Two Months in Peru--May 24,2015; Day 56
24.05.2015 - 24.05.2015 82 °F
We finished the Waynu Picchu hike, a bit tired, but elated that we had accomplished it successfully! We both said almost simultaneously “Want to climb to the Sun Gate now?” So we had a plan.
First, though we needed the bathrooms. There are no toilets in Machu Picchu proper. One must exit the site, use the facilities outside the entrance, then re-enter. The toilets cost half a Sole (US$0.17), but that includes an inadequate bit of sanitary wiping paper… To re-enter the site, you present your ticket and a piece of photo ID. the ticket is re-stamped and you are back in Machu Picchu. It is important to note that you are only allowed 3 stamps on your ticket. After that you are not readmitted. This of course results in important strategic planning regarding your allotted bathroom visits!
Back in the ruins, we navigated our way around the people and up the pathways that led to the Sun Gate Trail. It was about 1100, and there must have been 1000 people on the grounds and trails. A bit different from our 0630 entrance. Even with all the people, Machu Picchu is still unbelievably incredible. It is a very different vibe though, than Kuelap where there were only 25 visitors the entire day we visited.
The Sun Gate trail was a wide path of steps and platforms that climbed the 951 feet to the pass. The elevation gain was the same as the Wayne Picchu trail, but as the starting point was lower, the pass was a couple hundred feet below Waynu Picchu’s summit. We walked at an easy pace, passed some folks, and were passed by others. We stopped often to turn around and take in the views of Machu Picchu, appreciating the effects of the changing elevation.
There were a lot of people sitting and resting at the top, chatting and enjoying the vantage point. We lingered a while, ate our snack and drank in the view from the opposite perspective of the morning climb. When folks heard that we had climbed Wayne Picchu before the Sun Gate climb, they were astounded! One young woman told Karen that she was her new inspiration! I’m wondering if they thought we were old and exceptional, or just exceptional? I hope the latter.
We were tired when we arrived back at the main ruins, but elated at our accomplishments. We inquired about a guide to show us the ruins but at US $35 a piece for a group tour, or US $90-120 for a private guide, we decided to go it alone.
Although the guides talk about what you are seeing, no one really knows much for sure about the ruins. The proper Inca name for the City is unknown. There are educated guesses about what the structures represent, but they are still speculation. So going without a guide and the made up explanations is not such a bad thing.
The royal/sacred building and walls were amazing works of masonry. It seems that a family would be assigned to produce one stone of a wall or building. That family might work on the stone for several generations, shaping and polishing it, ensuring the proper tight fit.
The more common walls and buildings showed a rougher, less finished quality, but the masonry was still incredible, the nearly perfect fit of the stones without mortar. The Inca doorways and windows were all trapezoidal, narrower at the top than the bottom. They had not discovered the wheel or the arch, and their building style and methods reflected this.
A stone called the “Astronomy Rock” or the Intiwatana is located in the observatory area of the site. A similar stone was located in every Inca city and seemed to be a sacred element with special powers. This intawatana is the only intact, undamaged one ever discovered. During the Spanish conquest, the Spaniards destroyed every intawatana they found. Intawatana is translated as "Hitching Post of the Sun,” and it is believed to be an astronomical calendar or clock.
We tried to see all the nooks and crannies that comprised the ruins, and found as the day progressed, that it became more difficult to ascend the many steps and stairs between levels of ruins.
Finally we decided to visit the “prisoner area” to view the Condor inscribed there. The head was carved on a flat rock, with a white rock arch around it, representing th white neck collar of the male bird. Stained walls behind the rocks represent the outstretched wings of the bird. Whether this is Inca art, or guide interpretation— who knows?!
Finally we walked to the exit to find a 200 meter line-up of people waiting for busses back to Aguas Clients. The transport folks were very good at mobilizing the busses and getting people back to the pueblo with a minimum of waiting.
We had a celebratory drink and meal while waiting for the long return journey to Cusco by train and bus that evening.