Salkantay + Machu Picchu trek / 7 days / April 29 to May 5, 2016 / Alpaca Expeditions
We’d booked a group trip but no one else signed up for the seven day trek so it ended up being a private trip!
The last day! I couldn’t believe it was over already but before I could get too depressed, I reminded myself that today still needed to happen. And today was the big day, the whole purpose of having done this trek – exploration of Machu Picchu!
Early this morning, we waited for a seat on a minibus for about half an hour. The line was looooong but it moved fairly quickly. Everyone around us looked tired but pretty excited at the same time. There were a number of local women selling hot drinks and food – however, as one person just ahead of us in line discovered, you cannot take open drinks onto the bus!
The bus ride was longer than I thought but still only about 20 minutes. It was an 8km ride straight up the mountain via a series of dusty hairpin turns. We passed by a number of people who were making the walk up the mountain – I was very glad to not be tackling this steep trip by foot! The bus was $12USD well spent, in my opinion.
We made it up to Machu Picchu in time to watch the sunrise. It was awesome to have gotten the opportunity to see both sunset (yesterday) and sunrise (today) – not many people get to witness both. It was pretty cool to see the sun slowly highlight the mountains around us, then the citadel, and finally Huayna Picchu (the conical mountain in the back). There were quite a number of people sunrise-watching but not as many as I feared. I can’t imagine what it would be like in July or August!
This was our last morning with our great guide, Juan Carlos. He spent about two hours showing us around the citadel before we said our goodbyes and we had the free time to explore as we wished. As the morning wore on, Machu Picchu got busier and busier, and hotter and hotter. I was very glad we had our day packs that held water, food, and our hats. And comfortable shoes as just like with the Inca Trail, exploring Machu Picchu meant hours of up and down on stone stairs.
ten things i learned at machu picchu
- The authorities still don’t know what this place was. Was it a university? A military fortress? A retreat for the elite? A sanctuary for virgins? A religious site? A combination of things?
- Machu Picchu is believed to have been built in the mid-15th century by the Incas. But guess what? The site was never finished! You can still see evidence of a quarry of sorts, right by the citadel.
- It’s completely surrounded by mountains and the Urubamba River runs along three sides far below in the valleys. It is a stunning setting.
- There are over 700 terraces here. These were used for agriculture and to help prevent erosion.
- The Spanish conquistadors never found Machu Picchu which explains why it is in such good condition.
- Hiram Bingham did not “discover” Machu Picchu. He is only responsible for bringing Machu Picchu to international attention in 1911. But today, there is evidence that Bingham can’t even claim that now!
- The site is divided into several sectors including agricultural, urban, and religious.
- There are many fascinating architectural features such as trapezoidal windows and doors as well as tightly fitted mortar-less stones (the tighter the fit, the more likely the structure was religious).
- Things for which to look out include Intihuatana (a sun dial for certain days), Temple of the Condor, the Sun Mirrors (water mirrors that reflect the sun), and a rather pretty garden.
- Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
My sister and I spent several hours wandering the site but by lunch time, we were ready to go. It was too hot, too many people, and we’ve pretty much seen the whole citadel by that point. Sure, there were other things to do such as climb Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu but I left that for a next visit! We took the bus back down (again, money well spent), whipping around hairpin turns down the mountain – any pedestrians we passed, I thought they were crazy. No way would I have wanted to trust these drivers not to hit me! We spent the rest of the afternoon in Aguas Calientes before hopping the train back to Cusco.
And that was it. Seven days trekking to one of the most famous places in the world. It was an amazing experience, one that I don’t think I’d be forgetting any time soon.
Have you been to Machu Picchu? What did you think?
Have you done the Salkantay + Inca Trail trek and if so, what was your favourite moment?