In the Time Flies series, I look back at whatever I was doing a year ago. There’s nothing wrong with reminiscing in my humble opinion and if you’re at home rather than actually adventuring, then done well, it allows your imagination to carry you elsewhere for a few minutes. In this post, I’m revisiting one of the big travel experiences of my life…
A year ago today I was absolutely exhausted, having been up since 3.30am to climb up the stone stairs to the Lost City of the Incas following the gruelling 4-day Salkantay trek. But my, was it worth it.
By just before 5am I was already climbing up the steep stone stairs to Machu Picchu. I felt as though I, along with everyone else there, had completely lost my mind. There was a bus, for heaven’s sake! It was dark for most of the walk, the pace was fast and it was utterly relentless: as soon as I allowed myself to think I might be nearly at the top, more steps appeared.
I’m not too ashamed to admit that I was literally sobbing in exhaustion before I even got halfway but somehow I made it to the top in time to – somewhat ironically – get the limited tickets allowing you to climb another huge hill once inside the site.
I blame my short legs and my lack of sleep, but it was one of the hardest physical things I’ve ever done.
Machu Picchu looked exactly as I had expected, although the surrounding scenery – the green, volcanic valley nestled in the clouds – was almost more impressive than the site itself. After taking in some of the main structures and resting in the sun at one of the best viewpoints, I joined the rest of my trekking group for the hike up Huayna Picchu, the peak that forms the elegant backdrop to the ruins.
Some of the sections involved pulling myself up with a rope it was so steep, but the view from the top was stunning. Machu Picchu and the river from which I’d climbed that morning looked tiny and it was hard to believe how far I’d walked over the past few days. The final challenge of the day was dragging myself up to the Sun Gate on the far side of the city.
Does Machu Picchu deserve its grand billing? Like many great sights, seeing it for real was perhaps slightly underwhelming. I felt like I’d seen it so many times before, and it really does look like it does in all the photos in glossy travel mags.
Posing in front of the ruins sometimes felt no more than a box being ticked (and indeed I got a stamp in my passport for it). But like the greatest of experiences, it was the journey that made it unforgettable.