At 3:30 am the fake crow alarm sounds. Waiting for us in the meal's tent was this wonderful cake! A cake that was made the night before. It said "Feliz viaje a Machu Picchu" Happy travel to Machu Picchu.
Jorge had impressed upon us this important piece of information: his group is always the first to reach Machu Picchu. There were other groups around the camp site. However, we were the closest group to the entrance gate. That alone would not guarantee first prize. This is why we got up half an hour earlier than the other groups. And this is why we bolted for the entrance gate after scoffing down our cake.
On reaching the entrance gate we had to wait....
...and wait...and wait for 1.5 hours when security would arrive to check our tickets.
And when that door opened it was like we had been teleported to Pamplona on the day they run the bulls. Click below to hear our elation on being the first group to make it through.
After an hour we finally reached the Sun gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu. It is through this gate the sun enters and lights up the Lost City.
We walked down a path towards Machu Picchu anxious to finally see the real thing. But we always have time for llamas so we stopped to snap these docile cuties. Below, TZ asked this llama if he had any idea just how prime his real estate was!
Ladies and gentleman, may we present the spectacular Machu Picchu. The culmination of not only our 4 day hike along the famous Inca trail but of our 7 month journey around South America...
It did not take long for hoards of tourists to arrive - including a surprising reunion with our friends John and Finola. You may remember them from previous blogs such as the Amazon and Arequipa.
For those tourists keen to see Machu Picchu but not keen to partake in any kind of strenuous activity, they can simply take a helicopter ride. Below we were horrified to see the landing pad.
Jorge took us down into the Lost City to show us just why it is so remarkable.
The Incas were among the best stone masons the world had seen. They were masters of a technique called ashlar in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. Many junctions are so perfect that not even a knife fits between the stones.
Peru is a highly seismic land. Interestingly, the mortar free construction is actually more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. However, Jorge pointed out several more design details that would further prevent the walls from collapsing in the event of an earthquake. For example, the doors and windows tilt inward from bottom to top and the walls are offset slightly from row to row as you may be able to see in the picture below.
As a result, Machu Picchu is a city that has stood up well to earthquakes over the years. Considering it was built in 1450 this is a remarkable achievement!
The Incas never used the wheel in any form to assist them with transporting the stones. So how they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones on one another is a mystery. The general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes.
A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position. After they were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away.
We came across this interesting rock formation. Does it resemble anything else you can see in the photo? Maybe the mountain range behind? The Incas never fail to impress!
Those who chose to take a helicopter ride would have found out the easy way that Machu Picchu was actually built in the shape of a llama! Those who prefer to do things the hard way climb up Wyna Picchu - the prominent mountain shown below...and present in almost every photo on this page!
Having hiked already for 4 days, some of us where less keen than others to climb again...
But the JeTZ have a philosophy, well many really, but one of the most useful one is this: The harder it is to get somewhere, the more rewarding the experience. Only 400 people are allowed to climb Wyna Picchu in a day but because we were so fortunate to have arrived early, we were one of the lucky 400 people.
Jez and Rob are not star gazing in this photo. The climb was steep but look at the smile on Jez's face. Pain seems to be his best friend!
And what a view from the top! Never had we seen such a concertina of mountains before!
You need to use a little imagination but here you can see an aerial shot of a llama-shaped Machu Picchu.
To be perfectly honest, even we could hardly make it out.
The climb down was interesting. Rickety ladders and tiny steps guiding us down the scenic route to a cave...
...which proved to us that the journey was indeed more important than the destination!
Every year porters and guides run a race across 44 km of the Inca trail. The current world record is held by a porter who took just 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the task. But that's not even the most impressive part, he did it in sandals!