Machu Picchu – Peru
When I planned for this trip, I knew I was not trying to prove anything so I opted for the 2 day tour which includes 1 day hike and an overnight hotel stay. I knew I would not have the strength to do the 5 day tour with camping.
The one day hiking of Inca trail was challenging for me, I struggled to breathe walking up those steps, is it my fitness or altitude sickness? I thought I was fairly fit considering the walking, gym and yoga sessions.
There were many moments where I thought I was going to die; skip a step and fall off the edge, or my lungs would give up, or my heart would stop (surprisingly my heart rate was under 100bpm).
It was mostly fear.
My Merrell hiking shoes are pretty good, they have lugs that are deep and thick that help with grip and heel brakes that help with traction and prevent slippage out on trails (paraphrased from their website). The rocks are pretty sturdy, almost non-slippery. Plenty of people have done this trek, 200 per day (plus 500 on the other Inca trek), and fatality rate is about 1 per year for the entire Machu Picchu. Older people seemed to be doing much better than me, people in their 50s and 60s were putting me to shame.
It is definitely fear. Fear slowed me down in this hike.
I would like to believe that I am appreciating Machu Picchu a lot more because I did the hike. I experienced the steep walks, the high-altitude, the rain, and the humidity. Back in the Inca time, they did this journey, bringing supplies, getting from one place to another. Humans are capable of many physical challenges.
At the end of our hike, at the Sun Gate, we did not see anything because of the the thick fog as far as we can see but I read and heard about the amazing view from that spot.
Once we reached Machu Picchu city, another incredible sight, some of those rocks are not held by mortar of any kind, and these structures are original and have not been reconstructed.
Day 2 offered us much more majestic view of Machu Picchu, it was sunny and clear. The weather in the area consists of fogs, clouds, rains and sun. Just before 9am, the fogs and clouds went away, and we took gazillion photos to remember this moment. We ignored our guide’s explanation at this point – oops!
During our free-time, I went up towards the Inca Bridge but stopped half-way at a perfect spot to absorb the view of Machu Picchu City, the surrounding mountain range, the fresh air, and simply rest.
Like other life experiences, I learned a great deal throughout this hike: I had forgotten my fear of heights because my mind was occupied with taking the next intake of oxygen. Breathing is the most natural thing and yet I had to remind myself to take one after another.
It’s one way up, one way down, keep to the left, keep on following the mountain and you won’t get lost – stay on the path! Whatever fear, obstacles and distractions life may bring, stay on the path. No barriers on your right but really common sense will tell you not to head that way.
The best way to make friends when travelling solo is to join a tour; especially of the same interests. Friends were once strangers.
What I did not know before this trip?
- We had to jump off the train, in the jungle, without an actual station.
- I will have to do better with “packing light”
- Machu Picchu opens at 6:20am, the first bus from Aguas Calientes is at 5:30am but people start lining up from 3am (cray, cray!) and the last bus back to Aguas Calientes is at 5pm
- Only two entries per ticket – toilet is outside, use the re-entry wisely
- Circuit 1 (to the left) goes up to the Sun Gate & Inca Bridge, the best spots for photos and relaxing. Then go to Circuit 2 for Machu Picchu city
- Circuit 2 (to the right) goes to Machu Picchu City and then exit (remember only one re-entry)
The hiking took about 6.5 hours but it was only 48km; there was education minutes throughout the hike. It took us 4 hours to reach Wiñay Wayna where we stopped for lunch, but it took the chef and porters only 1.5 hour to get there.
There was 12 of us in the group with 2 tour-guides; considering I was always the last one in the group by about 100m then 500m, I had a tour-guide keeping me company at all time – so if you want a private tour, be last 😉
I did 2D/1N with an additional night by myself in Aquas Calientes – I used Alpaca Expeditions (#1 in TripAdvisor) after days of scouring the internet for the tour that ticked all my boxes. They were great with promptly answering my questions.
30th October 2017 – an after thought
I couldn’t thoroughly explain the experience of Machu Picchu, and today half-way through The Art of Travel (by Alain de Botton), I found that word. He explained “… at the beginning of the eighteenth century, a word came to prominence with which it became possible to indicate a specific response towards precipices and glaciers, …” and to me, Machu Picchu.
“… landscapes by virtue of their size, emptiness or danger, and argued that such places provoked an identifiable feeling that was both pleasurable and morally good”. “…the power of places to arouse the mind to sublimity…”.
Alain quoted Joseph Addison “… a delightful stillness and amazement”.
“… the sublime as an encounter, pleasurable, intoxicating even, with human weakness in the face of strength, age and size of the universe”.
Alain also reminded us to not confused the word sublime and beautiful (as originally argued by Edmund Burke) “A landscape could arouse the sublime only when it suggested power, power greater than that of humans and threatening to them. Sublime places embodied a defiance to our will.” “What defies our will can provoke anger and resentment; it may also arouse awe and respect.”
“… an impression that some intentional being must have had a hand in this, something greater than man and with an intelligence that mere ‘nature’ does not possess; a ‘something’ for which the word God still seems, even to the secular mind, a far from unlikely appellation.”
“There are certain scenes that would awe an atheist into belief without the help of any other argument” (Thomas Grey)
Alain then describe the story of Job from the Bible’s Old Testament, “… God draws Job’s attention to the mighty phenomena of nature. Do not be surprised that things have not gone your way; the universe is greater than you. Do not be surprised that you do not understand why they have not gone your way: for you cannot fathom the logic of the universe.” “Our lives are not the measure of all things; consider sublime places for a reminder of human insignificance and frailty”.
Alain ended the chapter with “Human life is an overwhelming, but it is the vast spaces of nature that perhaps provide us with the finest, the most respectful reminder of all that exceeds us. If we spend time in them, they may help us to accept more graciously the great unfathomable events that molest our lives and will inevitably return us to dust.” and this best describe why I travel.
(I will probably update this page as I remember things that I have not expressed in words)