Saturday, 31 May 2014

Woohoo, Day 4 Machu Pichu

Being awoken at 3:30 am in order to get to the Sun Gate for Sunrise, we bundled up, donned our headlamp flashlights, quickly packed, ate another delicious breakfast, and were off by 4:30. The best part of breakfast was the quinua, oatmeal and applesauce porridge. Yum!

Once on the trail, it really didn't seem to matter what time it was, as we were awake pretty quickly in the fresh early morning air, and full of excitement in anticipation of arriving at our hard won destination. We had to wait at the checkpoint for 45 minutes, as the staff didn't open it until 5:30. However, we were glad to be at the front of the line, as there were several hundred people who arrived after us.
Finally, it opened and we were on pur way, most of us in a joyous mood, the fatigue of the last few days slipping away in anticipation. Unfortunately, Marianne's cold seemed to be at its worst, and she was terribly congested. We still had quite a few climbs to do, so it was pretty hard for her. As you can see by the pictures, she did her best to keep smiling in spite of her struggles.

As the finish line approached, Marianne and I started to talk about the amazing team that we have come to know through this experience. This has definitely been one of our favorite parts of the trip, as every person was a fascinating, accomplished person in their own right. We started to reflect on how much we would miss them, as our little family would soon be coming to an end. Exchanging emails, we promised to stay in touch, and to hopefully see each other again. We wish everyone of them the very richest of God's blessings in the future.

Today's trek felt like a bit of a horse race as we quick stepped toward the Sun Gate in order to catch the sun rising over Machu Pichu. We arrived in good time, and found ourselves a comfortable perch to sit upon and reflect on our journey. I felt such emotion well up inside as I looked down on the ruins that I had dreamed of seeing for so many years, and had worked so hard to get to. There are many people that I know who are not able to do this trek for a variety of reasons. I think of a special person that I love whose physical limitations prevent him from taking on hard physical challenges, but remains my greatest cheerleader and encourager. I think of our friend Susan who had to cancel at the last minute, even though she was probably the member of our group who wanted this trip the most. As the sun slowly climbed over the mountain, inching toward Machu Pichu, I closed my eyes and said a prayer of gratitude that I am so richly blessed to be in this wondrous place.
The Sun Gate
Machu Pichu esconced in full sunlight was quite wonderful, and we could see that there were already a lot of people exploring the ruins. "Rock and Roll", Reuben said for the 100th time on our trip, and we were on our way once more. After about 20 minutes, we finally arrived! I choked back the tears of exhaustion and happiness as we posed for our last group picture, and took some time to just gaze and enjoy.

We had to leave the ruins in order to take a bathroom break and to buy some much needed junk food. Some members of the group bought themselves a beer, but Marianne and I enjoyed a nice chocolate dish of ice cream. Ahhhh! Back into the ruins, we enjoyed a guided tour in which Reuben explained more about the site, and what historians believe to have been its function. Given that there was no recorded history of the Incas, they believe that this was a type of Inca university where people came to learn from the elders. There are homes for the Emperor of the time, as well as homes for the students who lived there. It is also thought that this site housed virgin young women, who were chosen for their beauty to become sacrifices to the Gods.

Machu Pichu

Marianne and I took a break from the group in order to honour Susan's greatest desire, which was to sit in a quiet place in the ruins, in order to pray and meditate. Although the ruins were very busy, we found the perfect place, a large rock outcropping, said a prayer of gratitude for making it to the ruins, as well as for Susan and her friend who has been enduring some challenging medical issues.

After finishing exploring the ruins, we took the bus to Agua Caliente, where we had a couple hours to explore the cute little mountain town with great character. We took the bus from there to Ollantayyambo, then caught our tour bus back home to our hotel in Cuzco. A shower and clean clothes were absolutely heavenly. After a quick supper, trip to the laundry with our filthy camp clothes, and calls to our loved ones back home, we were soon off to a delicious sleep.



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