Like a beacon this lost citadel rises from the clouds. Wayna Picchu stands majestically above it and the Urubamba river flows beneath. We left the hotel in Aguas Calientes (the closest town to Machu Picchu) at 4.30am to begin the hike up to the top. Due to a recent landslide buses were having to do relays up, and this meant possibly not reaching Machu Picchu until later in the morning, why which point, the best light would almost certainly have passed. There is a school of thought (which I agree with) which believes that there shouldn’t be any option of a road up – that any tourists should have to walk, just as the Incas did.
However I am writing in hindsight, during that morning as we walked through the pouring rain for half an hour just to get to the start of the ascent I was cursing the landslide and seriously wandering why I had chosen to come to this country in the rainy season. After the initial half hour plod you reach the first gate where your tickets and passport (don’t forget it) are checked, then you begin the very steep climb.
My do’s and don’ts for the climb from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu:
Do eat a proper hearty carb and protein based meal the night before
Don’t eat a pizza the night before
Do get an early night and drink plenty of water
Don’t take advantage of the 4 for 1 drinks offers in Aguas Calientes, as we did, the night before
Do only take what you need up to the top
Don’t pack 4 different lenses (my shift lens never left the camera bag)
Do bring water and some food to eat along the way or at the top
It was a truly incredible experience and I stayed from the dawn until 5pm when the security kick everyone out, and then came back up the following morning for another few hours, although the light wasn’t quite as dramatic second time around. That was fine though, it only served to remind us how lucky we had been to get the scene the previous day. With the all the rain that had fallen during the morning condensing and rising back up to the sky, and the sixty seconds of sunlight that Machu Picchu was bathed in at 7:11am that saturday morning on 18th January. This is a wonder of the world that more than lives up to its billing.
Late afternoon light on the lost citadel just before the staff kicked me out.
The long hard walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu