Hey everyone! My sincerest apologies for leaving you in suspense for so long. I know that some of you got a sneak preview of my death defying climb up Machu Picchu Mountain on my sister’s FB page. Well here, finally, is the full report.
The Machu Picchu citadel (the main ruins) is bookended by two apus, or sacred peaks. Mount Huaynu Picchu marks the north end of the site and is seen in nearly all of the iconic Machu Picchu photos; to the south stands Mount Machu Picchu. Both offer spectacular views, but while Mt. Huaynu Picchu turns away would be visitors (only 400 a day are allowed to climb), the summit of Mount Machu Picchu nearly always stands empty.
The reason may be the difference in height. At 1,640 feet (above the citadel), Mount Machu Picchu is more than twice as tall as it’s sister peak. But the reward for the 90 minute (ha!) climb up flights of ancient stone stairs is the most incredible view that can be achieved (short of a helicopter) of how Machu Picchu was carefully integrated into it’s natural surroundings. Distant, skyscraping Andean peaks tower in the distance while the winding Urubamba River nearly wraps itself around the main site like a python.
At the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain Inca priests once performed rituals on special dates as well as liturgical greetings to the Salkantay Apu, (Sallqantay in Quechua, it is the highest peak of the Willkapampa mountain range, part of the Peruvian Andes).
Machu Picchu is not to be taken lightly. Dozens of tourists die each year due to complications from altitude sickness (usually heart attacks, something I can certainly understand……more than once I thought I was having one!), plummeting over the edge or being struck by falling rocks (it lies on two faults, earthquakes are common) or being attacked y vicious alpacas. I’m completely joking about that last one, but you get my drift.
The classic photo of Machu Picchu that all of us have seen a billion times. That’s Huayna Picchu there to the right.
So, I arrived very early….6:30am-ish and caught a glimpse of the famous ruins from ground level. But I didn’t hang out for long. The trail up the mountain is only open from 7am til 11am and it was best to get a move on.
To give you an idea of where we are heading….. see that mountain there in the middle of the photo below? That’s Machu Picchu Mountain. See the very tippy top point? That is where we are climbing to. Ready?
Take a deep breath……Here we go!
Yes, it was pretty much all steps, all the way.
Steps built by the Incas in the 15th century.
2,258 steps. Or so.
Please note the incredibly secure piece of Peruvian string (alpaca no doubt) saving anyone who steps too closely to the edge from certain death.
The steps back down…..even sketchier! Be careful!
After the knee busting hike down, I spent a bit of time walking around the ruins. For loads more info on the actual Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, by all means head on down to (Note 1)
How on earth did they get those stones like that?
Ever seen a yellow lady bug?
I hung another night in pretty Aguas Calientes before grabbing the train back to Cusco. Then I was off to one of my favorite cities in the world, Lima!
Machu Picchu. Wow. Incredible and stunning and I am so glad I took the path less traveled and saw it from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. Unforgettable!
Well friends, as I write this I am sitting in my living room in my house in Costa Rica. I actually slept in my own bed last night! Another 4 months of crappy, uncomfortable, single beds in downtrodden third world hostels comes to an end.
This leg of my journey ends and I will spend the next few months planning where the journey will take us next. Africa? Maybe. Return to SE Asia and get to some of those places we skipped the first time around? Or maybe return to some of our favorite places like Cambodia and Burma? The Trans-Siberian Railroad? Sounds good.
Right now I just don’t know. What I do know, what I am positive about, is that I will hit the road again. I have seen so many amazing places and experienced so many wonderful moments over the last 834 days (almost two years and three months!) and 79,000 miles (for an average of almost 95 miles EACH and EVERY day!). It is a fascinating, incredible, breathtaking, astonishing and magnificent planet we live on and there is still so much to see!
Stay tuned my friends……so much more to discover!
A sincere thanks to all who followed along, commented when necessary (or even when not) and bought me a beer in a country of their choice! Muchisimas Gracias!