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14 June, 2013

Inca Trail Day 4 - Arrival at Machu Picchu

Holiday Nomad in Machu Picchu Inca Trail
Holiday Nomad in Machu Picchu
It's only 3 am but I'm wide awake and filled with anticipation cause today is the day I have been looking forward to for so long ... after a relaxing start on Day 1, a difficult Day 2 and a long Day 3 of the Inca Trail ... I will finally get to see Machu Picchu. We have a quick breakfast and arrive at the last check point just before 4 am. Although the check point only opens at 5.30 am, there are already 2 groups waiting when we arrive. Everybody - including myself - wants to be the first to hike the last 4 km to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. I'm getting really nervous now, will Machu Picchu live up to my expectations? 


Machu Picchu view from the Sun Gate Inca Trail
View on Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate
For quite some years now it's impossible to hike the Inca Trail on your own, you need to have a permit and a guide. Our guide arranged that we can hike with another group to the Sun Gate and wait there for our guide and the rest of our group.  Our "new" group - 6 people in total - are the first ones to go through the check point. This group walks really fast, I'm still fine the first part of the trail but once the trail starts ascending I have to run in order to be able to keep up. 30 minutes later ... a few final steep steps ... and ... YES we are the first ones to arrive at Inti Punku the Sun Gate ! I'm breathless and speechless from seeing Machu Picchu beneath me, although the first couple of minutes that might have been from hiking the last 4 km in 30 minutes :) It is 6 am and still dark, I can only see the contours of Machu Picchu at this stage. The longer I sit here, the lighter it gets and the view on Machu Picchu becomes clearer and clearer. 


Inti Punku the Sun Gate Inca Trail
Inti Punku - the Sun Gate
I cannot believe I'm finally here, I sit down on one of the steps and just keep staring at Machu Picchu. I'm overwhelmed with emotions both from having accomplished the Inca Trail and from finally seeing Machu Picchu. So was it worth it? Yeah it was most definitely worth it. The Inca Trail is already an amazing experience on itself and getting awarded at the end of the trail with a fabulous view on Machu Picchu is the cherry on the cake. 

Before 7 am the rest of our group and our guide Paul arrives. Of course Paul was right - nothing to worry about - everybody will make it to the Sun Gate before sunrise. Nevertheless I'm really happy that I arrived so early cause I could sit here forever. At 7.21 am the sunrise starts and lights up Machu Picchu piece by piece ... what an incredible spectacle. We all keep staring at this "Lost City" in awe. After the sunrise we go as a group again through the Sun Gate and start the descent to Machu Picchu. 


Inca Trail Machu Picchu WE MADE IT
Sexy Llamas and Caballero on the Inca Trail - WE MADE IT
I cannot stop taking photos on the way down, every turn I make I see a different part of Machu Picchu. Finally we arrive at Machu Picchu, we take our group photo and hike to the exit as for some administrative reason everybody coming from the Inca Trail first needs to go out before they can enter Machu Picchu again. It's a strange feeling ... our group being all knackered, dirty and smelly hiking in the opposite direction of hundreds of tourists entering Machu Picchu from the bus station. We all feel that we have really earned the right to be here. I'm ecstatic because I can finally buy a coca cola and go to a proper toilet while we wait till our guide arranges the administrative stuff. 


Machu Picchu Inca Trail
Machu Picchu
We enter Machu Picchu again and get a guided tour. At first we are all like "Oh no do we have to go up again?" but this mysterious city makes us forget very quickly how tired we are. Machu Picchu is often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas" although it was never lost. The locals always knew it was there and there were even some farmers living around Machu Picchu. The son of one of these farmers showed the city to Hiram Bingham, who was searching for the city of Vilcabamba. So it's a bit strange to say that a city was discovered when locals knew it was there anyhow and in addition some old papers show that previous outsiders already visited Machu Picchu before 1911 but Bingham for sure put Machu Picchu on the map and without him we probably would not have had the chance to visit this wonderful cultural site. 

Machu Picchu became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Nobody knows for sure what the purpose of this city was: a school, an estate for Pachacuti, an agriculture city, a city to study astronomy ... ? Neither does anybody know for sure where all the people went: did they die of smallpox brought by the Spanish although the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu but one of the citizens escaping Cusco could have brought it in or did they just leave the city or ...? I guess it will remain a mystery.  


Freya - Holiday Nomad, a Travel and Photo blog


40 comments:

  1. What a great description of your hike. I am not sure if I could do it myself, but it is great to read your account of it.

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    1. Hi Monika, I'm sure you can do it. Go for it, it's incredible.

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  2. Great 4 day/post story, Freya! Enjoyed it. I was trekking Inca Trail in March (end of summer), and it was pretty cold at night... Can't imagine how cold it is now. Well done!

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    1. Only the second night it was quite cold but other than that it was actually very nice weather & temperatures.

