Tales from the Road: Machu Picchu
Residential Sector of Machu Picchu
Even when it was clear at daybreak, sun and humidity often brought clouds and mist steaming up from the Urubamba River Valley below.  The mists of course just added to the mystique of these Inca ruins.
Near the main gate at Machu Picchu, overlooking the Urubamba River Valley March 21 -- It is the Equinox and we're hoping to catch the sunrise over the ancient "Lost city of the Incas".  We got up at 5, had breakfast at 5:30, got to the buses by 6:15 for that winding, switchbacked road up the side of the mountain to Machu Picchu.  It's overcast, but we're still excited... hard to believe at this hour.  Carol and John and I were among the first 20 people through the gate.

There was no sunrise today, but our first glimpse of the ruins was breathtaking.  This place is very cool!  There were eight of us in our little group.  Our guide Ernesto turned us over to another guide, Pasqual, for a tour of the highlight areas.  We saw the Temple of the Sun and the ceremonial baths (still working, but no hot water), the Royal Tomb, the Sacred Plaza and the Sacristy.  We saw lots more too and then did further explorations on our own.

We didn't hike the famed Inka Trail, but came intstead by train.  The trail is a four day jaunt through some high mountain passes and through some additional interesting Inca ruins.  I think the continuation of the rainy season also caused a bit of hesitation.  At this point in our journey, we welcomed our comforts.

By mid-morning it was warm and sunny, and aside from the hikers coming down from the Inca Trail, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of people around.  This was great!  Although there were several hundred people there, Machu Picchu is a big place and we felt we almost had the ruins to ourselves.

We found out later that a landslide had delayed all three trains into Aguas Calientes that morning.  Good thing we'd come in the day before.

There was another small group there who had also come in early, obviously not hikers.  Dressed completely in white, they had climbed up Huayna Picchu (the mountain behind Machu Picchu in all the postcards) and were up there blowing on conch shell horns, waiting to welcome extraterrestrials.  We heard them blowing away all afternoon long, the acoustics in the ruins were superb.  It sounded like something from the film Close Encounters.

This was after all Machu Picchu of course, one of those legendary cosmic energy centres, and it was, after all, the Equinox.  Alas, no space aliens showed up while we were there, and as we left the ruins late in the afternoon we saw the gang in white climbing slowly down the steps of Huayna Picchu, no doubt a little disappointed.

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Come cruise the Galápagos Islands
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The Central Plaza of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background.  This was the mountain that the folks in white climbed so they could greet the space aliens.  Yes, there is a trail.
Industrial sector of Machu Picchu in Peru

On the trail to the Inca drawbridge at Machu Picchu
Carol and Ernesto on the trail to the Inca drawbridge around the back of Machu Picchu.  The trail was about a meter wide and 1500 meters down.  Fortunately, traffic was light and we all made it there and back safely.