This was probably my second most awaited day of the entire trip.
I woke up at 0530 from the coziest bed in the world and dragged myself to get dressed in workout gear and rain jacket. I popped an altitude sickness pill and packed extra coca candies but forgot my water bottle as I left my mom and aunt in bed and they wished me to be extra careful this morning since we’ve heard rain pounding against the windows and roof. I rushed to the hotel restaurant and scarfed down what I could since I wasn’t hungry and sprinted down the rainy street and around the corner to the bus stop to go back up Machu Picchu. I bought a water bottle as I anxiously waited in line.
What was my rush? My goal was to climb the tall and steep mountain in the background you see in every picture of Machu Picchu. There you’ll find the temples in the clouds. They only let 100 climbers in at 7am, and another 100 at 10am and you need a permit/ticket to do so. I sped through the ruins until I reached the gate. Once they opened, I signed my name and time of entry and took a deep breath to do the most dangerous, thrilling, and jaw dropping hike I’ve ever done. The climb was physically demanding. Stone stairs of varying steepness and sizes lead you up which felt like it was never going to end. I passed so many people I thought I was going to be the first one up until I met a friendly European couple on a high flat area and found 2 site workers and took pictures. I thought we were the first three to reach the summit until we saw a man lounging there already eating an apple. I drank some water, and my bottle fell into a crevice on the boulder I was sitting on. Luckily, a ladder was there and I crawled down to retrieve it. The rain subsided earlier when I got on the bus however the clouds didn’t. It was impossible to see below. You were climbing and breathing clouds. I wanted to start heading down before the mass started overcrowding the place, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I was able to hold my pee. Going down was much more dangerous but the temples and death steps down were glorious to experience. Views were absolutely serene.
The only bathrooms were at the main entrance and it was soo tempting to just pee in a shrub off the path, but I was too scared that I’d fall off the face of the earth. And I was also scared that if I peed here, on sacred ground, a mountain god would punish me. A Russian hiker was struck by lightning there in 2004 and didn’t make it out alive. So I held it on the hour hike back down. I wanted to climb the smaller neighboring mountain, as well as hike the entire Wayna Picchu to see the sacred cavern but I just didn’t have time. I had to scurry across the Machu Picchu ruins and do the hour trek to the Sun Gate or Inkaputu on the far opposite end all before noon. I quickly used the bathroom and paid my 1 sole, then grabbed an empenada for energy. I then started my 1 hour trek to the Sun Gate. This hike was easier in that it was a steady uphill path. Wayna Picchu were flat out stairs. I reach the Sun Gate and saw awesome views of Machu Picchu , Wayna Picchu, surrounding mountains, and valleys. I took it all in and started my way back down.
I said my final goodbye to Machu Picchu, all sweaty and accomplished, and hopped on a bus down. With an hour to spare, I did a quick rummage through the market to buy some souvenirs, then met up with my mom and aunt for lunch. I was able to try the Quechua delicacy of guinea pig which they only eat on very special occasions. Trying to savor the dish as best I could, it tasted like chicken with plenty of bones, delicious otherwise. The only food I didn’t take advantage of trying was llama and alpaca. I just didn’t have the stomach for it at the time I had the opportunity to.
We then headed back on the long train and bus ride back to beautiful Cusco. Until I behold its wonders again, I thank Machu Picchu for the humbling, one of kind, and most freeing experience of a lifetime.