt. I had hiked several miles in my Bikilas though. I also brought a pair of Merrell Pace Gloves in case the VFF’s just didn’t work out for some reason. I know now that all I needed were the Treksports and nothing else.
- Shirts – In my rush to just get into bed and get over the nauseous feeling I only packed 2 tops. I originally planned to pack 2 sets of clothing for the trek and a third full outfit that would stay clean to change into at the end. I had 3 sets of pants, but not shirts. So much for that idea.
- Warm stuff – I packed an athletic jacket, a fleece jacket AND a down jacket liner. I did not need the fleece. I packed a hat and a Buff, I didn’t really need the hat.
- Medicine – Again, while rushing I just tossed the full bottles into my bag. I should have packed only what I needed.
- Notebook – I bought a couple small Moleskine notebooks so I could take notes along the way. I not only forgot to pack them for the trek, but I forgot to bring them to Peru entirely. I found myself wishing for a pen and paper several times on the trek to jot down things to remember later. I’m just not that good with my phone to type it in instead.
- Camera battery – it’s rechargeable and I only had one. It died halfway through Machu Picchu. Thankfully I had a spare battery for my phone, so I still got a bunch of good pictures. A spare is a very good idea.