Destinations, Musings, Peru, Photography, South America

Reaching Machu Picchu

January 28, 2012

The last scramble along the Inca Trail to reach the Sun Gate fell into the utterly epic category. Up by 3:20am, packed bags, quick breakfast, squished along the bench at the fast-forming passport control line. We waited until the last six kilometers of trail opened at 5:20am, then bolted. It felt nothing short of silly to be so rushed, but the pressure of sunrise and the crowds of loud Argentinians following hot on our heals kept us in rapid forward motion.

The reward?

A spectacular circular rainbow at the top and the first glimpse of long awaited Machu Picchu…

The cool, beautiful morning calmed us as we caught our breaths…

The clouds rolled in and out, playing peak-a-boo with Huayna Picchu and the ruins below.

After the Sun Gate, thirty minutes of decent were punctuated with photo pit-stops and pinch-me-I’m-really-here moments.

Wandering, watching, listening.

We toured with our guide for an hour or two then roamed the site alone…

Testing out the echo chamber… (Tourists are the same, all the world over. )

Earthquake damage in recent years has threatened the structural integrity of some of the ruins. Yet, amazingly, they continue to let visitors explore almost every nook and cranny.

The following day, we’d return on our own and climb Huayna Picchu. But after 48 kilometers without beds or showers, the group decided that burgers, beers, and parting farewells were in order, and we made our way down the mountain to Aguas Calientes for celebration.

Some people criticize Aguas Calientes as a grubby tourist trap, but we had to disagree. The rainy season meant freshly flushed hot springs, and the endearing, kitschy murals on the town walls brought smiles to our faces as we wandered the streets.

It’s so difficult to capture an experience once the time has passed…

We try. We snap photos and make memories.

I grab my sketch book and engage for a moment in the concentrated etching of impressions. Our group, our Family on the trail, said goodbyes and wandered separate ways toward the four corners of Peru and ultimately the globe.

Like the vibrant life of Machu Picchu, our time in place slips into history, leaving us with relics of time gone by…



Our goal on the Inca Trail.

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Just the beginning of our RTW Adventures.

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  • Reply Valynne Bernetich January 28, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for taking the time to share these experiences/photos with all of us. And a sketchbook, too…makes me smile to think you will have something tactile to treasure when you two are sitting in your rocking chairs several decades from now : ) So happy for you both! xox, V

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      Valynne! Thank *you* for taking time to read and follow along : ) I miss our coffee shop work sessions. Hope you guys are all doing well. Mmm…I love the picture of enjoying the notebooks and memories in old age. I must keep reminding myself to pull it out and sketch!

  • Reply Heather Espana January 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    :-) Beautiful!

  • Reply Kim January 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Such beautiful photos. You are a wonderful storyteller.

  • Reply Paula January 29, 2012 at 2:04 am

    That photo alone is worth every moment of hiking and various. Such a wonderful tale to tell..can’t wait for the next episode! Hey from the WEST PORTICO, P

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      Thank you, Paula! The photos really are such treasures at the end of the hunt. Fine memories and a fine reminder of such emotional payoff. : )

  • Reply shelia January 29, 2012 at 6:22 am

    I’m seriously emotional seeing all these amazing photos and hearing of your long trek to reach such breathtaking scenery. And to think you’re only in your first month! WOW! can’t wait to see what else you guys have in store! we miss you!

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks, my dear! It’s incredible to realize how full the past few weeks have really been. So much squeezed into such an average amount of time. Of course, there are still a few markers of time that remain the same: every Monday night rolls around and we miss the whole gang! : )

  • Reply Archana January 29, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Amazing, amazing photos! You guys look great and I’m glad to hear you started your trip with such an awesome sight.

