TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2007. INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU. Although it rained during the night, we awoke at 4:00 a.m. to overcast skies. The weather looked like it might clear up during the final leg of our trek to Machu Picchu. After eating breakfast and breaking camp, we were at the trailhead at 5:30 a.m. There must have been about a hundred other hikers among us. We hiked six kilometers in about two hours to reach Intipunku (Sun Gate). Steep stairs lead up to Intipunku, which sits on a ridge. As I climbed the final steps and came over the ridge, there before me lay Machu Picchu, shrouded in part by the early morning mist. Amazing! I just stood there in awe of the "Lost City" spread out before me.
After 40 kilometers and four days of hiking, our goal was in sight. We proceeded down the final descent into the city of Machu Picchu savoring every moment and forgetting all the pain from the last three days. The Inca Trail enters Machu Picchu from above and near the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock. Here is where the classic views and photos of Machu Picchu are taken.
After storing our packs, we were given a tour of the primary sites of Machu Picchu by Edwin. One of the more interesting facts that I learned was that the person credited with rediscoverying and bringing Machu Picchu to the attention of the world, Hiram Bingham III, is from my home town, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America. In fact, he also is a graduate of my high school, Punahou School (Class of 1892).
After the tour, we said our goodbyes and I had a few hours to wander the city on my own. I visited the Inca Bridge, a ten minute hike from the city along a cliff hugging trail. It turned out to be a refreshing break from the crowds in Machu Picchu as there were only a couple of others on the trail. As I was leaving the city, I ran into Elisa again. And at the exit, I saw Maria and Pilar, my tentmates. I caught an overpriced bus (20 soles; $7) to Aguas Calientes, where I met Edwin, who had my train ticket back to Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo, a bus took me back to Cuzco, arriving at 8 p.m. and completing my fabulous four day trek of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.