WE MADE IT!
The final day. The finish line. The finale. It came and passed a lot quicker than I had expected.
Seeing Machu Picchu at sunrise is quite the experience. We woke up at 3:00am, packed up all of our things, layered up because it was freezing out, and hiked a short while to the entrance of our final pass. Dressed and ready to hike, we instead found ourselves waiting in line for about an hour or two. It was what I imagined the early risers who camp out for Black Friday looked like. Just waiting…and waiting…and waiting. At 5:30am they finally opened and we were launched into our last couple of hours on the trail, surrounded by hundreds of anxious hikers. I remember looking back and seeing a line of headlamps dotting the trail like a string of Christmas lights. Everyone had one destination on their mind.. We were climbing to Inti Punku [“Gate of the Sun”].
The trail was beautiful again, just like day three. The stone path was surrounded by moss and greenery and towers of trees. The sun was slowly coming up and we were getting closer. We descended until we got to “the gringo killer”, which was a humorous set of steep-ass steps leading to the top of the sun gate. I think I laughed when I looked up the flight of stairs. They were so steep and vertical that it’s impossible to just walk up. Like, you literally had to use your hands and feet to climb up these steps. Hah! But once you get to the top – there it is. Machu Picchu in all it’s glory!
Machu Picchu shined like gold in the sunlight. After enjoying the view from the top, we began our 3 mile descend to Machu Picchu. And when we got there, it was surreal. The ruin was right in front of me. It was incredible seeing it in person after only seeing it on Pinterest and travel websites. It was bittersweet for me; sweet to finally arrive after 3 exhausting days, but sad because the journey was coming to an end. Our tour guides left us to explore the ruin for a couple of hours [which was short-lived because I was too sore to walk!] After, we took a bus down to Aguas Calientes – a quaint little town below Machu Picchu that I wish I spent more time in. We had our last meal with our trek which turned out to be one hell of a celebration because two of our fellow hikers announced that they were newly engaged! Time to drink!
[…4 drunken hours later…]
After taking a train ride and a bus to Cusco, we were back in the middle of the city – back to reality. It was like culture shock going from 4 days of solitude with no technology and no civilization to the hustle and bustle of city life with traffic, and noises, and WiFi. Too much too soon. I have never wanted to return to the wilderness so bad. That night, our first night back sleeping in a normal bed, I told Talia, “I would give anything to be back in that tent right now…” I wanted to be back on the Inca Trail, with a new challenge every day, with my 4-day family of hikers. Just take me baaaccckkk!
I never thought I’d say this, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I think. Or just fill my life with these types of experiences. Yeah, that’s it.