This post is for Scott, who will be proud that I made the hike in less than half the signposted time (just like the section up to the Höllentalangerhütte at Zugspitze).
Schedule for May 13th:
- Wake up at 3:45 (15 minutes before the alarm is due to ring) because the Incas want revenge on my digestive system. Immodium: check.
- Eat a quick breakfast of bread and jam, while meeting a cool Argentinian named Laura.
- Get in line at 4:30am to buy a bus ticket; hop on a bus around 5:30.
- Receive a stamp allowing me to hike up Wayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu (a privilege accorded to only 400 people per day: 200 starting at 7am and 200 starting at 10am).
- Start up Wayna Picchu at 7:00, 8th person in line; each person signs in for safety.
- Pass the other 7 people ahead of me, booking up the trail (which is about 360m-vertical of stone staircase, straight up with NO flat sections).
- Arrive at the top 10 minutes before the next hiker! Enjoy peace, solitude, and a slight hypoxic bliss after climbing 360m of uneven, ankle-wrenching stairs in 29 minutes.
- Did I mention peace and solitude at the top of the world?
- Enjoy this beautiful view of the ancient Inca city:
- Don’t forget about peace and solitude, and beautiful sunrise views.
If you have the chance to visit Machu Picchu, do not think you can do it in one day from Cusco. You must stay overnight in Aguas Calientes the night before to do this right. Some people will even want to take two days to visit Machu Picchu (which means two $40 entry tickets – but you DID come all this way!).
For those in good shape who don’t mind walking up a lot of (somewhat sketchy) stone stairs, DO get up super early and go for Wayna Picchu (also spelled Huayna Picchu). If you’re lucky like me, your jet lag (from points east) will have you waking up early anyway.
If you’re a fast hiker, make sure you’re at the front of the line of people at the Wayna Picchu gate (starting at 7am). Alone at the top, you’ll experience a peacefulness you won’t soon forget.
If you have serious hiking cojones, take the alternate route down to the Temple of the Moon, on the back side of the mountain. The trail has some hairy sections with cables/ladders, and I would NOT recommend it for those afraid of heights. It descends below the level of Machu Picchu, then climbs back up and rejoins the Wayna Picchu trail somewhere in the middle. The hike back up from the Temple feels like as much climbing as Wayna was in the first place.
A fellow blogger has his impressions here: Streets of Lima Post.
p.s. Laura, if you’re reading (and if I’ve remembered your name right), hope all is OK? Never saw you again during the day, or at the hostel before I left for a pre-train dinner of pollo a la plancha. Hope you didn’t sprain an ankle on those d*mn stairs. Incas’ revenge indeed!