Having travelled half way around the world, by train, plane and automobile, I was worried that Machu Picchu wouldn’t live up to the hype and would be overcrowded & underwhelming – but I’m happy to say I was completely wrong. Machu Picchu alone made our entire South American adventure worth it.
Machu Picchu has a reputation for being one of the seven wonders of the “modern” world, “modern” being the last couple of thousand years. Built around 1450 AD, during the reign of the Incan emperor Pachacuteq, it is certainly “modern” if you compare its age with the likes of the great pyramid in Egypt.
The classic route to Machu Picchu is a four day trek over serious terrain at high altitude, and whilst I would have loved to do this, Elizabeth was too young, so we happily plumped for the cheaper, faster and easier option – we took the train.
There is no way around it unfortunately, the best time to visit Machu Picchu is at the crack of dawn, which meant a 4am start and a takeaway breakfast eaten in the bus queue. By 6:30 we were stood on the terraces of Machu Picchu next to the caretaker’s hut, and Elizabeth was feeling the cold as we waited for sunrise. To our right we had dawn breaking over the Andes and to our left we had the moon setting behind Saksarayuq. It was a stunning sight to see the morning light bring the flat pre-dawn landscape to life.
While Machu Picchu is built on top of a mountain, there are still higher peaks all around, and the drop back down to the valley floor half a kilometre below appeared precipitous at times. This made for a completely unique, and sometimes vertigo inducing experience that you can’t get from all the photos in the world – though we’ll try.