Well, we did indeed get up at 330 and after a brief breakfast we were all ready to go. All are still very concerned about Phil, who did not look so good. The previous 3 days with the sickness have really taken their toll.
We gathered at the checkpoint at 5 ready for its opening at 5:30, after which there will be a fast steep dash up to the Sun Gate in time for the sunrise.
It's now that we see all those we've been passing and have been passing us in the last 3 days, all of us are raring to go & there is an air or anticipation.
So at 5:30 as the checkpoint opens Fi and I set off at a blistering pace (remember the altitude) up to the Sun Gate. It's a good hour and a half walk but finally we made it to the top.
Imagine our disappointment to see Machu Picchu shrouded in mist. While many others, in other tour groups, begin the climb down to Machu Picchu, Wilbur our guide advises that we have patience and wait.
Then suddenly amidst much excitement the mists part and the sun shines on Machu Picchu, it is truly a beautiful sight. What's more, Machu Picchu is much bigger than you expect it to be, it really is awe inspiring.
Many photos later we begin the 45min trek down to the city.
Machu Picchu is both the best and least known if the Inca sites, often called the Lost City. This is because despite a couple of local farmers the site was not discovered by western explorers until when in 1911 Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it. He was looking for the last stronghold of the Incas and thought this to be it, only later was it found to be Vilcabamba, deep in the jungle.
No one quite knows why the Spaniards did not find Machu Picchu but thankfully because they did not the majority of the site remains intact. These are not so much ruins but more a city that has simply been abandoned. Almost all the structures remain, unfortunately when Hiram Bingham arrived with a team to clear the site of trees he damaged many of the lower buildings in the process.
Wilbur then gave us a comprehensive tour of the site which included the various building methods and how the houses were made. Would you believe up to 1000 people lived there?
Then we took the hair raising bus down the mountain to Aguas Calientes for a bite to eat and cappuccinos...civilization at last...
After a brief break we boarded the backpacker train back to Ollantaytambo and then on by bus from there back to Cusco. Back in the hotel...a shower never felt sooo good. Phil had a chance to see a doctor too.
Tomorrow we head off by train to Puno...