We woke at 3:30, and quickly vacated our tents and ate breakfast. We travelled for about 10 mins from base camp in the dark to the checkpoint. This checkpoint was an admission gate to Machu Picchu which opens at 5:30 am, so we waited.
Our group at first walked together slowly, as one group member had badly twisted her ankle. After several groups passed us, many of our own group members started to move ahead as well. It wasn’t a far walk to reach the Sun Gate however the trail was surprisingly thin and did require a lot of attention, which is likely why they do not permit hikers on the trail when dark! When we finally did reach the next summit, we were on our hands and knees to crawl up the last stretch, to reach the tippy-top of the Sun Gate! These “stairs” where finely stacked stones and included some larger ones of what I believed to be jade, and I told Sam that he needed to kiss it for luck & respect! (I totally made it up. He once had me kiss the dirty Brickyard in Indianapolis on a past trip!)
When we reached the Sun Gate, the sky was filled with clouds and we could not see Machu Pichu! All the people who had raced like crazy ahead of us had been watching cloud the whole time! We were so fortunate to have not missed anything, and it made me feel better about being slow! About 15 mins after our arrival the clouds lifted and revealed what we all had been waiting for! What a sight! The size of Machu Pichu from the location was an incredible sight! I couldn’t believe how large this site was, and that it was so well intact.
The descent from the Sun Gate was steep but felt like nothing like what we had just experienced over the past few days. There were times when stairs were used, and the path was much more even, however there remained the huge drop off along the path and stairs that had become familiar to us!
Once down on the site, we were briefed by our guide on the history of the discovery of the site and theory as to what the location was used for, and what happened to the people who lived there. To be honest, after all the early mornings, the hard work hiking and the lulling tone of our guide’s voice, I had a really hard time not falling asleep (there was some hard chin to chest drops!) The sun was bright and hot while we explored the area. I am so glad we went as it is incredible.
Before we knew it, it was time to get in the LONG line for the bus back to town! As long as the line was it did move pretty quickly. I would recommend 30 mins allocated for this wait; in case you are racing to catch the train back! We did take the train later that day back to Cusco where we spent the night in the same hotel as we had our first stay in Cusco. We repacked our bags that we had left at the hotel before the hike, had long hot showers, accessed some bug bites and black toenails, all while we reviewed the last 4 days. Those days changed us. They brought us together, brought us new friends and gave us the self-empowerment that we really can do anything, we might be slower than others, but we can and we did do it!