“It’s fantastic! The best thing I’ve ever done! You’ll love it!”
While this is undeniably true, the well-intentioned recommenders are also somewhat misleading. There are a few things you cannot perceive from photos and words. On these two recommendations alone (aka, picture and word), I set off on a trip to Peru. I could talk for ages on the hiking and the country, but let’s just start with Machu Picchu herself.
Height: No one mentions just how high you are when you are standing overlooking this landskape. We’re talking, this makes Denver feel like sea level. Not only that, but I hiked the Salkantay trek (in lieu of the Inca Trail), which actually goes above Machu Picchu on a neighboring mountain before dropping down into the ruins. The air is thin. Beautiful and clear, yes, but the oxygen deprivation may have something to do with the amnesia everyone seems to suffer after climbing the peaks. Everything is steep. No family-safe handrails here. It seems that with all the terrascapes, one with less-sure footing could easily tumble off the edge. But no one does. You are high.
Weather: our Peruvian guide hustled us up to the mountain top at o’-dark-thirty in the morning, insisting that we had to see the ruins at sunrise. We all excitedly followed along. How could we forget one obvious fact? FOG usually hugs the mountains in the morning. Machu Picchu is no exception. We arrived and couldn’t see a hand in front of our faces. It looked more like this:
And we learned, after arriving, this fog is common for approximately 90% of the visitors arriving at dawn. “But if it’s sunny, it’s spectacular,” our guide insisted. Great. Fortunately for us, it cleared by about noon, in time for the crowds to arrive.
Llamas: there are llamas everywhere. Peruvians know this, but it’s like a big practical joke for us tourists. In the fog it was quite interesting, having a llama creep up from behind. What was up with that?
Historical significance: For some reason, I believed the Incan ruins were ancient. I thought while white people were puttering around with fire, the Incans had scurried up these mountains and built an empire. Not so. This was happening about when the last of the Oxford colleges was constructed. Still impressive? Yes, but not because the Incans were so historically advanced. I asked more, how in the world did they hoist these enormous stones so high?
Grandeur of the Landscape: If you are underwhelmed by the architectural advances of the Incans (for the time period in which they were created), there is nothing underwhelming about the landscape. The surrounding peaks are majestic. Save enough energy to walk to the Sun Gate. You will be tired, but it. is. worth. it.
You’ll love it!
Has anyone climbed Machu Picchu? What was your experience like?