Machu Picchu

Reminds me of Disney World.

Much of it involved getting from one place to another. And waiting in line.

I boarded a train from Ollantaytambo at five in the morning–the first time in Peru I’ve been up before sunrise. The ride lasted an hour and a half. Through the window, I watched the sky grow lighter.

The peaks were shrouded in light gray when I arrived in Machu Picchu Pueblo–commonly known as Aguas Calientes. I followed the crowd exiting the platform to find a very long wait for the bus to the ruins. I bought a poncho–for 2.50 soles, or about 75 cents, it seemed like a sound insurance policy–and waited.


The man in front of me with the brown hat kept looking back. When we got near the buses, I found out why; a large group of Japanese tourists joined him.

As the bus wound its way up the narrow road, I glanced at my phone. The time was nearing 8:00 AM; I was supposed to be climbing Machu Picchu mountain by now. I worried myself thinking that the entrance policy was strict.

No time to enjoy the view; when I reached the gates, I power-walked past tour groups patiently waiting for stragglers. I arrived at the path to the mountain at 8:05.

The lady checked my ticket, made me sign in, and sent me on my way up.


Ten years ago, I visited the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. I saw nothing but clouds.

I was reminded of that experience as I ascended the mountain. In some places, there was nothing but a wall of white. Most of my pictures look like the one above. And it’s a difficult climb. Not technical–there are stairs–but steep.

Yet I don’t feel like I wasted three hours. The rush of climbing the last step and seeing the marker made the burning in my legs go away.


The authentic Machu Picchu experience involves a four or five day trek from Cusco–crossing mountains and sleeping in tents. The Inca Trail enters Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. A 45-minute walk there gives a different perspective to the ruins.


It was almost noon when I reached the Sun Gate, which felt like a good time to be there. Appropriately, the sun was breaking through.


Weather plays a role in the experience of Machu Picchu. The views of the ruins on Saturday were unique to me and the other 2,499 people who were there. The 2,500 who went on Sunday saw something else.


The path I took to reach this point felt right. Pisac was difficult; walking up to those ruins made me feel like a conqueror. Moray was remote; it had a sense of mysticism. Ollantaytambo was impressive; I wondered how primitive people got such huge stones to such great heights.

Machu Picchu was the culmination of all those feelings in one.

Like Disney World, Machu Picchu involves a lot of waiting. And, like Disney World, the payoff for the wait is incredible.


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