“Ti-ri-ri-ri! Ti-ri-ri-ri-ri!”. It’s one of the few times I welcomed the sound of my alaram. It’s 4am and I get up and get dressed. I have breakfast and wait for my guide Hector to pick me up from the hotel. To say I’m excited is being very conservative. I’ve been waiting for this moment for ten years. Ever since I read the book, The Temple by Matthew Reilly, I was fascinated by the Incas and moreover, Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Hector finally arrives and we head towards the busses that visitors up towards Machu Picchu. The road snakes up the mountain until you finally arrive at entrance. A massive queue of people are already waiting to get in (I got on the seventh bus of the morning, despite my early wake up, just to give you an idea of how busy it is). On the ride up you got glimpses of the sheer beauty that awaits when you get there. The excitement was almost overwhelming.
The first four hundred visitors have the chance to register to hike Wayna Picchu, the conical mountain behind the ruins. I signed up, just in case I felt like hiking it. Finally the doors open. We’re in. We walk around the side of a hill to face one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’m as always in these occasions left completely speechless and open mouthed. Hector is explaining things but I’m simply too awestruck to listen. The weather is good, so there is no mist and no clouds to block your view of this impressive feat of Inca engineering. I took my postcard photo wearing my Portugal Football shirt and my South African flag, thus representing my dual heritage.
I’m not going to go into details about the ruins themselves as that can be found online. Hector told me a lot about the place and unlike Willy, from Sacred Valley tour, he was clearly passionate about the place and what he does. His passion together with my excitement about being there made for a fun two hour tour, with him talking and me incessantly asking questions, like a curious five year old. As we were walking around the ruins I kept looking at Wayna Picchu and wondered whether I had the energy to hike it. Hector kept joking saying I seemed more than ready to hike it even though I was breathing heavily every time we walked up some steps.
The tour ended at the entrance of the hike up to Wayna Picchu. “So you want to go up there? Believe me it’s more than worth it!”. So in my spirit of taking on challenges and fears (I have a fear of heights), I decided to do it. The start is quite easy as you go downhill to reach the base of where this smaller peak touches Wayna Picchu. Then the climb. And what a climb it is. I’m quite unfit so any kind of physical activity means I break a sweat. However this was something else. Even though I was taking it slow, I was quickly exhausted and was taking regular water breaks. I kept hearing the whispery voice of David Attenborough going “Slowly but surely the beast makes his way to the top of the mountain where he will find his prize.”. Everyone coming down walking past me said the same thing “It’s tough, but believe me, it’s worth it!”.
Finally, an hour after starting, I get to the top and survey where I’ve just climbed from, 360 m below. The is simply spectacular. I spend forty five minutes just sitting there and staring the magnificent view. Sitting up there I starting regretting not booking the Inca Trail earlier, though I would have most likely, considering my fitness levels, been the first mortality on the trail. So I make my way back towards the ruins, this being much easier than the ascent as it was mostly downhill.
I then walk around the ruins on my own just absorbing the place and taking photos for another hour, before heading for the exit and buying some sugary drink to get some sugar into me as my legs are still a bit wobbly after climbing Wayna Pichu. I’m back on the bus down to Aguas Calientes as I need to catch a train back to Ollantaytambo and then a bus from there to Cusco.
I pick up my bags from the hotel, get in a quick sandwich before heading to the train station. I’m exhausted, so I end up sleeping on the journey back to Ollantaytambo. In Ollantaytambo I walk around until I find some mini-buses to Cusco. I get in and sleep again for most of the journey until just outside Cusco, I wake up with a BANG!
The wheel just burst. Brilliant. The driver and another passenger get out to change the wheel and I, not wanting to look like a snobby tourist, join in. So for the first time in my 26 years, I changed a wheel, in Peru of all places. We changed the wheel, got back on the minibus and made our way to Cusco.
I arrived and went straight the hostel I stayed before and immediately phoned Armando, who said he would give me my tickets to Arequipa when I get back to Cusco. I meet Armando and his daughters waiting for me in the plaza. He gives me all the remaining information I need for the rest of my trip and we say goodbye. Armando is one of those great people who want you to enjoy his country and I honestly feel very lucky to have met him and have helped me out during the trip.
I went back to the hostel and ended up chatting to some folks who had just arrived from Malaysia. I did still go to bed early as I had another early morning the next day. Why is it I always end up waking earlier on holidays then I do when I’m working?!