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  3. Very cool, and great photos. I'm on my way to Machu Picchu in a few days, too, and so your post helps me feel even more excited. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Have a great time, let me know how it went

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  4. Loved reading your account Freya- hiking to Machu Pichu tops our wish list at www.bruisedpassports.com, so I'm completely jealous

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    1. Hi Savi thanks. It has been on my bucket list as well for quite a while, just go for it !

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  5. Glad to see you made it! It definitely looks worth it to me. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I hope someday I can try it too!

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    1. I was so worried that I might not make, so I was really happy to make it without any issues :)

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  6. Hey Freya,

    What a great way to see the area when the run rises, must be spectacular and probably a little scary starting so early in the morning, hopefully the trails are not too bad. This is definitely on my wish list of places to visit soon!

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    1. Hi Noel, the trails are in good shape, we started hiking with our flash lights as it was still dark.

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  7. Beautiful pictures! I can imagine your happiness at having accomplished a long desired dream.

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    1. Thank you Ramakant, yes it was a great feeling. I walked around in Machu Picchu feeling like I really deserved it.

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  8. What a fabulous trip and amazing accomplishment! I've really enjoyed reading your posts and looking at your photos. Dan and I plan to visit this summer, but no 4-day hike for us.

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    1. Hi Linda, thanks ! It's a beautiful area, you'll love it.

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  9. Freya,
    I admire your tenacity on this trek and your photos are spectacular. I can only imagine the feelings that overcame you, as the sun started to rise and let you see this awesome historical site. I am comtemplating visiting, but I am very nervous about the altitude. Obviously you are much stronger (ahem and younger). How was the altitude and did it play into your pacing? Were there more mature people (like me) making the hike? Thank you kindly for the exquisite photos and the beautiful prose! Fantatstic post young lady!
    Mike

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    1. Hi Mike I did not have any issues with the altitude but I was already in the area a week up-front and did some acclimatization hikes. haha I love how you always call me young lady :) People from all ages hike the Inca Trail. I think with enough practice and acclimatization any fit person can make the trail.

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  10. I'm so happy you made it. The photos are beautiful. YAY! and i bet that coca cola tasted like Heaven.

    Congrats to you.

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    1. that coca cola was the best one I ever had :)

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  11. Wow. These pics are lovely. Machu Picchu is top of my list to visit. I'm interested in how you went with the altitude too. Did you have to take extra rest breaks or didn't it affect you at all?

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    1. Hi Tracey, the altitude did not effect me at all but I was already a week up-front in the area and did some acclimatization hikes.

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  12. The scenery is just breath-taking. My dream is to hike for at least 2 days there and finally be able to proudly stand on the top!

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    1. Hi Agness it is a great feeling :)

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  13. Loved Machu Picchu!! I did the jungle trail instead. We may have missed out on the Sun Gate experience, but it was still incredible. This place should definitely be on everybody's bucket list.

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    1. Agreed ! The jungle trail sounds awesome as well.

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  14. Not sure when, but one of these days we'll make it to Peru and hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Until then, thanks for taking us along virtually on your journey!

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  15. My sister did this and said it was amazing. I would love to do it myself one day. I am sure the views would be incredible.

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    1. Hi Spencer, the views sure are incredible. It's the experience of a lifetime.

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  16. Your trip to Machu Picchu sounds interesting. I read all line and now I am feeling this is the real fun. I am thinking to pack my bag and leave for this place right now. Thanks for this post. Your write can inspire anyone easily.

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  17. Machu Picchu is a place I'm looking forward to visit. Your photos and description is amazing. Like they are not mysterious enough already, they had to disappear in such way too.

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    1. Hi Salika, it's an awesome experience and indeed very mysterious.

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  18. Hi Freya,
    Congratulations for making it to Machu Picchu! Wasn't it exhilarating? I know it's more about the journey than the destination but n this case, isn't it so rewarding to see such majestic sight at the end of your journey? Enjoyed your photos. You look so happy - and you should be; you accomplished something unforgettable.

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    1. Hi Marisol thanks :) It was an unforgettable experience. The trail was so beautiful and seeing Machu Picchu on the last day was indeed the cherry on the cake :)

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  19. What an incredible experience - I hope to do this one day! Your photos are stunning!

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  20. Hi Freya!

    I loved reading about your Machu Picchu trip, it's like I was traveling with you and seeing what you're seeing. I can't wait to see it for myself next year when I finally saved up enough money (from a third world salary rate).

    By the way, what's the tour operator you took for your Inca Trail hike?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences again!

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    1. Hi Marye, I took the Inca Trail with Andina Travel and I was very happy with this tour operator. It's not cheap but it's an amazing experience. You can find the link to the tour operator as well as some preparation tips on my post: http://www.holidaynomad.com/2013/06/inca-trail-preparation-and-packing-list.html Wishing you a great trip next year, let me know how it went. Freya

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Freya - Holiday Nomad