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A Gloomy Day at Machu Picchu

A Gloomy Day at Machu Picchu


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 09/26/2018 17:15:45
Trip Date 01/18/2018  

Destinations | Peru | Machu Picchu | Tour Guides at Machu Picchu | Bus to Machu Picchu | DIY Tour of Machu Picchu | What to See at Machu Picchu | Morning Visit to Machu Picchu



What started as a dream to visit Machu Picchu turned into a 5 1/2 week long South American adventure! Check off another successful do it yourself plan for this phase of our trip which began in Cusco, took us through the Sacred Valley and was topped off at the ancient Inca city. While our visit to Machu Picchu was definitely tiring since we started with a 3:15 AM alarm and ended with lots of uphill climbing, the great news is that we were not disappointed.

If you have an interest in planning a trip to Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world, take a look at this post for an overview of our visit. From the pre-planning phase to getting on the first bus of the day to spending our morning touring and learning, our day could not have been better - well, except for the weather!


Bus Service to Machu Picchu

Before traveling from our homes, we made reservations for round trip bus travel from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. To save some time, we picked up and paid for the tickets shortly after our arrival in Cusco - at a premium of $5.00 per ticket. If I had it to do over, I would have made the online reservations (although I'm not sure that they were really necessary), but would have just waited until we got to Aguas Calientes to pay for and pick up the tickets.

We checked out of our two hotel rooms, all four of us had placed our backpacks in the Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu storage room, and we were on our walk in the pouring rain to join the line of people waiting for the bus that would take us to Machu Picchu - all by 3:45 AM.


Waiting for Bus to Machu Picchu - in the Pouring Rain!

Waiting for Bus to Machu Picchu - in the Pouring Rain!

Our goal was to be on the first bus which would reportedly leave at 5:30 AM so that we would arrive as soon after sunrise as possible. We were in luck, as there were only four people in line when we arrived. Although the four slowly turned into eight due to places being held in the line, we were confident that we'd meet our goal. It didn't appear that the on and off rain had any impact on the number of people who would visit the mountain, as the line was in non-stop growth mode.


Where is the End of the Line for Early Morning Bus Riders to Machu Picchu?

Where is the End of the Line for Early Morning Bus Riders to Machu Picchu?

The bus movement began before 5:00 AM, however it didn't include any buses for tourists. The first to depart was full of bus drivers (probably going to the lot where all of the buses parked each night in between full days of traveling the round trip Machu Picchu circuit). A second bus which appeared to be loaded with tour guides also departed - likely headed to Machu Picchu so that the guides would be on the grounds before all of the tourists arrived.


Luckily the rain subsided, and shortly after 5:00 AM, the Consettur team began the tourist boarding process. One team member walked the line to verify that the name on each passenger's ticket matched the name on their passport. Then, as we boarded the first tourist bus, our outbound tickets were collected. As soon as the bus was at full capacity, we were on our way ... and the time was just before 5:30 AM.


Bus Service to Machu Picchu

Bus Service to Machu Picchu

The route to Machu Picchu was along a winding road full of switchbacks. Our view was very poor due to the heavy fog - maybe that was a good thing because our climb was literally switchback followed by switchback followed by switchback ... and repeat again and again! I'm pretty sure that I never saw a guardrail on the side of the road - maybe due to the fog ... or maybe because there weren't any! Every once in a while I saw some people who were walking up the stone staircases that intersected the road. Although the bus ride might be nerve racking to some, I was glad that I was not hiking! Nevertheless, we were at our destination before 6:00 AM.


Hiring a Guide

After exiting the bus, we began our walk to the entrance of Machu Picchu. We had planned to hire a guide on site so that we would have a better understanding of the area. We soon met Miguel Angel Montalvo Palomino who offered to lead us around the mountain. He spoke very good English and his price of $80.00 for a private tour for the four of us seemed fair, so we agreed.


Machu Picchu Tour Guide Miguel Angel Montalvo Palomino

Machu Picchu Tour Guide Miguel Angel Montalvo Palomino

The five of us joined the already full line of people who had either walked to the site, had stayed in the hotel next door or were one of the few people who exited the bus before us.


Entering Machu Picchu

As no one was allowed to enter until 6:00 AM, the crowd was constantly expanding. The good news was that there was a little time for a restroom run as there are no toilets available after entering the site.


