Our day in Machu Picchu began with the sound of our 4.30am alarm – which turned out to be unnecessary as every other person in our hostel was also getting up at that time to go to Machu Picchu. The hostel even served breakfast at 5am for all the early risers! We were all getting up early for a couple of reasons – to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu, and to beat the crowds that would later flock there. We took a bus that left from the little town of Aguas Calientes (which means hot waters and refers to the hot springs which we swam in the night we arrived). We arrived at the site around 6.30am, and were able to watch the rays of the sun coming over the mountains and hitting the terraces.
Our first stop was Huayana Picchu, the mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu ( it is the one in the background in the top photo). Only 400 people are allowed to climb every day, and we had booked several days in advance for the climb. We were part of the 7am group (with the other 200 people allowed to go at 10am). The climb was an hour of scrambling up a very steep path (helpfully, they had ropes at some parts to help you get up), but the reward was an incredible view over the site, being able to explore the buildings on the mountain, and sitting peacefully in the early morning sun watching the mountains around us. Reuben even managed to have a nap on one of the flat rocks – I stayed awake to make sure he didn’t roll off! This was really one of the highlights of the day and we felt so lucky to get to do this.
After the steep climb down, we took a short nap on one of the grassy terraces and then headed out of the complex for an early lunch. Unfortunately, Reuben twisted his ankle and scraped his arm doing this, but he persevered in exploring. We then went back to explore the more traditional route around the site with the help of a guide book. Our first stop was the caretaker’s hut, which sits high over the site and gives a stunning view of the complex and the three main areas – sacred, secular and agricultural.
We then hiked down through the main gate to see the temple and sacred buildings. We managed to get lost here, and had to retrace our steps a few times, but we did manage to see all the highlights. Despite a light rain, we still managed to explore the area and see the different parts. After nine hours there, we were ready for a rest and headed back for a coffee before taking a train and mini bus back to Cusco.