Adventure-moon: Machi Picchu Part II


After 45 kilometers on the trail, our Andean adventure reaches its highest heights.

After four days of hiking through Peru’s Incan trails with the fearless team from Andean Treks, we made our way down to civilization and one step closer to the world-famous Machu Picchu.

Descending through the rock fields of the Incan quarry, passing through acres of quinoa fields along the base of the Sacred Valley, we reach the sacred 15th-century town of Ollantaytambo. The stone streets wind like a labyrinth, revealing a still traditional Andean way of life. Meandering through we arrived at the home of the first Andean Treks chef for a three-course meal, celebrating the 45k hike we had just completed.

After our delicious lunch, we explored the town created by Incan Emperor Pachacuti. Ollantaytambo’s elaborate stone terraces and religious structures are built into the hillsides hovering over town to create a truly awe-inspiring place.

So accustomed to travel by foot, it was almost strange to hop on a train to Agua Calientes or Machu Picchu Village, as its fondly called. Though we quickly got over the foreign effect with Peru Rail’s luxurious amenities and panoramic windows looking out to the towering peaks, Incan ruins, and the rushing Urubamba River.

Wedged between massive mountains and a rushing river, it is amazing to think that bustling town like Agua Calientes even exists. Though hotels, including our lovely Killa Inn, and the honeymoon worthy Inka Terra, hover along the shores and inch up the foothills.

Upon reaching Aguas Calientes, the first item on our list of things to celebrate was Mike’s birthday. We went to dinner at a romantic Italian restaurant then relaxed under the stars at the town’s famous natural hot springs.

On day five, the day we’d all been waiting for, we woke up before dawn to catch sunrise over Machu Picchu. Our sense of accomplishment and excitement was through the roof as we gazed over the Lost City of the Incas and it only got better as the day went on.

Our intrepid Andean Treks guide Desnarda gave a fantastic tour deciphering this mysterious 15th-century estate of Incan Emperor Pachacuti. It is hard to believe that this incredibly complex city took 50 years to build then was abandoned a little over 100 years later as the Spanish approached.

Amazingly, the Spanish never actually discovered the city and the site was virtually untouched until 1911 when American historian Hiram Bingham arrived.  With 400 undisturbed years and many recent years of painstakingly accurate restoration, Machu Picchu is an impeccable example of the way Incans built, farmed, worshiped and lived.

Touring the temples, houses, terraces, and shrines of Machu Picchu is at the heart of a visit to this UNESCO heritage site but for a real sense of its grandeur and ingenious construction, you have to get climb Huayna Picchu. Yep, that massive peak behind the citadel, also said to be the nose the sleeping Incan (turn your laptop sideways, you’ll can see his profile!)

Not exactly for the faint of heart, Huayna Picchu is a 1,080-ft ascent from Machu Picchu—and we mean straight up! Using our hands, knees and ropes when available, we hiked the very windy little stairs and ledges leading up to this dizzying Incan site.

On our ascent, Mike spotted this naturally carved heart in the mountainside. (He is always on the lookout for the “found hearts” in nature—such a romantic.)

Way below our feet you can see the clearing in the trees and the Lost City perched on the mountaintop.  After five days of hiking through the most extreme and beautiful mountains in Peru, the feeling we had sitting together above the legendary Machu Picchu was as fulfilling as a honeymoon gets.

Much love from Machu Picchu,

Mike & Anne

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