MAY 9 PICTURE
Sunday, May 9
Steve: Our peak out the window at 5:30AM revealed a crystal-clear
sky, just beginning to glow from the rising sun. Although still tired, the
anticipation of watching the sun rise over the mountains and gradually illuminate
Machu Picchu helped us awaken quickly and arrive at the entrance gate again
just as it opened at 6:00AM.
morning's walk up to the guard house led to an outcome very different from
yesterday. When we reached the overlook, we had a perfect view of Machu Picchu
layered by wisps of clouds that were moving quickly through the Urubamba valley
and hanging in and around the contours of the site. Spectacular!
This was a sight we had seen in many pictures, and were hoping to witness
in person. Looking toward the west, we could see the top of the snow-capped
Pumaclove Mountains, just starting to be brightened by sunlight. In the east
we could see a faint glow just starting to rise over the Veronica Mountains.
The sky above was absolutely clear and the air perfectly still. This was an
absolute perfect setting for a sunrise.
In the still and quiet of the morning, we were also greeted by several llamas
that were grazing on the terraces by the guard house. They seemed to want
to pose for us as we took some pictures with mountains in the background.
stayed up at the terraces for almost two hours and were treated to an absolutely
wonderful display as the sun rose and various cloud formations swept through
the valley toward Machu Picchu. We'd watch as a cloud would approach from
the east, totally obscure the ruins, and then dissipate just as quickly
to leave us again with an absolutely clear view of the site. At times, thinner
wisps would advance toward Machu Picchu and wrap themselves around the contour
of the various structures and land formations below. They created particularly
mystical effects and it was great to watch these formations float through
the site. At one point we watched as a single cloud formed right in the center
of Machu Picchu at the base of Huayna Picchu, hanging magically over the ruins.
As the sun finally crept over the Veronica Mountains, sunlight began to appear
along the eastern face of Machu Picchu, gradually illuminating the entire
site. We could actually see the rays of light emanating from the mountains
and becoming brighter as the sun continued to rise. Even with the warming
air, several clouds remained in the valley and the combination of sunlight
with various cloud formations over Machu Picchu was particularly wonderful.
We literally couldn't stop taking pictures, trying to capture the various
moods that the changing light and fluid cloud formations created over Machu
Picchu. This evening we had to sort through all the pictures, trying to save
a smaller set that hopefully communicates some of what we saw during our awesome
After breakfast, we met Hilda and began a hike that led from the terraces
by the guard house, along a ridge, and eventually to an Inca bridge that was
built right alongside a huge cliff. We hiked for about 40 minutes, led by
a local and very friendly dog that accompanied us this morning (David and
Katie named him "Machu"). The Inca bridge was constructed of stone,
with a large gap that was normally filled with logs. The Incas used this as
an escape mechanism. In case of any sort of enemy
invasion at Machu Picchu, the Incas could retreat on this trail, cross the
bridge, and then remove the logs so that no one could follow. Today, the trail
leading up to the bridge is closed because of the danger involved in negotiating
the cliff. Apparently there has been at least one
fatality involving a tourist who was trying to cross the bridge. After admiring
the bridge, we returned to the guard house and rested on the terraces, happy
for the opportunity to view Machu Picchu under today's bright blue skies.
Following lunch we all gathered books and found a shady spot in the ruins
where we spent the rest of our time here relaxing and reading. It was particularly
interesting to review the pictures of Machu Picchu in Bingham's book with
Hilda, comparing them to how the ruins appear today.
Finally it was time to leave, and we boarded a bus down to Aguas Calientes
where we'd catch a 4:45PM train back to Ollantaytambo. Aguas Calientes is
primarily a tourist town, surrounded by huge cliffs that seem to entirely
surround it. This is
also the place where recent landslides killed 11 people, and we were able
to see much of the destruction during our time here today. We spent our time
strolling through the town and its shops, waiting for our train to depart.
After arriving back at Ollantaytambo we were driven to Urubamba for the evening.
Tomorrow we'll be spending time in the nearby towns of Chinchero and Maras.