Leaving Ollantaytambo we took a first class train to Aguas Caliente. The train follow the Urubamba river with beautiful mountains and gorges. The road ends about 25 miles before Machu Picchu, so only way there is by train or walking, which many people do.
From the Machu Picchu train station, we walked through a market (no time to stop!!) and we got the park bus which goes up a zig zag road (Hiram Bingham “Highway”) for 30 min looking out over very steep valleys and mountains. Beautiful.
Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu allows us plenty of time to tour the site and we were the last group to come down the mountain at 5:30p. Most people visit for the day and take the train back to Cuzco so they tend to leave early in the afternoon. Because we were staying locally, we got to linger later in the day and have the whole place to ourselves for the last hour. Magical!!!
The ruins are so amazing (done within 100 years) and so high up. What a place. The overcast clouds and mist added to the drama and beauty of the scene with the tops of mountains peering through the clouds. Steven was taking pictures near the Temple of the Sun and when he got up from the ground, slipped and hurt his left pinkie. The nail looked horrible and the finger quickly was swollen and purple. Didn’t stop him from taking pictures though! Henry did a great job of explaining the history of Machu Picchu. Had a local guide, Joel, join us but Henry did all the explaining.
Leaving at 6:30 am from our hotel, five of us left to visit the Sun Gate. (Steven, Sylvia, Howard, Ken and Ray with Joel as our guide.)
The Sun Gate is 8923 feet and 90 feet higher than Huayna Picchu which has all the very steep steps and is the peak shown behind the ruins. We encountered several groups of hikers coming down from the Sun Gate as we hiked up; and when we arrived fewer than ten people were there. After about an hour, Steven, Joel and Sylvia headed back down the Inca Trail. But before we did, the fog and clouds were starting to clear a bit and there was an opening in the fog like a frame for Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.
Joel was our private tour guide for the rest of the morning. Great guide. He took us to the Guard House and was able to use Sylvia's phone to take pictures of us along the way with great views of the main ruins.