Perú – Day 6 – Machu Picchu Day 2
So, yes, five of us (Jordan, Terry, Lyle, Eileen, Larry) wanted to hike to the Sun Gate (Intipunka), the end point of the Inca Trail, high above the complex, starting at 7 am, and try to then join the group, who were starting at 8 am. We were in line by 6:50 am, entering a little after 7.
A little friend while we waited in line – thick billed Euphonia, in the finch family.
We started once again on Circuit 1, up the switchbacks, then left Circuit 1 to begin ascending the straight-line trail cut into the side of the mountain to the Sun Gate. As we ascended, there were increasingly impressive views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. We made the Sun Gate by 7:50 am, took pictures, and enjoyed the spectacular view for a while, then descended for about 30 minutes.
Zoomed in on Huyana Picchu.
Taking a short break. Larry and Terry on the left, Jordan and Lyle on the right.
Another look back.
At the Sun Gate: Lyle, Larry, Jordan, Terry.
From the Sun Gate.
From the Sun Gate, zoomed in.
Larry at the end of the Inca Trail, just past the Sun Gate.
View of some tall mountains in the distance as we headed down.
Back at the intersection. We took the "high road", circuit 1, rather than a lower path to meet up with the group, because it had become very crowded, and our only choice was to thread through the crowd heading up to more popular circuit 1 (up to the left).
So we retraced the path from the day before, walking as quickly as we could through the hordes of people. We reached our group at about 8:40 am just as they were about to ascend the upper temple, Intihuatana. The impressive carved stone pillar in the center may have been an altar or used to predict the solstices, but no one knows for sure.
Looking down to the Temple of the Three Windows and beyond.
Starting to descend.
Down to the Principal Plaza ( the large expanse of lawn in the classic photos) level.
We stopped at the back at the two thatched houses, seen in the picture below.
By the thatched houses was an "echo stone", a stone sculpture that mimics the shape of a mountain to the east when standing at the right spot.
Looking back, always a different aspect.
We continued, walking past the gated entrance to Huyana Picchu (separate permit required), through the residential and (conjectured) industrial sectors, finishing by looking down on the agricultural terraces.
Huyana Picchu, zoomed in.
A zoom-in shot of the Sun Gate.
Looking down on the road up to Machu Picchu (we rode the bus up this road).
Looking back up at the Guard House.
Looking down in the valley below.
We kept taking photos in all directions as we left.
A last view of the Temple of the Three Windows.
A last view of Intihuatana, the upper temple with the stone pillar.
Last view. So sad to be leaving.
Exiting around 10 am, we checked out of the hotel and had lunch. Ernesto wanted to be in line for the bus down by about 11:30 because the line gets long after that. Nonetheless, we had to wait in line for about a half hour to get on the bus (but by the time we got on the bus, the line had grown to at least an hour).
In line at the bus. The entrance in the center of the photo (the hotel just to the left of where we were waiting – it was that close.
We got down to Machu Picchu Pueblo and had a two hour wait for the train (but this one left on schedule). The train back up to Ollantaytambo took an hour and three quarters. We then took the two hour bus ride to Cusco, arriving at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, a sister hotel to Belmond Machu Picchu Sanctuary, around 7:30 pm. After dropping things off in our room, we walked to Cusco main square with Jim and Wendy, and had a very nice meal at Mistura Grill.
This complex, for us, was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As it’s on everyone’s bucket list, Perú authorities are continually adding restrictions on timing and duration, and limiting access to certain areas in order to maintain this wonder.
Though at the high end on the price, it was priceless to stay at a luxury hotel steps from the entrance, have an incredibly knowledgeable and articulate guide, and have someone who plans all the many details and knows the best times to make our two visits. Accolades to Ernesto and Julian, and Odyssey.