After years of working in the travel industry, I had finally made my way to Machu Picchu ruins! We arrived by train into Machu Picchu town around eleven, and decided to eat lunch before heading up to the ruins. Juan, our guide, said that it tends to be busier in the mornings and he prefers to head up there in the afternoon. We wandered around the town, went to the market, had lunch, and then boarded the bus to Machu Picchu. Upon arrival, I could see how hectic it could be up there! There were hundreds of people waiting for buses down, waiting in line for the bathrooms, or just generally hanging out in the parking area. After we went through the gates and got our stamps in our passports, we were immediately greeted with our first view of the ruins. It was really beautiful! I have seen hundreds of pictures of the ruins, but seeing it in person was something else!
We took some photos and then Juan took us on a thorough tour of the ruins. Luckily we were all pretty active so we did not leave anything out. Unfortunately, we did not pre-purchase tickets to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, so we were unable to hike up either mountain surrounding the ruins. After a couple hours touring the various buildings and terraces, learning about how they think they built the city, and where all the workers lived and traveled from to build Machu Picchu, Monika and I decided we wanted to try to hike up to the Sungate, up the Inca Trail. The Sungate is the first place you come to on the traditional Inca Trail hike where you can see the ruins. It is about a mile or so from the ruins, and offers spectacular views. We took off quickly, but only had about 45 minutes until the ruins closed. We wanted to try though! We hiked as fast as we could, practically running up the trail, but the farther we got from the ruins, the more we realized that we were not going to make it in time. The Sungate really is more rewarding if you have been hiking for days and are finally able to see the ruins. We did, however, get some great views from the trail, and it was great to see how difficult the trail can actually be. Not only are you hiking at high elevation, climbing up and down the Andes, but you also are walking on old Inca trails, which were often built with pretty high steps, over and over.
Overall, I thought the ruins were pretty phenomenal. I am always impressed with the thought of building ruins like that, especially hundreds of years ago. The Incas were incredibly advanced and were able to build cities where we wouldn't even imagine, even with our modern technology! Being a lover of the outdoors, the thing that impressed me the most were the surrounding landscape. I knew it would be beautiful, but standing high up at the ruins, you are surrounded by steep, jungle-covered mountains that reach high above the valleys below. I am not sure I'll be back to Machu Picchu, but I could spend a lot more time in the mountains of Peru!