Our guides told us to be at the breakfast table at 3:30 AM so we would be one of the first groups to walk the trail. After breakfast, we finished packing up quickly and waited by the gate to continue the trail. The gate wasn’t opening for about an hour, so we all tried to sleep on top of our ponchos using our backpacks at pillows. At about 5am, they started letting us in by group.
For some reason, I was under the impression that today would be just a 2 hour hike and we would arrive in Machu Picchu by sunrise. Once again I was misinformed. I’m pretty sure we hiked/ran-hiked for close to 4.5 hours. I say ran-hike because the people behind us literally started running and pushing past us. I guess everyone was just ready to get there! This part of the trail was like an obstacle course – we jumped over fallen trees, took sharp turns, and climbed up rock walls that were like ladders built into the mountain.
When we finally reached the sun gate, we were so disappointed to find ourselves trapped in a fog cloud. It was supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of the trail, but the weather just wasn’t on our side. We waited there for a while with a few other groups, and began our descent about 30 minutes after.
After a pleasant walk downhill, we finally arrived. It was really breathtaking, like an abandoned civilization in the clouds. We were able to “check” our bags and take a tour, which was amazing. The tour group gave us sandwiches and we went on our way. There were so many interesting facts and the guides really went in to detail. Apparently, there are all of these Machu Picchu ruins in a museum at Yale University, and they refuse to give them back to Peru! Alpaca were roaming the ruins and it was all just a beautiful sight.
Before starting the trail, we had all bought tickets to climb Huayna Picchu, that giant mountain that you see in the back of all of the Machu Picchu pictures. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I decided not to climb it. I was sweaty, starting to sunburn, and overall exhausted. I just wasn’t ready for it and decided not to push myself. I ended up being thankful for that because the bus back to Agua Caliente went on strike, and we ended up hiking two hours back to town anyway – good times!
We arrived in town and were brought to an empty restaurant with a buffet for us. From there, we got on a train back to Cusco, which was glorious. We ordered drinks and slept the whole way home.
Believe it or not, the trail was just a small part of our trip. After Cusco, we went on to an eco lodge in Puerto Maldonado to relax.