The Long Climb to Machu Picchu

November 8th, 2006

To walk to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes involves a steep continuous climb for an hour and a half in the rain. You can take the US$12 bus instead for a five minute journey, but that’s more than what two hour-long bus rides in one of the most expensive cities in the world costs .

We set off early, just before 6am, minutes after dawn. This was 30 minutes later than planned, but we hoped to arrive no more than 30 minutes after the 6:30am opening time of the ruins. There were few other tourists awake, and the buses were just preparing for their day. It looked like we were going to be one of the first ones there. We set off from the town to the river, vaguely aware of where we were going.

It was extremely foggy, not cold though, it was quite tropical – follow the river a hundred miles or so and you will be in the Amazon rainforest. We were getting wet, but we were wearing decent jackets. A kind man working for the bus company saw what were about to do and rushed over to us. “Plastics”, he said, “It’s very wet you will need plastics to walk there”. He went off behind the dozens of buses to a fenced off area, then called to us. We followed him through and saw he had found some plastic rain-jackets for us to use. He also handed us two bottles of water. We thanked him and were on our way.

A little further along the road, and the river, we approached two bridges that take you across, one for cars one for pedestrians. Here we saw a tourist in a T-shirt and shorts being led by a Peruvian guide in T-shirt and shorts. We felt a little over dressed as we caught up with them.

The buses take a long zig-zagging winding road to reach the top as you will see from my photos. You can take this route or you can take the ‘short cut’. There is a path that cuts straight up through the centre of all of the zig-zagging road that cuts 30 minutes off the journey. We asked the other tourist’s Peruvian guide if the path we saw was this short cut I had heard about and he confirmed it was. We started the climb, but they soon overtook us.

The Incas climbed mountains like this in minutes, I had hoped that Inca cereal, Quinwa would help us do the same, but I think I burned through all my Quinwa energy in the first 10 minutes. We were climbing up a series of steps for hundreds of metres for over an hour, seeing the nearby mountains shrink beneath us. It was difficult and we took a little longer to arrive than I had hoped, even with me practically forcing Annett up the hill. The plastic raincoats did not help – they made us overheat. As we neared the top, we began to see Inca farming terraces, a little further, and we were finally there.

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