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      We are so grateful for the experience! Thanks for reading and for leaving a note : ) So glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  • Reply heidi January 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      It’s crazy beautiful! Like, pinch-yourself-it’s-really-real beautiful : )

  • Reply Rebecca January 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    That was so smart to stay an extra day in Aguas and do Machu Picchu for reals the following day. I was so tried when I finished the hike, that I didn’t care at all during our tour of the ruines. To stay an extra day and see them all properly, genius. So my new recommendation.

    (PS., I love AC too! Just another reason to stay in the area longer.)

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Hey Rebecca,

      Yep, totally worth it. I was half tempted to bag the idea when we were in Cusco about to purchase the second day’s entry and climb ticket. I wondered if the money would be better spent elsewhere. I’m so glad we decided to go for it.

      Exactly as you said – we were so tired out the first day that we wouldn’t even have enjoyed the extra hike. Such a better game plan to pay the extra money and allow for more time. Too, especially during the rainy season, it makes sense to give yourself another shot at a sunny day. Had the weather been worse, a one-day/very-cloudy visit would have been incredibly disappointing. We lucked out and were so grateful!

      Thanks for stopping by! : )

  • Reply Kieu ~ GQ trippin January 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    You sketch?!! That’s so cool! Stunning photos. Machu Pichu is top on G’s list!

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Habits of a landscape architecture student die hard: carry that pad and pencil around wherever you go! ; ) Sketching is such a good way to force myself to pay closer attention… I need to get it out more often, though! Fits and spurts… : )

  • Reply Thelma February 1, 2012 at 9:34 am

    This is a great public-style journal, Ted! I love the details and the photos. Bethany, you are looking more beautiful than ever. The travel suits you well. I did not know Ted cloud sketch! Very impressive! May the Lord bless you with safety along each journey!

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      Aw, thank you so much, Thelma : ) Ted and I are having so many amazing experiences and blessed days, and it’s great fun to be able to stay so well connected with friends and family at home through the blog. Hugs to you! (-Bethany)

  • Reply Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I have goosebumps! I didn’t want this post to end. I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I arrived to MP and that was by train…I can’t imagine how I would feel if I hiked there. Your excitement is radiating from your photos.

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Andi, it was almost surreal – that last stretch of trail leading to the Sun Gate. Heart pounding, muscles tired, breath thin, and knowing that the prize was just around the corner! I think Machu Picchu must enchant visitors from all entry points, yes? It’s just so amazing!

  • Reply Terri Lahr February 3, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Finally got a chance to check on you two. Prompted by your birthday Bethany. Sounds so wonderful! Had considered archeology when I was a teen. Almost sorry I didn’t pursue it. Not sorry about married with children. Good trade. Now I get to explore through you. Most blessed of birthdays, and love to you both! Aunt Terri

    • Reply twoOregonians February 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you, Aunt Terri! I’m glad you stopped in to catch up with our adventures. I wanted to be an archaeologist for a little while, too. Maybe the desire runs in the family? : ) Love to you, too xx

  • Reply Cheryl March 3, 2012 at 5:48 am

    It feels a little surreal to be sitting on my sofa in Atlanta, trying to fit the pieces of our fall trip puzzle together and reading about your glorious adventure! I know it will be crazy beautiful – and yet the dynamics of planning, choosing field guide, plane tickets, tours and – mother of all “what if’s,” beginning to train to survive what I KNOW will be a grueling hike for me at 48 – have me a bit nervous. Your description and pix push me over the ledge to SHEER EXCITEMENT, though! Are we really gonna make this happen?! Chance of a lifetime!

    • Reply twoOregonians March 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Cheryl, how exciting for you to be making your big plans! It will be crazy beautiful, for sure. If you haven’t booked yet, I’d definitely recommend Peru Treks – they’re top notch. And make certain to give yourself some transition time in Cusco beforehand to get used to breathing thin air. Lastly, like we mentioned, think about booking a second day’s visit to Machu Picchu. It made such a difference to come back the next day and explore after we’d had a chance to take hot showers and sleep on a mattress ; ) Enjoy the planning, and enjoy the trip!!

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