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Exploring Machu Picchu

March 3, 2011

What Jen and I have decided is that no picture can do Machu Picchu justice, especially not the one shown below.  The ‘lost city’ of the Incas, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, really is a place to see at some point in your lifetime.

Machu Picchu in Peru

To give you a quick background on Machu Picchu: construction began around 1400 AD and it was eventually abandoned a century later before it was finished at the time of the Spanish conquest.  The ruins rest almost 8,000 feet above sea level and were made known to the world after being brought to attention by a Yale historian.  Aguas Calientes, a town close to Machu Picchu, is about 50 miles northwest of Cusco, which is the town we flew into from Lima.  There is also a roaring river called Urubama that flows through the valley – it has incredibly massive rapids, is very violent, and is very brown.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, Jen and I were staying in a Peruvian town called Cusco and woke up early one day (like 4:30 AM) to catch a train to Aguas Calientes.  The ride was fun since it was next to the river for almost the entire journey and was very picturesque.  Unfortunately we saw no kayakers or rafters trying to take on the river though.

The town of Aguas Calientes does not have a whole lot going on but I still think it was more than we expected.  It is very geared towards tourists and essentially consists of hotels, restaurants, and shops.  Early in the morning of the 1st, we got up at 3:30 AM to stand in line and catch the bus that takes you up to Machu Picchu, about a 20 minute drive.  We could have hiked the Inca Trail but due to rainy weather conditions (and the early morning wakeup call) we decided not to.  Many people also choose to hike the entire trail that takes around four days to complete. 

Hut of the Caretaker at Funerary Rock

We were lucky that once we arrived to the 15th century Inca site it stopped raining, however many of the clouds still lingered.  After a quick hike to the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock, which is where most pictures of Machu Picchu come from, we were disappointed to find a very clouded view.  So, we waited.  Then we waited some more.  Met a nice German couple that we talked to for a while.  Waited some more.  And after a while, gave up.  At this point it was only 8:00 or so in the morning, so we figured we would have time to come back once the clouds cleared.

So, we proceeded to explore throughout the ruins and find such things as the Temple of the Sun, the House of the High Priest, Intihuatana, and The Three Doorways.  Luckily as we went further and further in, the weather continued to clear until the sun came out and eventually gave us sunburns.  Here are some random pictures from the explorations (click to make them bigger):

Next came the biggest challenge of the day and what Jen will call the biggest challenge of our trip – or maybe the past 10 years of her life.  Behind the ruins is a steep-sided mountain called Wayna Picchu that we secured free tickets to be allowed to climb for the day.  After much huffing and puffing over the course of an hour or so, we finally made it to the top.  Now let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy hike.  It was extremely vertical at points with large drops awaiting whatever mistake you made, and at times it was a scramble up various rocks, all of which were wet and slick due to the rain.  Once we made on top, it was all worth it.  The views were absolutely amazing, not just of Machu Picchu, but the surrounding Peruvian landscape as well.

At the top of Wayna Picchu overlooking the ruins


Peruvian Scenery

After a quicker scramble down Wayna we slowly made our way back to the Hut of the Caretaker.  By this time it was still sunny, but we began to see rain falling in the distance.  That’s when I snapped the picture you see at the top of this post.  It was an absolutely gorgeous sight and a nice time for us to sit down and relax for a few minutes.

Coming down Wayna Picchu

Before long we needed to get going for fear of being rained on and that’s when we came upon something great – llamas!!  I discovered that I truly enjoy llamas and all that they entail.  They could really care less about you unless you are getting in the way of their next meal and tend to look at you in disdain.  In the past I cannot really say I have had any experiences with the animal but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  We really connected on a personal level out in nature, and then Jen and I ate them that night for dinner (well we had Alpaca, which is fairly close).

Having a bite to eat with the locals

It was a great day and at this point only about 1:00 in the afternoon.  Needless to say I was immensely proud of Jen and her hard work conquering Wayna Picchu.  She saw a goal and definitely went after it until she accomplished it.  She may still be sore today, and avoids stairs at all cost, but it is certainly something that we will both remember for a very long time and look back on fondly.  Yet another experience we recommend to the adventurous types – need to try it via the Inca Trail next time though.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen O'Hair permalink
    March 4, 2011 09:36

    Woohoo! You guys conquered Wayna Picchu! It’s hard but so worth it. Beautiful pics. Glad you guys are enjoying Peru–Mike will be happy to know you’re partaking in the local meats.

  2. Jonathan Williams permalink
    March 17, 2011 12:35

    “We really connected on a personal level out in nature, and then Jen and I ate them that night for dinner” – Steven

    I am assumming by the picture that you pretended to be one of the llamas by eating their grass and disguising your bipedalism, then wrestled one down and eventually slaughtered it for dinner? Impressive. Even “Brute Caveman” impressive.

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