I woke up at 4:30am and went downstairs to have breakfast. Hostels in Aguas Calientes serve breakfast at 5am because some guests want to catch the earliest bus to Machu Picchu which is at 5:30am. Machu Picchu opens at 6:00am. After breakfast I got ready and went to the bus station. It was about 5:45 and there was a lineup already. I waited about 10 minutes on the line before I got on the bus. After they filled the seats, the bus took off. It was about a 30-minute ride up a zigzagging road to Machu Picchu. Along the way, you get great views of mountains, clouds and the Urubamba river. There were also people who were hiking up the trail. That’s a long trek.
When we got to the entrance to Machu Picchu, there were a lot of people. There were many tour guides offering their services. A group of people can share the cost of a tour guide which from what I read is about $50. I made one quick trip to the washroom (which cost 1 sole) because there were no washrooms inside the citadel, then proceeded to the entrance gate. At the gate, you had to show your entrance ticket and your passport.
TIP: It’s good to get your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu way in advance, especially Wayna Picchu if you want to hike it because they only allow 400 people a day to hike it (two groups of 200, one at 7am and one at 10am). There’s a government website http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/ where you can see the availability, but if you’re outside Peru, you can’t book your entrance ticket from that site. I heard it had to do with instances of credit card fraud from international purchases. You can get a ticket through an agent but with a service fee. I used http://www.view-peru.com/.
It was about 6:30 when I got through the entrance and I followed the signs to Wayna Picchu. I was part of the 7am group to hike Wayna Picchu and I had to hurry to get to the entrance. I know the entrance was on the other side of the citadel. I passed through the low side of the citadel and saw a lot of good views of the ruins, the mountains and some llamas already, but I didn’t have time to enjoy them or take photos because I was rushing to the Wayna Picchu entrance. When I got there, the gate wasn’t even open yet and many hikers were waiting outside.
I snapped some photos of the citadel, the sacred rock and the mountains while waiting. As soon as the gate opened, people started lining up. They checked your ticket and passport and made you sign a log book. And so the hike began.
TIP: Before coming to Peru, I watched a YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upocOcrDdTE&index=15&list=PLYQ0NEmmDjRkn7I2RtsI53NnLj0QeMlE3 so I can get familiar with the terrain and the effort I needed to scale Wayna Picchu. I also became familiar with the landmarks so I know how much is left before I got to the top.
I took my time with the hike so I can take photos and videos and not spend all my energy right away. There were a lot of great views along the way. The air was also thinner so I had to stop and catch my breath after so many steps. I met some people from France, Korea, Brazil and Argentina along the way. On many steep parts of the trail, there was a metal cable that you can hang on to. I saw that on the video and brought my bicycle gloves. They helped but I took them off after a few minutes because they were too hot for my hands during that day.
I passed the landmarks that I took note of from the video and finally I got to the terraces. That’s a good place to rest and take photos. I know that from the terraces, I have about 10-15 minutes to go. I proceeded to the next view point which was about 5 minutes after the terraces and took more photos. I then continued past the cave, a few more steps, and then to the ladder up to the summit. When I got to the top, there were many people up there already. I settled on one of the rocks on the summit and rested. It was cloudy but the view was great anyway. There was a group holding a large Brazilian flag taking photos and an Argentinian guy in a Messi shirt was kidding around with them.
TIP: Bring a face towel for this hike. You’ll be sweating a lot.
After about 30 minutes of resting and taking photos I started my descent. It was of course much easier coming down. The only difficult part was the stairs by the large terraces. Then everything else wasn’t so bad. It’s still a good idea to hold on to the metal cable if it was available.
I got to the exit gate and signed the log book. I did the hike in 2:45 minutes. The 10:00am group was just about to start.
Since I was near the entrance to Wayna Picchu, I might as well start my tour of Machu Picchu from there. Machu Picchu has a lot of interesting areas and rooms but I specifically planned to take photos of the areas mentioned in the tourist map which are the Guardhouse, Main Gate, Astronomical Observatory, West Agricultural Zone, Temple of the Sun, Three Windows Temple, Main Square, Ceremonial Rock, Group of the Three Doorways, Royal Enclosures, Temple of the Condors, Temples Zone, Fountains, Agricultural Zone, Qolqas and Royal tomb.
I started with the Group of the Three doorways, Temple of the Condor and the Main Square. I also zoomed in and took photos of the Agricultural Zone and the Qolqas. I usually take my time composing my shots because i don’t want to have people in my photos. I then proceeded to and took photos of the Temple of the Sun, Fountains, Royal Tomb and the Royal Enclosures which is Pachacuti’s residence. Then I went to the Temples Zone, Three Windows Temple, Astronomical Observatory and West Agricultural Zone. When I got to the Main Gate, I had to take my time to get a good shot. So many people were posing in front of it that I had to wait. After I got my shot, I went to the Guardhouse. That area also has the good postcard view of the whole citadel. I was tired by that time so I relaxed a bit and just took in the view.
By this time it was about 3:00pm. I was tired and it started raining on and off. I planned to stay until closing which was at 5pm, but I got all the shots I wanted and more. Plus maybe it was a good idea to ride the bus before it got crowded. So I took one last look of the citadel and headed for the bus station.
When I got to Aguas Calientes, I went straight to my hostel. It’s been an exhausting but productive day and I was happy. It’s been a goal for me to see Machu Picchu and I was able to hike Wayna Picchu.
I have to wake up early the next morning so I know I had to sleep early again. At 5:30pm, I decided to reward myself with a good dinner at the same place I went to the night before. But this time I got their prix fix menu for 20 soles. I got a Sopa de Quinoa, Ceviche, Bistek Ala Pobre and a Batido de Platano (banana shake).