OK, friends and neighbors, this is the big one - Machu Picchu!
This particular set of ruins is the reason that Dave wanted to go on this trip in the first place. However, I have to say that the hike up until this point had been so awesome that I told Dave that even if we didn't see Machu Picchu, it would have been an amazing trip regardless.
Well, I take it back. Machu Picchu was amazing and I can't imagine not having seen it. I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. It did.
We stood in the longest line in the universe for some buses, which we rode up a windy switchback road into some quite misty sugarloaf hills. When we reached the top, it was still misty enough that you really couldn't see the ruins. But that wasn't deterring some grazing llamas.
This place was FULL OF INCAN DOORS OMG
Seeing the ruins unfold as the mist cleared was pretty cool, actually.
Disnarda took us around, starting with the quarry, agricultural terraces, the king's quarters, the sun temple, and other spots. As I think I have said in previous posts, the Incans used mortar for normal buildings, but religious places were denoted with mortarless, perfectly fitting stones.
The Incans even figured out a way to make an accurate compass out of stone, although I don't know how they figured out what true north is. Pretty cool.
The ruins weren't too packed, but the view at right gives you an idea what the ruins looked like with tons of tourists in them.
See below for a view from above of the sun temple, which is the curvy-walled building. The other buildings are largely residential and storage.
One of the most striking things about being among the ruins is that you are surrounded by these beautiful, lush mountains. Even being at that place without the ruins would be striking. A good example is the photo below, which shows some distant mountains through the clouds, past the ruins.
And here are those mortarless stones we were talking about! This is the aptly named "temple of three windows."
Also, this photo here is like the Inception of Incan doors! Love it, love it, love it.
So, at this point, we were acclimatized enough that we weren't getting much out of breath walking up and down the ruins. However, we did have tickets to Huayna Picchu, an infamously steep and perilous trek up the mountain "behind" the Machu Picchu ruins.
I was willing to give it a try, and I made it about a quarter of the way up. However, the stairs were so steep and insane that I freaked out and had to go back down. Here's an example of what I mean. You can also find videos on YouTube of the entire climb. I can barely even watch the videos.
ANYWAY. Here is a view of the ruins from the point at Huayna Picchu where I turned around:
Dave got way better photos because he made it to the top. Once I'm done blending our digital photos from the trip, the photos will be available on our Shutterfly site.
In the early afternoon, we walked up to the Sun Gate, which is how people on the traditional Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu. It shows you a nice view of the ruins and Huayna Picchu, but also the crazy switchback roads that we took up by bus!
There is a drop-off on the other side of me here. I still kind of can't believe that I took this photo.
After checking out the view from the Sun Gate, we went back for a few more hours with the ruins. I sat and knitted and relaxed for a while, we read through our travel book descriptions, and then we did a final walk-through, this time with significantly fewer tourists.
The llamas had moved around, too:
This guy was standing glorious watch over the quarry area. See those majestic ears??
And we found a whole pile of llamas near the exit. This is one of my top five favorite pictures from the entire trip.
It was a really wonderful place to be. Shockingly beautiful, definitely some trippy vertigo feelings, but also just peaceful, regardless of the amount of tourists pouring through. I definitely recommend (unless you have small kids - all kids I saw were completely miserable).
Trip is almost over! I hope you have had fun following along!
2 hours ago