The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

Five Days to Machu Picchu: Day Five — “Machu Picchu”
November 16, 2008, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Peru
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Finally, on Day Five of our Salkantay trek, we reached the Incan City of Machu Picchu.

There were many obstacles: the Shithole, the Death Bugs, the freezing temperatures, the long days of hiking, the broken knees, the bruised ego, and the altitude sickness.

But it was all worth it, because Machu Picchu is incredible.

machu-picchu-104Located in the middle of the Peruvian Andes, Machu Picchu is a mountaintop stone-walled city surrounded by misty green mountains, huge tiered grass agricultural platforms, hundreds of ancient stone temples and homes, and is full of llamas walking around nervously crapping all over the place, and is overrun by the strangest creatures of all — French tourists.

After our early wake up at 4:30AM to catch the bus up the mountain to beat the crowds, we hustled across the grounds of Machu Picchu to get tickets to climb Huayna Picchu, the nearby mountain that looms 1,000 feet over Machu Picchu. Then, as we all shook off our early morning-dreariness and hike-induced exhaustion, we were enthralled by our guide’s stimulating, hour-long discourse on how much of a putz Hiram Bingham (the “founder” of Machu Picchu) was. It’s not really that Bingham was a genuine “putz”, but our guide Paul is very proud of his Incan heritage, and was quite strongly opinionated in his views of Bingham’s “discovery”, and also about how much the Spanish suck.

Llamas.  The Guardians of Machu Picchu.

Llamas. The Guardians of Machu Picchu.

In the early 1900s, Hiram Bingham was the first person to locate the Lost City of Machu Picchu and share its existence with the world after it was abandoned by the Incans for hundreds of years. However, there was actually a family living there when he arrived (a “Lost Family” maybe?), so it is a disputed “discovery”. It was especially disputed by our guide Paul, who enraptured us for a rather long period of time about the faults of that scoundrel Hiram Bingham:

1. He didn’t really discover Machu Picchu — someone was already living there;
2. He stole artifacts from the site;
3. He was a bitch;
4. He single-handedly caused World War I and II;
5. He sunk the Titanic;
6. He hates babies and puppies;
7. He would like to slap Ghandi.

Ok, now just to clarify, I stopped listening about 10 minutes into his diatribe, so he might not have actually said numbers 3-7 above. But it was clearly implied.

The steep cliff-sided stairs to Huayna Picchu

The steep cliff-sided stairs to Huayna Picchu

After we had heard about how shitty the ancient Spanish were to the Incans (which, in all honesty, was pretty shitty), we finally started our tour of the city. Paul really knew his facts about the way the buildings were built, the construction materials, the uses of each temple, and the astronomical allineation of the site. However, his anti-Spanish, anti-Bingham, anti-anything-that’s-not-pro-Incan attitude shined through on a few occasions, the most memorable being when he was asked if the Incans were short because the doorways were very small. He answered, “They were very spiritual.” Now, no matter how many times I have tried to convince people of my massive stature through the measurement of my enormous spirituality, I’ve still never dated a girl taller than 5′ 9″. Sorry Paul, but that line has been tried and tested, and has miserably failed.

So, after a while of hearing increasingly humorous pro-Incan facts, our group finally split up to wander around the city, and to climb Huayna Picchu. The guards of Machu Picchu only allow 400 people per day to climb this behemoth of a mountain, and we had heard that the views were unbelievable. Thus, despite four days of hiking for over 40 miles up down mountains, we tortured ourselves one more time.

The View of Machu Picchu from Hayna Picchu

The View of Machu Picchu from Hayna Picchu

Up we went again. The Incans had built a massive stone staircase up this steep mountainside to reach the ceremonial sites that they built on top of Huayna Picchu. If you ask me, I think the Incans probably chewed one too many coca leaves and lost their minds, then decided to build things on top of really steep mountains for no apparent reason other than to punish future tourists. But that’s just my opinion; Paul would probably describe their crazy altitude-fascination as being fueled by their “love of clouds”.

After about an hour of grueling uneven stair-climbing, we finally reached the top. The view was amazing. Machu Picchu was a tiny spot on the mountain in front of us, and you could see an amazing 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains from Huayna Picchu’s peak. After about an hour of chilling on the mountain, we took it all in, then slowly descended the dangerously steep stairs in the most efficient manner possible — on our asses.

Alas, Machu Picchu lived up to its hype. It is without a doubt, one of the most amazing places I have ever seen in my life. And, the brutal five-day journey through the mountains was an awesome experience that made finally reaching Machu Picchu that much more worthwhile. All in all, the entire journey ranks up there as one of the best adventures I’ve ever had.

Now, I just need to kick this nasty coca leaf habit I picked up…


The Machu Picchu Hiking Gang


4 Comments so far
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but also don’t forget to add the fond memories of the ‘tourist train’ back from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo (complete with train staff donning costumes for fashion show, and the weird peruvian dancing llama puppet pushing grinning mask guy), and then the ‘short cut’ the bus driver decided to use back to Cuzco which involved swerving past huge avalanche remains every 100m in the dark, stopping for no reason but to scare us that we’d all be kidnapped, singing small child conductor, and then arriving back 5 minutes after the other bus anyway!

Comment by Lora

You must have been in a Coca Coma during the trek, because I didn’t hear you say 10 words the whole time. Seriously, you did a great job of capturing the spirit of this memorable adventure. Here it is 28 days after the “death bug” attack and I have finally quit scratching.
Kudos to you for helping preserve this wonderful experience!

Comment by David Glover

i’m still scratching!

Comment by Lora

Pretty component to content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to say that I acquire actually enjoyed account your
blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing for your augment or even I achievement you access persistently fast.

Comment by machupicchu travel

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