Machu Picchu #2!

Posted by Cassie, October 11th, 2011

On our second trip to South America, we returned to Machu Picchu! Machu Picchu is a huge site, and even though we spent the entire day at Machu Picchu last year, there were parts that we didn’t see. Last year, we climbed Huayna Picchu, but this year we climbed the other mountain above the ruins for which the ruins are named, Machu Picchu. It was a much more challenging climb than Huayna Picchu! Lots of people climb up to Huayna Picchu, and they have to cap the number of people to 400 each day. But, we were part of a select group of only 36 people that climbed Machu Picchu on the day we went. We climbed 1,640 steps to get to the top of the mountain, and the view was amazing! We had a bird’s eye view of the ruins and the surrounding mountains.

View of ruins from Machu Picchu mountain

However, this year, our entrance to Machu Picchu was not quite as spectacular as last year. It was raining as we climbed up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Caliente. We arrived at 6am right when the park opened. We hiked up to the guard tower for the postcard view of the ruins, but as we were walking up, we heard sighs of disappointment from the group ahead of us. When we arrived, we were in the middle of a cloud, and you couldn’t see the ruins at all…

Our 'view' when we arrived at the ruins

Nevertheless, the clouds cleared as the morning warmed up, and it was neat to see the ruins slowly emerge from the clouds. We got great photos of the ruins shrouded in cloud and completely clear of clouds. In the morning, we hiked up to Intipunku (Sun Gate), which was a section of Machu Picchu we did not visit last year. It was great hike along a beautifully preserved Inca trail. The tourists that hike the Inca trail enter the ruins through Intipunku. There are a couple temples along the trail to Intipunku, and the view of Machu Picchu from Intipunku is amazing!

View of ruins from Intipunku

This time, we also discovered how tame the llamas at the ruins are. I went up to the one of the llamas and petted it, and the llama didn’t appear to notice that I was there. The llama kept eating grass as if nothing had happened. 🙂 They are very used to all the tourist paparazzis that come to Machu Picchu.

Incredibly tame llamas at the ruins!

Once we hiked back down the ruins from Intipunku, the crowds coming in from the train had arrived and had taken over the ruins. So, we decided to get an early lunch and hike up to Machu Picchu mountain while the train crowds were at the ruins. Once we hiked down from Machu Picchu mountain in the late afternoon, we had the ruins mostly to ourselves except for a couple student groups. It started to rain a little bit as we hiked down, and we saw an incredible double rainbow over the ruins! We were also fortunate to have the clouds clear away enough to see the outline of the mountains behind the Sacred Rock that the rock was carved to match.

Double rainbow over the ruins


Mountains behind Sacred Rock

We explored the ruins until the guards blew their whistles and kicked us out. It was a great day at Machu Picchu! Even though we had visited the ruins last year, it still took my breath away when I had that first glimpse of the ruins once the clouds cleared.

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