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Day 47 - Machu Picchu (17th May)

Wow.... that´s all I can say.... wow...

I went out for dinner on the evening of the 16th with the gang from the trek... it was our tour leader Bobby´s birthday so we had a bit of a celebration. Early wake up call the next morning at 4.45am soon put paid to too late a night.

Still, we were based in Aguas Calientes about a 30min bus ride from Machu Picchu and I was nervous with anticipation of what I would feel and experience.... I only managed about four or five hours sleep which is kind of on a par for the last few weeks....

We got to the bus stop the next morning and the queue was huge... being English... I felt so much at home. Aahh the delights of the queue, so comforting. We got on the bus at 5.30am and started the journey up the mountain... About 20mins into it an explosive vision appeared to my right... the incredible sight of Machu Picchu (which means old mountain btw) Wow.... it was breathtaking.

You can´t help but feel something when you see this amazing sanctuary for the first time. I felt awe, it was magnificent.

We stopped at the entrance just next to the $800 a night hotel outside of the main entrance... oh well, I was always expecting some element of commercialism here (my Chicken sandwich at lunch was about 5 pounds, compared to 2 pounds in other places i´d visited).

When we got in we made a speedy trek to pick up tickets to climb Waynu Picchu (young mountain) which stands adjacent to Machu Picchu. Only 400 are available. Unfortunately, my blisters from my trekking exploits got the better of me so I decided not to climb. Taran very kindly took the camera up to share the experience.

We then headed up to the Guard House at the top of Machu Picchu to watch the sun rise above the mountain and illuminate the buildings below...

It was a real privilege to see the sun appear above the mountains. I have to admit that I pulled my iPod out and listened to Mascagni - Cavelleria Rusticana (from The Godfather), Pachelbel - Kanon in D minor and Albinoni - Adagio in Sol Minore. I don´t know why but it just felt right to see the sun lighting up Machu Picchu to the sound of inspirational classical music... I was totally lost in the scene. I was sat on a rock, my left elbow on my knee, left hand on my cheek gazing in absolute awe at what was unfolding below me...

The tour was excellent. Our guide talked with passion and authority about Machu Picchu, how it was a sanctuary and not a city, the theories behind why it wasn´t finished, the story behind the rediscovery of the place by Hiram Bingham and how years before a German guy made the same discovery... incredible.

The way the Inca´s set about building such masterpieces is also fascinating. The accuracy of how they cut the stones to create the buildings...

the perfection that they sought in the numerous terraces that adorn the main living areas to protect the mountain from erosion.

We spent six or seven hours at Machu Picchu with a good hour of that spent just soaking up the vision of the place.

We left at about 12.30pm to get the train back to Ollantaytampo and then the bus back to Cusco.

We arrived around 6pm last night and planned to go out for some drinks... exhaustion got the better of us around midnight and I was very pleased to be in my hotel bed in Cusco...

Today, I signed up for 15 hours of intensive Spanish lessons... Should be interesting... My time in South America is coming to an end but I already know that this beautiful and diverse continent and I will not be strangers for long.....


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