On a cool foggy morning in Agua Calientes I was awake before sunrise and headed down the dirt road toward Machu Picchu. It was 5:15AM and the streets were empty. The shuttle busses were lining up at the stations but I wasn’t taking a bus, instead I would hike up from the river valley on the footpath through the thick forest. I wasn’t interested in doing the mutli-day Inca trail hike but hiking an hour to see one of the 7 Wonders of the World seemed like the right thing to do. Besides, paying $20 for a one way 15 minute bus ride felt like robbery.
With the trail entrance well marked I began the trek up the stone path. Only a few minutes in I didn’t need my fleece anymore. There was a slight mist in the air which was refreshing. The hike is steep and more challenging than I expected. It’s a good leg work out, especially for an out of shape motorcycle traveler. I made a competition out of passing other hikers with their nice boots and their high tech hiking pants.
When I reached the top it was still foggy and cool but I had worked up a sweat. I stood at the entrance gate and drank an entire liter of water. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the hiking. I walked through the entrance where the workers scanned my golden ticket and followed the stone path through the fog. In front of me I could see the ruins of a small building but not much else. The large guided tour groups took the path to the left so I took the right.
Walking through the narrow stone doorway I now stood on a hill, in front of me a large clearing of ruins on the terraced hillside. I imagined what I must have been like in 1911 when Hiram Bingham walked out of the forest and “discovered” the ruins. The fog still prevented me from seeing more than a hundred feet in front of me. I took a path that led up the hill giving my legs round two of the morning workout. It could only have taken a couple of minutes but when I turned and looked back where I had hiked up from my jaw dropped. While climbing the fog had begun to clear behind me. You might be thinking that sounds unreal. As I write this it sounds too good to have been true but it is. Take a look for yourself.
While I was hiking through the fog I had no idea where in Machu Picchu I was. So when I turned around and saw the entirety of the site below me I was in awe. I set up my tripod and started a time-lapse. I stood there with the morning sun keeping me warm as I watched the fog roll up from the valley and over the ruins. I wanted to keep the time-lapse going longer but the park staff told me I had to move so they could plant new grass.
I hiked up to the Inca Bridge trail and couldn’t believe the craftsmanship I saw. On the side of the cliff the Incas built a narrow stone bridge across the cliff. Of course the really sketchy section is closed off but even the trail getting there is an impressive feat. As you get closer to the narrow and steep section there are metal cables for those feeling a little queazy from the height.
From 6:30AM to 9:30AM I could get around without feeling overwhelmed by crowds of people. In many places on the site it would just be me. I wandered down trails and through ruins for hours.
A few more shots from Machu Picchu