Machu Picchu, Peru
Usually by the end of a hiking trek through a third world country, you are too exhausted to move. Your joints hurt, your body aches, your digestion is destroyed, and if you have been gone too long you yearn in the deepest part of your bones to come home.
The ending of my Peru trip does not have that feeling for me, and I can thank Machu Picchu for this.
The grand finale. Words, honestly, cannot describe it. I have heard many descriptions on how you will feel when you see it for the first time. None of them will do it justice, but Mark Adams comes the closest:
“For the first time since dropping out of graduate school, I remembered an unpleasant weekend spent struggling to comprehend the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s explanation of the difference between calling something beautiful and calling it sublime. Nowadays, we throw around the word ‘sublime’ to describe gooey desserts or overpriced handbags.
In Kant’s epistemology, it meant something limitless, an aesthetically pleasing entity so huge that it made the perceives head hurt. Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.”
How to Visit:
There are ways to conquer Machu Picchu, and there are ways just to visit it. If you want to get the feel for the real Machu Picchu, do not, I repeat, do not just do the daily visit by train. Many tour companies will offer this to you, and they will tell you it is the best way to visit. They are lying to you. I would have nowhere near the respect nor connection to this place if I came when all of the other tourists were present.
If you do the daily train run, you will be at the ruins during the peak hours which is generally from 8am-2pm. There are thousands of people at the ruins during this time. It is crowded, hot, and unenjoyable.
Stay at least one night in Aguascalientes. The town is extremely touristy and feels more like an expat community than anything else, but you aren’t staying there for the company. The best way to organize this, if you are in a hurry, is to take the train into Aguascalientes the night before you want to visit the ruins, then spend two full days at the ruins and take the train back to Cusco that last night. This will give you time to conquer one of the two mountains, Wayane or Mount Machu Picchu, as well as see the rest that the city has to offer.
If you do it this way you will be exhausted by the end of those two days; I know I was.
Inside the Ruins:
Most tours will start in the morning. They can start at around 8am and will go until 11 or 12. It is worth doing a tour to get a more in-depth look at how Peruvians view the city. They will take you to such places as:
Temple of the three Windows
The Temple of the Condors
The Sun Palace
And through the ruins themselves
On your own you can tackle the other couple of pieces:
The Inka Bridge
Watch the time here. It says that it closes at 4pm but Peruvians run on a different timetable. When I showed up to see it at 3:15 they had already closed it.
The Sun Gate
I would encourage you to do this hike if you did not have the opportunity to get tickets for either of the mountains. The hike isn’t too tough, but make sure you are acclimated to the altitude before you attempt it. You can crush it in 30-40 minutes, but the consensus is that it will take you 1 ½ hours
It doesn't make sense to do this as a sunrise hike. The name itself is misleading since the Sun doesn’t peak over the ridge at the gate. Most people that you will talk to said that they should have slept in instead.
This is the most famous mountain at Machu Picchu. Tickets for this are limited as they only let up 400 people per day. The hike is not difficult and should take only around 30-45 minutes.
Montana Machu Picchu
Now this is a hike. 2,139 feet straight up on challenging stone stairs. They say it takes 1 ½ hours, but this is a little misleading. You can crush it in less than an hour, but you will be hurting when you get to the top. For most people that I saw on the trail, it was going to take them from 1 ½ to 3 hours. A lot of people give up part way up because of the strenuous climb.
- For The Sun Gate, Huayna Picchu, and Montana Machu Picchu, you will hear the same advice: be patient. The morning is almost always foggy. It’s as if the sun is evaporating the water that is held on top of the jungle to block your entire view. It will burn off eventually, and it is certainly worth seeing what you took all that time and energy to climb.
- The absolute best time to view, photograph, and get a real feel for the ruins is after 3pm. The mountain closes at 5, and most people will have left by that time. I had the most zen-like time walking through the ruins undisturbed, getting a real feel for how this city was.
- It is extremely rare if not impossible to get a full-color sunrise at the ruins. The sun doesn’t come over the mountain range until 7ish, and it is too late by then to get those deep reds, purples, oranges, and yellows.
- Do not do the single mid-day trek. Just. Don't.
- Get acclimated. Climbing any of the trails can bring you up to 10,000 feet, which can be challenging on the body.
- If you have to choose between the morning and the afternoon, choose the afternoon.
- Read Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. Great book that will give you some entertaining history about the ruins
- Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ2.8 L II USM Lens
- Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ2.8L IS II USM Lens
- Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera
- Canon EF 11-24mm ƒ4L USM Lens
- Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR Camera
- Canon Extender EF 2x III
- Canon EF 24mm ƒ1.4L II USM Lens
- Mefoto Tripod
If you're looking for outdoor gear check out BackCountry (Link Below) I grab all of my gear from them
Non Profit Highlight
The non profit highlight is United Planet. They believe that humans can create a global community, one relationship at a time. They help make that happen for people who are committed to a vision of the world that emphasizes community over conflict, collaboration and cooperation over disagreement and strife, the unity of mankind.
They work in over 35 countries, and you can even volunteer in Peru to help alleviate poverty by working at a wide range of community centers in Cusco. The organization partners with after school programs, orphanages, women's shelters, and youth organizations to allow you to build relationships and leave a lasting impression on the lives you touch.