We got up early the next morning to catch sunrise. Getting up at 5:30 after the long day before hurt. Standing in line with 300 other tourists hurt even more. But it proved well worth it - the morning brought low flying clouds and the soft light that had proven so elusive in Peru.
The photos from the first 15 minutes of that morning are some of my favorites from the entire trip.
We wandered around a bit more and then Wendy headed back to the hotel to photograph the exotic flowers in their extensive gardens. Meanwhile I decided, for some reason, to climb Machu Picchu Mountain.
The climb was just brutal, nothing but stairs and dropoffs for about 3,000' vertical. Along the way I met a Peruvian named Deivid, and we stuck together most of the way up.
Deivid was a bit crazy. There ain't no way I was going on that outcropping, but he climbed out there twice for photos.
After a long hike back down to the ruins and a quick lunch, I headed back for my last afternoon at Machu. Before I left on my trip, Walker told me the ruins are like "freaking Disneyland," chock full of annoying tourists. He was right. There were tour groups 25 strong, oblivious idiots blocking the entry way so they could tie their shoes, and overweight Italians cursing about all the stairs - all the joys of a major attraction. About the only difference was the total lack of litter. They don't allow any food or disposable water bottles into the park, which seems to help quite a bit.
But most tourists treated it like an amusement park. They followed the little colored lines on their maps from one site to the next then hopped the early bus back to Aguas Calientes. They missed the fact that it's not an amusement park but a city. There's a lot to see that's not on the map, but few of them actually went to find out for themselves. I'm thankful for their incuriosity and laziness - it left half the area deserted.
Except for me, that is. The whole area feels much different outside the heavily trafficked areas. The crowd noise floats off into the valley never to return, leaving the area silent.
You can feel the age of the place in the rocks and walls, and see the vitality of the rain forest trying to absorb it again. I imagine it's not far from what the place was like when the Inca's lived there. It's certainly closer than the hectic multilingual mess of the "tourist" areas.
I wandered for three or four hours, absorbing the atmosphere and taking pictures. It was a nice, peaceful interlude.
I even spotted some furry little critters that lived in caves of tumbled rocks. I have no idea what these things are - if you know please drop me a line.
By this time it was getting late. The park was closing soon, Wendy was waiting for me, and we had to catch a train back to Cusco. So regretfully I trudged back up the steps, across the walkways and back out of the park, into the real world. But it was a good day.