Patiently Awaiting Entrance to Machu Picchu

Patiently Awaiting Entrance to Machu Picchu

We purchased our tickets for entrance into Machu Picchu at the Ministry of Culture official website in December, just a day or two after they became available. Since our visit was during the rainy season (low season), we probably could have waited to purchase our tickets until we arrived in Peru, but we didn't want to risk the possibility of a sell-out.


Once the clock hit the eagerly awaited 6:00 AM, we began moving closer to the front of the line as those ahead of us entered ... until we finally presented our tickets and were ready to see the amazing Inca creation.


Tourist Map of Machu Picchu

Tourist Map of Machu Picchu

We started our walk toward the urban sector of Machu Picchu, listening as our guide Miguel explained some of the history of this UNESCO Endangered Site.


View of the Valley from Above

View of the Valley from Above

Our hike began along a narrow path ... that soon became a quite steep uphill path leading to the Recinto del Guardian (Guardhouse or House of the Guardians). It is from this vantage point that nearly every visitor takes a photo which showcases the ruins. We, instead, admired the awesome view in the photo that Miguel brought along in a binder filled with an assortment of both recent and historical photos. We photographed only the building - as the view of the ruins was covered with fog!


House of the Guardians at Machu Picchu

House of the Guardians at Machu Picchu

Although there was signage along the route for those who choose to tour the grounds on their own, we were glad that we had hired a private guide who could share his expertise as well as answer our many questions.


Signage at Machu Picchu

Signage at Machu Picchu

Urban Sector of Machu Picchu

From the guardhouse, we walked on the stone stairway which followed along the city wall (that divided the agricultural and urban sectors) to the Main Gate (Portada Principal).


Main Gate at Machu Picchu

Main Gate at Machu Picchu

After passing through the Main Gate into the urban sector, we saw some of the homes for those with little to no status. The construction of those homes would have taken much less time than that of buildings that we saw later in the morning. These homes were smaller and the stonework lacked the detail that we saw on the temples and homes of the royalty.


We continued our uphill hike in the urban sector to see the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun). During the time of the Incas, only high priests and the elite would have been allowed to enter this temple. With its semi-circular outer wall and windows aligned to the summer and winter solstice, the Torreon (tower) was built on a large granite rock at the highest point of the city. This important building with a carved stone (or altar) situated in the center was used for astronomical studies and was also where both religious (such as rituals and sacrifices) and June solstice ceremonies were held.


Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu

Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu

Much like cities today, streets in Machu Picchu were lined with residential homes separated into distinct neighborhoods. The upper town housed the royalty and a lower town was home to the lower class or common folk. Built on a steep hill, there was a large number of pathways, stairs and other passages which made access across the entire urban sector possible.


Residential Homes In Machu Picchu

Residential Homes In Machu Picchu

Although not livable by today's standards, it was amazing to see that the residences were still standing. They have withstood both years (built between 1460 - 1470), natural disasters (such as earthquakes) and even frequent rain and fog!


Residences In Machu Picchu

Residences In Machu Picchu

As we peered toward the terraces of the agricultural sector, even with today's heavy fog and off and on rain, we could still see how the slope of the mountain was transformed into a space on which crops like potatoes and maize were cultivated.


Looking Toward the Agricultural Sector of Machu Picchu

Looking Toward the Agricultural Sector of Machu Picchu

Before actually heading into the agricultural sector, we made our way downhill and further into the urban sector. There were nearly 200 buildings in the sector including the residential homes, temples and other public spaces such as schools and storage buildings.


Quick Break in the Urban Sector

Quick Break in the Urban Sector

Small groups of houses were typically connected by narrow alleyways and were centered around larger squares or courtyards with enclosures for livestock and terraces for growing crops located at the city's edge.


Urban Sector of Machu Picchu

Urban Sector of Machu Picchu

Our walk took us to the Templo de las Tres Ventanas (Temple of the Three Windows) and the Piramide del Intiwatana (the solar clock). The three large windows in this three walled structure are thought to represent the underground world, the heavens and the present world.


Temple of the Three Windows

Temple of the Three Windows

Next on our tour was a stop at the Templo Principal otherwise known as the The Main Temple. During rituals performed in the temple, sacred objects were likely placed in the large niches in the upper part of the three walls.


