The sun rose on the valley Cusco as I packed the last of my gear, preparing for what was to become a grueling four day trek to one of the 7th Wonders of the World; Machu Piccu. I arrived at the designated meeting spot to rendezvous with my guide Elmar and the rest of my group. The party consisted of myself, a gentlemen from New York Named Greg, and three British girls: Bernie, Emily, and Alice. The trip started with us taking a van to our first activity; mountain biking down a beautifully treacherous mountain pass into the valley below.
We started at the top surrounded by dense fog that only allowed you make out the silhouette of the biker in front of you. Our guide briefed us on the dangers of the road, informing us that many people had suffered serious injury or death due to cars, loose rocks, and cascading waterfalls that flowed over the road. Determined not to be one of these stories I decided it would be best if I took the lead so no bikers would fall in front of me, also I’m really good at downhill biking. As I made my descent into the valley the fog begin to peel back its veil and beautiful blue skies and sun appeared. It began to get extremely hot now that we were entering a Jungle Climate, but I maintained my pace. I powered through hair pin turns, dodged oncoming cars, shook off loose gravel with my back wheel, and charged through all rushing water; in this moment I was king of the valley.
It took roughly two hours to reach the valley below, and by then I was famished and hot. I peeled off all my winter layers and decided to go with a t-shirt and pants; spraying myself down with bug spray to avoid dengue and malaria. After we all grouped up for a well-earned photo we headed off to lunch at our first hostel. Here I decided to chill out while the rest of the crew paid to go whitewater rafting. The following day we had an eight hour hike to Santa Teresa, the last backpacking town before Aguascalientes.
This was one of the more difficult hikes I had done in my travels, but was well worth it. In fact I think it was my favorite part of the four day trek to Machu Piccu: hiking on the Inca Jungle Trail. It was etched into the side of the mountain, hidden from the untrained eye and was only discovered sixteen years previous. It snaked and climbed up over the mountains, offered breathtaking views, and lead you through beautiful lush Jungles. We stopped at some hot springs for a few hours to rest our tired muscles, and after and continued onto our hostel in Santa Teresa. That night everyone that could stand went out to celebrate with Pisco Scours (the chosen drink of Peru). The following day we zip lined over rivers, which I didn’t really like. Something about being suspended on a cable in a 3rd world country and being hurled over certain death made me feel uneasy. I’d much rather jump out of an airplane than zip line again.
After that terrible experience we had lunch at the local hydroelectric power, the final stop before we reached the base town of Machu Piccu; Aguascalientes. This was a picturesque walk where I had the chance to have great conversations with some of my hiking companions. Aguascalientes is not what I expected when I arrived. It was full of five star hotels and restaurants, and looked more like Aspen than the sacred valley below Machu Piccu. Despite my shock I toured the town and retired early to bed, for I had a 4am hike to Machu Piccu the next day.
The following morning I was energized and ready to go. I arrived and ended up being one of the first people in line for the bridge crossing the steps to Machu Piccu. No one told me how dark/steep/difficult this climb was going to be, and I had left my headlamp back in Cusco. I tried to utilize the lights of fellow travelers, however they were stopping and taking frequent breaks so I had to continue my ascent in darkness. This was the hardest climb I had ever done.
I don’t know how, but my body kept pushing me forward and, after what felt like an eternity of climbing (actually about 45minutes), I arrived at the entrance to Machu Piccu. As I caught my breathe I noticed busloads of people arriving by road. I’m not going to pretend like this didn’t annoy me. I felt like I had earned Machu Piccu, they did not.
Machu Piccu lives up to its label as one of the 7th Wonders of the World. It’s a beautiful place among fluffy white clouds, emerald green mountains, with amazing 360 degree views. I was able to enjoy it before the masses arrived and was even able to watch the sun rise over the sacred city of the Incas. I spent a few hours there, trying to gleam some of the history and why this city had existed. The truth was no one really knows what Machu Piccu was used for. Some think it was the kingdom of an Empire, others thing it was a farmers city. Regardless, it is an amazing place where you can enjoy ancient history and sun tan with the mountain llamas, who are now the tenants of Machu Piccu.
As I began the hike back down to Aguascalientes I felt a great sense of accomplishment for what I had just achieved. However, after four days of hiking, I was eager to get a hot shower and enjoy some city night nightlife. Next stop, Lima.