Machu Picchu! Or, I finally made it to Machu Picchu…

Well, it only took four and a half months, but I have finally been to the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, and the primary reason that so many thousands of people plan trips to Peru every year. I’ll admit; I was skeptical at first. There’s something about destinations with that much hype surrounding them that makes me shy away altogether…that and I am on the ‘budget plan’ and didn’t quite see how I could justify the $150-200 it takes to get in the gate including trains, buses and entrance fees.
But, I will say right now: Machu Picchu is absolutely amazing and visitors are right to make it the lynch pin in their travel plans. It’s also worth every penny of the cost to experience this Inca sanctuary carved into the side of a mountain 9,000 and something feet above sea level.
Despite the number of other visitors exploring what was once (according to my guide anyway) a sanctuary where upper-class Incas retreated to learn more about astronomy and be closer to their gods, I felt like I had my own experience with my own perspectives.
The setting alone is magnificent. The intricately designed and constructed buildings and agricultural terraces are on a mountain surrounded by other soaring peaks in a high-altitude jungle landscape. The morning I arrived clouds were drifting between the peaks and around the iconic city; creating the sort of peaceful, mysterious energy that’s been described by so many visitors before me. After a short walk up the trail from the entrance gate you get a wise open view of the sheer scale and beauty of the place and it’s impossible not to imagine what it would be like to be a member of the Inca civilization entering the city hundreds of years ago.
We hired a local guide at the entrance gate, and she was very kind and knowledgeable about the sanctuary’s history and the people who built it hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, her English was difficult to understand…which may be another great reason to go through a reputable tour operator whose guides are screened for language abilities. Again, I don’t mean to belittle my guide – I would pity a native Spanish speaker forced to suffer through my stumbling delivery of even basic concepts.
After the tour we explored on our own, filling up the memory cards in our cameras with every perspective of every amazing view. My father’s friend and I then hiked up Wayna Picchu, the peak towering over Machu Picchu…I’ll detail that later.
Overall the day at Machu Picchu will stick in my memory as an incredible experience. Just a few tips: bring water and a couple of snacks because the only snack bar is at the entrance gate – and is incredibly overpriced. Also bring sunscreen and a sun hat, as well as rain gear. The sun in the high jungle is intense, and the weather can change quickly. And definitely don’t forget camera batteries; otherwise you’ll be trying to explain how unforgettable the place is via postcards.