The Main Temple of Machu Picchu

The Main Temple of Machu Picchu

Before continuing on our tour, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to pause to pay attention to and pose with the local llamas.


Posing with the Local Llamas!

Posing with the Local Llamas!

Our next two stops were at the Roca Sagrada (Sacred Rock) and the Sala de los Espejos (Water Mirrors) which we had learned about during our visit to the Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon. It is believed that the impressions in the stones were filled with water to form reflecting pools or water mirrors used for astronomical studies.


Machu Picchu's Water Mirrors

Machu Picchu's Water Mirrors

Measuring 25 feet wide and over 3 feet tall and sitting on a large pedestal, the Sacred Rock was thought to resemble the shape of the mountains in its background. Located at the base of Huayna Picchu (or "little peak"), this far north point in the city of Machu Picchu was the location of important religious ceremonies and rituals.


Sacred Rock at Machu Picchu

Sacred Rock at Machu Picchu

Agricultural Sector of Machu Picchu

From the northernmost point in the Citadel of Macau Picchu, we reversed our hiking direction until we reached the Templo del Condors (Temple of the Condors) also known as the prisons. You might be able to see how the temple got its name - if you use your imagination, the giant rock is shaped like a condor.


Temple of the Condors

Temple of the Condors

It was from this area that we had our best views (even with the heavy fog) of the agricultural sector. In addition to creating land perfect for crop cultivation, the flat terraces ensured that the rainwater soaked into the ground on days like yesterday and today - rather than causing devastating mountain slides.

Before we said our goodbyes to Miguel, he made sure that we saw the paths which would lead us to the granaries and finally out to the exit where we would find a return bus to Aguas Calientes.


Agricultural Sector of Machu Picchu

Agricultural Sector of Machu Picchu

The thatched roofs had been restored on some of the buildings to give a feel for their original appearance.


Granaries (with restored roofs)

Granaries (with restored roofs)

As with the other Inca creations that we have seen in Peru, I continue to wonder how these structures could have been built so many years ago and withstood the test of time. The use of randomly shaped stones fit perfectly together without the use of mortar and somehow lifted to the proper height just seems impossible. Furthermore, to ensure stability during earthquakes, how did the Incas gain the wisdom and creativity to carve stones with interlocking points (the convex mound on one stone would lock into the concave crevice of another)?


Amazing Structures created by the Incas

Amazing Structures created by the Incas

Although due to the on and off rain, the temperature was quite nice, but after walking for more than three hours (and being awake for more than six hours at only 9:00 AM), we were ready to rest our feet and legs. Before heading to the granaries and ultimately the exit, we took one last opportunity to take a look back from the agricultural sector to see a part of urban sector through which we had most recently hiked. The view also turned out to be our best photo opportunity of the day as the fog was finally beginning to lift, and we could see both sectors of Machu Picchu.


Agricultural and Urban Sectors of Machu Picchu

Agricultural and Urban Sectors of Machu Picchu

Return Bus to Aguas Calientes

Prior to boarding a return bus, we followed Miguel's suggestion of stamping our passports with the Machu Picchu stamp - quite the tourist thing to do! We then walked straight to an easily found waiting bus, presented our return tickets, and within minutes we were off in a near-empty bus. We were nearing the time for a celebration of having no ill effects from the high altitudes - our biggest cause of concern for our South America adventure.


DIY Travel to Machu Picchu

If you tend to be a "do it yourself" travel planner like we are, check back soon to take a look at our post titled Machu Picchu, Logistically Speaking - Everything You Need to Know for the DIY Traveler. In addition to finding step by step instructions for buying train, bus and entrance tickets to the Inca creation, you'll find lots of other helpful facts and tips for visiting Machu Picchu.

Tips for a Visit to Machu Picchu

In an effort to help those planning a trip to Machu Picchu, we are asking all who have previously visited this "world wonder" to share one tip (or more) in the comments section below that will help ensure that others enjoy their visit.




Weather:48F Light Rain


A Gloomy Day at Machu Picchu



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Created On 09/25/2018 12:17:02  
Updated On 10/29/2018 00:05:52
Scheduled On 09/25/2018 18:15:45
Posted On 09/26/2018 17:15:45
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Peru
LinkId  GloomyMachuPicchu
StoryId  1537892222894





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