Today was my second day at Machu Picchu. I had a ticket to climb Wayna Picchu, the mountain towering over the main site and the one you can see on practically every picture taken. I had some concerns about making the trek since my stomach was acting up. Thankfully it settled a bit so I was able to go, albeit a little later than I planned.
I was fully intending to catch the sunrise on top of the guard tower but I was running a bit late. I was still able to see it rise above the mountain though. Something about the area made the event more magical than any other sunrises I’ve seen in my travels.
I made the queue just in time to enter Wayna Picchu. There is a regulation that requires anyone who hikes any of the trails within Machu Picchu to sign in and out which was reassuring on my part. I haven’t really exerted much effort exercising and I was on my own so it was comforting to know that someone will look for me in case I get lost or had trouble along the way.
I signed in at 7:30 AM and started the trek upwards. It wasn’t too bad for the first 45 minutes. The way up had enough resting points and every one of them had fantastic views of Machu Picchu. The trickiest part came about 2/3 in when we began the direct ascent. Some of the stair cases were only a foot in length and they were steep. You get rewarded with incredible views on top though. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted, anyone with fear of heights, or claustrophobia. There were a few spots where you had to squeeze your way to pass through.
The descent was even more difficult. It probably wouldn’t have been as much if I opted to take the shorter route, but the first bit required for you to practically walk and climb down the mountain at the same time with not much else to catch you if you fall, so I decided to take the longer route. Little did I know that it really was a much longer route. It took me around an hour and 45 for the ascent but took twice as long to go down. The longer route basically circled the mountain. It took you within the forested areas, passed caves and open views of the surrounding valley. Looking back at the photos, I was glad I did it but was also relieved that I will never have to do it again. There were some really tight spots on the trail down that literally made my heart skip and made me rethink why I was there.
Almost five hours later, I made it back to the checkpoint, signed my name out, and ensured that there was evidence that I completed the hike. “Salida” became my favorite word that day. It was the most strenuous five hours of my life so far.
I returned to Cusco that evening, had a light dinner, and decided to crash early. I was spent and will be heading to Puno the next day. I will be spending a good part of my day in a bus.