So this is how it works:
You either get up at 0400 to get in a queue for a bus to take you up to the entrance to Machupicchu or you get up about 0400 and walk/run up to the entrance. Why so early? Well there is a mountain (very famous and in all the photos/postcards of Machupicchu) opposite the site, but inside called Huayna Picchu, and well they only let 400 people have tickets to access this per day. So it is 1st come 1st served. There´s two entrance times from 0700 and from 1000, with 200 tickets a piece. To make it more complicated, everyone wants the second visit time as the early morning mist is more likely to have cleared giving you an awesome view of the monument of Machupicchu itself.
Why run? Well the gates at the bottom open at 0500 and the buses start ferrying people up at 0530, which only gives the walkers 30-40 minutes to beat the 1st buses up, to cover a potential hour or more walk (the buses switch back up the hill, while the steps – more than 7000 – go straight up). So run is what we do. We are the 2nd group at the bottom gate but within minutes there is nobody in front of us. The lads maintain their lead and Jason is 1st in the queue at the top, he´s very proud, in fact they get 1st (34 minutes), 2nd, and 3rd place. Huw waits with Bernice and we don´t do too badly at all, coming in at 17th and 18th (37 minutes) with only one other girl just in front. We did take a wrong turn and missed a switch-back, bearing in mind this is all by torchlight that’s not a bad effort. It isn´t a race or anything but…
So did we beat the buses? Well, hell yeh! We got our stamps on our tickets to allow is to climb Huanya Picchu at 1000 and now, at 0530 we wait for the turnstiles to the monument to open and go take loads of photos before the crowds arrive. We continually pinch ourselves as it´s hard to believe we are actually here.
While waiting in the queue Enrique arrives and is pretty proud that we´re all at the front and all sorted. We group together inside for a guided tour with him and the peops from the other group at 0630, and just before they arrive we give him his Inca Kola t-shirt, he´s well chuffed with it. The tour is ok as Enrique keeps it pretty light-hearted. We get chatting to a couple of Brazilian guys, one of whom is a huge “Teenage Fanclub” fan, to the extent of visiting Scotland to see them live, he´s a musician too and in a couple of bands; the other is another geologist. It´s the last we´ll see Enrique officially and we all want to give him a tip but not in front of the other group. He already suggested meeting for a drink in town laters so we all hope he meets us. He says we´re due back in Cusco about 2230, so although we´re all tired we can manage a farewell drink; Jason and Nigel have a pretty early flight tomorrow back to Canada too but with a long lay-over in Mexico where they can re-cooperate.
We have a further walk around Machupicchu after the tour and take some more photos before a refreshment and getting our passport stamped (yes really) and making our way to the entrance for Huayna Picchu. Health and safety back home would have a hissy-fit and all access to this view point revoked. It certainly isn´t for the faint-hearted or anyone even scarcely scared of heights that’s for sure! These Inca´s may have been short but the steps they built are really tall, it´s a climb all the way. In places there are rope railings to hang onto but mostly if you´re scared you´ll end up on all fours, Nigel and Wim find this an effective method for coming back down. At one point they have introduced a one way system mostly cause it´s so steep and exposed but on the whole no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to it. At the top it´s really busy with people behaving very selfishly, if a tad irrationally due to fear we suppose – trying to pass when it´s clear we are waiting to move on but have to wait on the person in front to get out of our way… We thought we´d get to the top and chill for a while, but in the end we were desperate to get down and away from the hordes of frantic people there.
At the bottom, i.e. back in the hub of Machupicchu, we decide we´ve had enough, it´s really busy now so after a happy birthday to Jan we set off back to Aquas Caliente. For a giggle we all run down the hill too, Huw manages it in 16 minutes 🙂
Then it´s pizza from a place Enrique recommended before heading to the train station. The train is full and the ride very pleasant, shame it is dark really and we don´t get a view of the scenery we´re passing. It stops outside the village we need to get off at (the last part of the journey is by bus!) and we´re there for quite a while, meaning we don´t actually get back into Cusco till after 2300. Not sure if Enrique is going to still be in “Paddy´s” (the bar where he suggested we all meet) we head straight there. No sign of him. We try calling but have little luck there either. Bother! Oh, well can´t be helped, we decide to stay for a drink anyhow as it´s the last we´ll see each other. The Brazilian guys show up too and Rebecca (Aussie we met early on this morning whilst taking photos). By the time we wrap up it´s a little after 0100 and returning to our hostel fully laden and very tired we have to wait a further 20 minutes standing outside ringing the bell waiting and waiting and hoping they answer having kept our booking for our return …
At least while stood there we are able to retrieve emails and see we have one from Richard, re the sailing option, he is still interested and asks us to contact him on our return. A job for tomorrow, we just let him know we´re back and we´ll do just that.