We got up at 3 AM, and were at the gate to the Machu Picchu site at 4 AM. A line of about 100 people was already there when we got there. The reason for this early rising is that only the first 400 people to enter the site were allowed to climb the Huayna Picchu mountain, overlooking the Machu Picchu ruins. The entrance is a few thousands of steps above this gate. Our group was very eager to be allowed to the Huayna Picchu, and so our clever guide came up with the idea of bribing the guards to let us in before the gates officially open at 4:50. He collected money (just coins this time), and caused a fuss in the previously organized line.
We refused to participate in this unfair crime, and joined the common people standing in line. We later found out that our group abandoned this idea as they were afraid of being stoned. We could hear a large group of Israelis in the front of the line shouting insults at our cheating group.
The gates opened on schedule and the race began. At first, there was no pushing, but soon it became a wild race to the top. The competition was not just against the people in line, but also against the buses bringing richer tourists from town. After a few hundred steps, people started choking and quit the race, although most of them continued as fast as they could (meaning slowly). Amit chose not to pass people in line, and so was stuck behind a group of enthusiastic British geeks. Shoham took the Israeli approach and got 12th to the top. The first 10 were of course also Israelis.
Amit got around 150th. Our group got around 200th. At the entrance we could choose entering Huayna Picchu between 7-8 AM or between 10-11 AM. As was settled earlier with our smart guide, we chose the earlier entrance. The rest of the group took the later entrance.
On our way to the entrance to Huayna Picchu, we enjoyed the rare opportunity to walk around the ruins almost alone.
The climb up the very top of this mountain wasn´t easy and consisted of steeper steps. We were the first to get there, but unfortunately there was little to see because of the clouds.
We waited there for 2.5 hours, until we could get a nice photo of the ruins, which was a bit tricky because again, the camera´s screen didn´t work.
There we met the 2 Argentinians from our group, who came up by the second bus. To do that they woke up at 2 AM and were on the line for the bus at 2:30. On our way back we visited the Gran Caverna (big cave). Although it was a nice walk with little crowd, the cave itself is not interesting, and the detour involves many more steps.
Machu Picchu Mountain
We had lunch we brought with us in a small sack, as it is not allowed to bring bags larger than 20 liters. When we finished, it was still early enough to make a last effort and climb the highest pick in the site - the Machu Picchu mountain. In the entrance you register with the time you entered. Before we were halfway up, we were already higher than the Huayna Picchu´s top.
All the way up, we met smiling people getting down who were joking with us. At the top we were welcomed by the huge flag of Cusco province.
There we met a few Americans who asked us about the time the climb took us. They were very disappointed to find out that we did it in 52 minutes, half of their time. We also met a nice Lithuanian couple who asked too many questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Naively, they woke up at 5 AM to wait for the bus in hope they would be among the first 400 to enter. We also met Moshe from Israel whom Shoham met earlier, as he was the 9th to enter. He had a stove to make coffee on the top, but no-one had spare water for it.
Loosing our Heads
When we got back to the hotel, we discovered that our agency bought us the cheaper train ticket, at 9:30 PM, unlike all the other people of our group whose train left at 6:45 PM. After getting down from the train in Ollantaytambo, we went on the van that was waiting to transfer us back to Cusco. Suddenly we noticed that we forgot our snack bag on the train, but it was to late to retrieve it. Sadly, besides good snacks it contained also a flash light and some clothes. We got back to our hostel at 2 AM, and slept well.