The alarm went off at 3:30 AM and despite having gone to bed early it still felt crazily early. We all met in reception as agreed at 4AM and there were already people outside heading towards to the entrance line. There are actually two lines, one for the busses in Aguas Caliente, and another by the bridge that forms the beginning of the path to walk up to the ruins. Not wanting to spend an extra $12 each way and having walked this far I of course opted for the latter as did everyone in my group. This meant you had to walk an extra 25 minutes out of town and then for around an hour up stairs to the location of Machu Picchu.

The doors at the bottom of the hill for walking open at 5AM, the doors to Machu Picchu open at 6AM and we were due to meet our guide, Renzo, at around 6:15AM by the guard dog as far as I could remember. The real name of the place changed so many times in my head during that climb that I decided to do what I normally do and just follow everyone else.

We arrived in the line around 4:30 and the doors opened for us just before 5 and then it was a long hard slog to the top. I know I always say I prefer going up, a lot of the time I lie and change my mind, and this was one of those times. It wasn’t easy. And the fact that most of it was giant steps didn’t make it easier. I do actually hate hiking on Inca Trails, mostly because walking on actual earth is 100 times easier than lopsided stones and broken steps. I suppose these guys didn’t really think to build things to last…joke.

We had one champion, Claudia, who is amazing at uphill climbs and she actually beat the first bus up. It took the rest of us around an hour and we overtook a tonne of people who stopped to rest ahead of us. I don’t think anyone stopped on the way up which is not easy going.

As we went up the sun began to rise and as I had feared when I couldn’t see any stars earlier there was a lot of cloud cover. Still I decided to keep the faith with my weather luck, that’s been blowing hot and cold recently to be fair, and you can see the sun trying to break through the clouds.

We waited patiently to enter and people pushed forward as they would to get into a theme park. We went up to the Guard House, that’s the name, as instructed and waited for Renzo to arrive. As the did instead of breaking through the clouds the weather took a turn for the worse. I actually found it quite funny and it was gave the ruins a really spooky atmosphere.

Then it got even worse and this was the view from the top.

But at this point Renzo arrived. He told us that this wasn’t unusual for the morning and he thought it would be a good day.

So the thing about Machu Picchu is that there are 4000 tickets available each day. 2000 in the morning and 2000 in the afternoon. You get to walk around everything once, however, as I had a Machu Picchu Mountain ticket it gave me extra time and meant I could leave once and return. It’s $15 extra and even if you don’t want to climb the mountain it’s worth buying as there are no toilets on the inside and if you leave, then that’s the end for you.

As we couldn’t have a guided tour of the complex, because it would have meant that we would all have had to leave after. So instead we sat at the top and Renzo gave us a history of the Incas and Machu Pichu. We had an extra friend join the group.

Luckily for me during the talk the sky began to clear slowly.

And then it was time to take some photos of the city with a better view.

We decided to head over to the Inca Bridge. I wasn’t and I’m still not 100% sure what it really is but it was beautiful.

We then walked around the mountain back to the city.

At this point it was time to say our goodbyes. I had to head up the mountain in my allotted time slot and the others needed to do some more exploring before they headed down to the bus at 11am. I was joined by Yara who also had tickets. It was a short walk and these were the views on the way.

A huge part of me couldn’t quite believe that I was about to climb yet another mountain after all I’d walked over the past two days. But here we were. It wasn’t far, less than two kilometres but I’d been caught out by that before. And so we started on the up, it was tough going, especially for me and the sun was hot. The path was really difficult at times plummeting away at times. But the views got better and better.

We were told it would take 90mins to 2 hours to reach the top. I think we did it in just over and hour and then we collapsed at the top to rest.

And then it was time to return the way that we had come. When we reached the bottom we started out to the Sun gate but it was at that point when we heard the thunder from across the valleys. We decided to see the city before the rain hit.

Tara and I started investigating the ruins and at this point the rain hit. I realised that I’d left my rain jacket in my bag in Aguas Calientes. I had brought my waterproof trousers so at least my bottom half would be dry. Luckily the rain didn’t last so after waiting it out I got to see more.

And we kept wondering more.

And found some evidence of how archeologists are rebuilding the site.

And there was more.

As we neared the exit there was a part which has yet to be rebuilt and you can see how the ruins would have been when they were first rediscovered.

And then is was time to leave and we started heading back down the stairs to Aguas Calientes. Yara pointed out that we have been walking on stairs for 5 hours that day. If I ever hear anyone from the office moaning about having to climb five flights of stairs when the lift is broken…

It took an hour to get back down. At which point it started raining so I put on my waterproof trousers to keep my bottom dry. I stripped down to my hiking shirt and wore sunglasses and a baseball cap. I have no idea how insane I looked to anyone else but I’m glad there were no mirrors. As we arrived in Aguas Caliente the downpour became really heavy and I just about made it back to the hostel as the real storm hit which I was lucky to escape.

I passed the time for the train by rewarding myself with a pizza before I joined a very soggy crowd of people in the station. On the way back I was treated to a man as a dancing bird and a fashion show. I was to tired at this stage to even contemplate this so did my best to ignore and I later found out that I must have been in first class as the other carriages did not get this treat. All of my batteries had died, so no phone, camera or anything else to distract.

The train took more than the 90minutes to get to Ollantaytambo, which I realised I ended up visiting two days later, and then I found my driver because he spotted me. We couldn’t find the others so he took me to the minibus and there I waited for him to locate the others. Having a card with our names on it seemed not to be an option. Still as with everything in South America it all worked find and he returned with the other passengers.

We drove back to Cusco arriving around 10:30 and I made it back to the hostel ending one of the longest days of the trip. Excluding he first one. And there we go, a magical experience and having ticked of visiting somewhere I’ve dreamed about for so long. Is it the best thing I’ve seen in South America, no, possibly not even I my top 10 but 100% worth it and I don’t think there is a possibility that I couldn’t go.