Our tour of Peru continues with an early morning wakeup call (4:30AM) in our Aguas Calientes hotel. Starting at 5:30AM, buses begin the 25 minute drive up the mountain to allow crazy tourists like us to not only beat the huge crowds that descend on the citadel all day long but to have the added enjoyment of watching the view unfold as the sun rises. Armed with a banana and package of crackers from the hotel lobby, our guide leads us to a downtown street where we queue up and fortunately get the third bus heading out.
It is a cloudy when we arrive and cannot really see anything but we keep our fingers crossed. Eventually, the sun rises and we begin to catch a glimpse of one of the most famous South American landmarks – the recently (1910) rediscovered ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu.
Everyone is quiet, almost in a state of awe as we take in the stone buildings, grass ledges and the surrounding mountains and skyline from our vantage point. The thought that kept running through my mind was – how the heck did they build that? Originally constructed in the 15th century without the use of steel, iron or mortar it is an engineering marvel. Like many other sites we came across in Peru, its’ construction is best described as the “Lego-Effect” – with stone pieces carved to snap together to perfection.
Our guide from the Lares Trek, Percy, provides an informative lecture on the history the the site as he takes us through the various temples, terraces and structures. Every section seems to be perfectly aligned to catch a ray of sun, a drop of rain or annual calendar event. For example, the Inca Cross gets created on one of the temple floors – in perfect shadowing, at 7:15AM.
After about 5 hours, between the hot temperatures and the high altitude that creates a buzz in my head, it is time to catch a bus back to town. Later that day, we take a train to Ollantaytampo and then a bus ride back to Cusco where we have a free day to relax and prepare for the next leg of our journey- the Jungle !