Machu Picchu: Stairway to heaven

If I wanted to go up to Machu Picchu on foot, I had been given the advice to get up really early, to avoid the heat. Also to be amongst the 200 first to enter, to be able to access the Huayna Picchu, the rock overlooking the site. Dorine had been able to enter that way. But, in the few months since she had been there herself, rules had changed. Now, it was like the Inca trail: you needed to make the reservation months and months in advance. And as I didn’t know when I would be going there, it wouldn’t have made sense to buy anything so much in advance.

Nevertheless, I left the hotel at 4:30 to start climbing the stairs at 5:00, the time at which the access to the stairs opened. I could have gone with the bus but I thought a bit of exercise would do me good. I imagined it would be a toughie. And it was kind of discouraging to see everyone walking past me, going at a faster pace. Only the dogs were staying around. Probably in the hope of getting something to eat. If not a sandwich I would drop, then maybe my body itself when I would be too weak to go ahead. I did pity them, the poor animals. Some of them had open wounds, obviously not getting any care at all. But there was little I could do for them. Except, as said, to feed them with my own body but that seemed a bit too much of a sacrifice.

5:00 am and about to climb 1000 m of  stairs.
5:00 am and about to climb 1000 m of stairs.

After 1 hour and 30 minutes of stairs, I finally got to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Quite a strange feeling to be in front of that sight you have seen over and over again in pictures and in documentaries. It’s a bit like New York. Although it’s the first time you visit the city, you have seen it so much on television, in movies and series, that it seems  you already know every corner of every street.

One Wonder of the World I can take off my check list.
One Wonder of the World I can take off my check list.

I didn’t hang around the site for a long time. I got a few shots of the postcard view, then continued on my way up, in the direction of Machu Picchu mountain. The brave ones, like me, can pay for the access to the mountain, which will supposedly give a stunning view of the site, at the same time as the entrance to Machu Picchu. As the mountain closes at 13.00 and, once the sun is completely out, it becomes really hot around there, it is better to start climbing directly. It’s not every day that I am the second one to enter a place that opens at 7:00. Now that I think of it, I should have taken a selfie to immortalize the moment.

Despite the 2 hours of climbing I had already done, I started this second ascension still full of energy. It was early, the weather was beautiful, the landscape gorgeous and very few people were around – not everyone has the same taste for masochistic activities. Soon I felt the need to take a pause. Then another one. I had been the second one to enter the place but I wouldn’t be the second one to get to the top, that much was clear. After one more hour and a half of going up, I was getting desperate. Each time I was finishing a flight of stairs, convinced that it would be the last one, that I had finally reached the top…there came another one. And another one. Happened about 5 or 6 times. Until the top was in sight. But not quite within reach  yet. 15 minutes before actually getting there, I saw the first trekkers going back down. Just as I was congratulating myself on my great physical shape. Now I felt I could jump off that mountain. At least, me going so high – 1000 meters since I had left Aguas Calientes at 5:00. It was now 9:15 – would have had a purpose. Until I got to take a shot at the breathtaking view and, suddenly, the hours of suffering were all forgotten. Or let’s say I had an additional reason to sit down and not moving for the next 60 minutes. Being there and looking around was all I needed. It made me feel perfectly happy.

A well deserved rest.
A well deserved rest.
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