The next day, we woke early for a 6:30am breakfast, so we could get to Machu Picchu early and beat the enormous tourist rush that begins around noon. Despite all of us being tired, that immdiately went away as we passed through the ticketing area and were able to finally the site that attracted many of us to this particular maymester. Much of the ruins were from the original material made in the 16th century with only about 30% of the ruins needing to be restored as a result of time and weather. At first, we took a short hike to what is called the Puerta del Sol or Gate of the Sun, which was an upward climb where at one point we were within some of the clouds. Once we arrived at the top, we had an amazing view of Machu Picchu down below and also saw the beginning of an Inca trail that leads from Machu Picchu to Cusco. We soon learned how long it takes for various people to embark on the trail. For the average person not acculamated to the altitude, it would take about 3-4 days, the average local takes around 12 hours, and the record for the trek is a little under 4 hours. From this information, we understood that it was an extensive path. Afterwards, we relaxed and then took a guided tour through Machu Picchu where we were able to learn about some of the sacred sites within as well as see what typical rooms were for those that lived there. Looking back on that day, it baffles me how they were able to create such a place in the middle of the mountains. The mere fact that they were able to transport material and build upon a mountain is fascinating and a testiment to the intelligence of the Inca culture.
Below are three pictures I took. The first is a view from right outside the door of our hotel at Agua Calientes. The second is when we relaxed after the hike to the Puerta del Sol with a view that overlooked Machu Picchu, and the third is a closer picture of the ruins.