Clouds shift slowly across the mountain tops. I\‘m looking at one point, camera at the ready, waiting for the sky to clear over the large, beautiful ruins. Every ten minutes an opening appears, but it\‘s rarely a good shot. A sheet of wispy, white clouds flows across the Machu Picchu ruins. The view is incredible even with the cloud cover. I plan to be here all day anyway, and I expect the clouds to have cleared by lunch.
I continue on with exploration of Wayna Picchu, the large mountain prominently featured in most pictures of the inspiring historical site. The hike to the peak is steep and takes about an hour. After climbing a particularly steep set of stairs, I look back. My head spins a little. I don\‘t relish the idea of heading back down these steps.
After reaching the top of Wayna Picchu and crawling through a small cave-like path I\‘m confronted with a sign. "A Gran Caverna" points to the right and on the lower portion of the sign it says 40 minutes. To the left is the rest of what Wayna Picchu has to offer.
I decide to see the Gran Caverna and begin trekking down the path. I soon realize something. I still wanted to see things at the peak and this path was quite steep and descending. After reaching a ladder straight down, I have to convince myself to get over whatever fear of heights I have.
When I finally reach the Gran Caverna, I\‘m glad I took the detour. One man is here, a Peruvian who works at the site. He is asleep on a large, smooth boulder, face down into his crossed arms. His small hand-radio crackles occasionally, but it\‘s mostly quite here. I find a nice spot in front of a large opening under a massive jutting stone slab. Inside the cavern are some constructions—what could be altars built into the walls.
I\‘m basically alone. The sleeping man won\‘t bother me if I decide to eat my lunch here, so I do. I\‘ve packed some bread, lunch meats, and a large avocado for lunch. To my left is the large cavern, to my right is the view of jungle covered mountains with clouds obscuring everything above a particular height. I take in the silence and the escape from the throngs of tourists.
Hours later, after checking out the Gran Caverna and climbing back up Wayna Picchu, the clouds have cleared mostly and the view of the Machu Picchu ruins is stunning. The view is worth hiking back up here a second time. By this point, I\‘ve spent hours on Wayna Picchu, and I decide to head back to Machu Picchu so I can check out the ruins.
I\‘ve met so many other nice and interesting tourists here. One of the most interesting was a father and his son who staged a fight with two Lego Creations characters. They took pictures with the ruins as their backdrop. While heading back from Wayna Picchu I met two Americans and began chatting with them.
We decide to head up the baby Wayna Picchu, the smaller peak located closer to the ruins of Machu Picchu. This hike only took about 15 minutes. Except for the one rock where you have to hoist yourself over with a thick rope, the hike is pretty simple. The view from here allows you to watch the llamas graze and the tourists snap photos in the bulk of the ruins. I decide I\‘ve seen everything I am going to on the Wayna Picchu side of things and head back to the main ruins.
The clouds have lifted considerably and the views of the ruins and surrounding mountains are completely different from that morning. I\‘m very happy I decided to stay here all day. It\‘s a great way to really explore the area, and when am I going to be back in Machu Picchu?
Earlier that day, before I even went up Wayna Picchu, I had a small tour with the group I came to Machu Picchu with. I missed the tail end of it because I had to get up Wayna Picchu so early, but what I got to hear was interesting and added much to my experience of the ruins. If I saw an interesting that I didn\‘t know about I would stand around and listen to the other tour guides.
After taking some obligatory photos of the llamas, I head toward the east side of the ruins. After wandering through the buildings and past the Temple of the Condor, I spot a small, grey viscacha. These cute cousins of the chinchilla are particularly adorable in the setting of Machu Picchu.
When I finally start heading back down the mountain toward Aguas Calientes, it\‘s 4:00 p.m. I see people boarding the comfy bus. At $9 a ticket, I passed on the bus and decided to walk up in the morning and back down now. I know my legs will regret these decisions tomorrow, but the long, arduous hike makes it seem just a little more like an adventure, and that is worth it to me.