Walked distance: 7.1 miles
Differences in altitude of the day: 3,372 ft / 3,425 ft
Altitudes: 6,876 ft (Aguas Calientes) » 7,972 ft (Machu Picchu) » 8,572 ft (Huayna Picchu) » 6,876 ft (Aguas Calientes)
3.45 a.m. The alarm buzzes.
Hard to wake up. For the first time since we left Cusco, we sleep in beds, with pillows. Wow. I really want to stay longer in that little comfortable place, but we have to be ready soon, because today is THE Day!
No time for breakfast. Daniel meets us at the hotel at 4.15 a.m., with cakes, bananas and fruit juices. We keep that for later, we now need to walk the long mile to get to the first entrance, to be the first ones to wait in line. There is a control booth down in the valley, to check that you have your ticket (that you need to get before coming here. Only 2,500 people are allowed to enter everyday, to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage site).
Once there, we wait for the gates to open, eating our snacks.
5 a.m., the first checkpoint lets us go through. Ticket, passport, and we’re ready to climb to the main entrance, 1,300 ft higher. Two options: by bus (for the lazy ones), or through the stairs. There are stairs that go up, almost in a straight line.
Stairs! Go! This is the last day, no time to be cold feet! It’s still night outside, we climb in the dark with our headlamps …
One mile, 1,300 ft to climb up, 1,700 steps (not little steps, thanks again for that the Incas) … done in 40 minutes, with JB. A bit sportive, it’s said that it usually takes 60-90 minutes to walk up.
20 minutes to rest, the Machu Picchu opens at 6 a.m.
We walk in, and Daniel leads us to some spot from where we can see … almost nothing, it’s really cloudy now. There, our guide talks to us about the history of the city and its discovery in 1911 by Hiram Bingham (it’s really recent).
We walk then to the “keeper’s house”, the highest spot with a full view on the hereabouts (the keeper had to see everything at every moment). The “hereabouts” are very close to us, the clouds are still hiding the site. We can’t see a thing, but knowing what lays below, this layer gives the site a particularly mystical aura.
We wait here for dawn.
The sun finally rises, and with some Inca magic, the clouds disappear as soon as they are touched by the light beams. The site gets clearer second after second. Magical. Fabulous. Magilous. I miss superlatives, the scene is too mind-beautiwing to be described.
We walk down for a guided visit of the houses, constructions, awesome creations of the Incas. These Incas, they were really awesome!
9 a.m., our tour ends. Daniel gathers us to say goodbye. After 5 days living together, almost 24/24, I feel like leaving a good friend.
The group splits here too. Each of us will finish discovering the site and then will leave for its next adventure.
We sit and talk a bit with Amie, Jenny, Emily and Oliver, and we kiss goodbye. It’s just a goodbye!
We still have an hour before our next big thing …
At 10 a.m., we are waiting in line to climb the Huayna Picchu (“young mountain” in Quechua), the summit over the Machu Picchu. Here, no more than 400 persons a day, in two groups (at 8 and 10 a.m.).
I laugh looking at the sign at the entrance, saying that the hike is for “fit and healthy only”. Looks nice!
And it’s true, climbing is hard. Steps, high steps (thanks again the Incas), sometimes slippery, and always with a big slope. But here again, the view worths the effort: little path, going up between trees on the mountain’s side, and always by the precipice, with a point of view on the valley and the Río Urubamba, 2,300 ft below.
Just before arriving at the top, a little moment of pure pleasure: a cave you have to go through, in the dark, crawling on the ground, on flat first, and then on a 60° slope. A bit difficult, really narrow, and with the bag-pack and the camera, you need do be really careful. I go through and walk the last steps to get to the highest rock, over everything. Intense sensation. Being over everything. The top. The top of the top.
Not easy to get here for everyone: this peak is really pointed, and the view can go almost vertically to the bottom of the valley, 2,300 ft below. Julien gets a little vertigo, but beats it and meets us.
We need to walk down, and here too, the heights trick on the view. Little stairs, with steps half wide as your foot. Try to miss one, slip, and wait to hit the bottom of the valley. “Fit and healthy”, here’s why!
Once we’re back on flat terrain, I start running with JB. Left, down, right, down, up … it’s fun to run here!
We get back to the Machu Picchu, and leave quickly after a last tour, and run down to the valley, by the same stairs we took this morning.
Back to Aguas Calientes. Quick shower at the hostal, we get our bags back.
We go out for late lunch, pizza with fruits and milk, delicious, and a last drink. And it’s time to go to the train station.
I make a quick stop at the main market, to get a little accessory (ha!), and we board the train to Poroy at 4.32 p.m.
56 miles running in the bottom of the valley, just by the river. A little more than 4 hour ride.