Having just written about having low (or no) expectations when travelling, we had some reservations about visiting Machu Picchu. For many travellers, the majestic ruins, often proceeded by the trek to reach them, is the pinnacle of their trip and the event around which they plan the rest of their travels. Not so for us. Indeed, the crazy amount of hype surrounding the ruins (witness the entire city of Cusco revolving around catering to this exact demand) made us, if anything, more inclined not to go. But eventually we thought we’d better not skip it, and we were so glad we didn’t. The other reason that we were thinking of skipping the whole thing is because after our two day trek through the mountains around Sucre, the very thought of trekking for four days at altitude was one that struck us as both hilarious and terrifying. It just wasn’t going to happen. But some friends we met on our Uyuni trip told us about a Jungle Trek that involved ziplining, mountain biking, and even white water rafting (sadly cancelled on our trip), to get to the ruins…all in all, a much more exciting prospect. When we got to Cusco we found that the Jungle Trek was almost as popular as the real thing (cue warning bells again). But we went with the company we were recommended, and so began three days of adrenaline and beautiful views, all making our way towards the ruins.
And what a prize awaited us…rising at 4am (stop laughing) to be at the gate when it opened at the bottom of the mountain, we climbed almost vertically, or so it felt, for just over an hour. Although our time was quite respectable, we were sweating, trembling, wheezing wrecks by the time we got to the top. How people can do four days of it is quite beyond me. We staggered through our two hour tour of the ruins before being left to our own devices for the rest of the day. We spent 10 hours at Machu Picchu, pretty much just looking at it. We’d find ourselves a nice quiet spot, sit down and just admire the view for an hour, before wandering off to find another angle, and look at the view from there, too. We found the place to be actually a little different than we’d imagined; after all, you only see one angle in most of the famous photos. But it was a tranquil experience that didn’t feel at all like 2,500 people a day squeeze through the gates. We even snuck in a nap in the sun at one point (4am start, remember).
Would Machu Picchu be such a big deal to modern travellers if it weren’t for its wonderful location? Possibly not, but its cultural, religious, and commercial significance is obvious from its size and the variety of activities carried out there. We had a wonderful day and for once, we were glad that the high expectations and hype didn’t cloud what turned out to be a fantastic experience, the memories of which we will carry with us as a highlight of this trip.