In my post about my trip to Peru, I briefly mentioned that the hardest day was when I climbed Machu Picchu Mountain, but that fortunately I made friends and we all got each other through it. Here’s a bit more about my two days at Machu Picchu and, of course, the photos.

First look at the Machu Picchu ruins

First look at Machu Picchu ruins

As I mentioned, I am good at following advice, especially when I receive the same advice more than once. In this case, I was told to spend two days at Machu Picchu. As I also mentioned, I did no research before the trip so I did not fully understand why I would want two days there.

It was only a few days before arriving that I started to understand the lay of the land. At “Machu Picchu” one can see the ruins of the town/estate of the ruler and agricultural terraces; hike to the Sun Gate; and climb either Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu Mountain. Luckily, my tour company booked me a ticket to tour the ruins and climb Machu Picchu Mountain because there are a limited number of climbing tickets sold each day.

During my afternoon tour of the ruins, my guide explained to me—more than once—how to reach the entrance to the mountain climb. She also told me that I had to sign in and start climbing the mountain before 11.00 am. When she walked me to my hotel, she explained it all again.

Almost at my (incorrect) destination

Almost at my (incorrect) destination

The important point was that if I missed the mountain entrance, I would walk to the Sun Gate, which was nice enough, but not what I should do. I understood this point perfectly. However, I failed to execute the instructions properly. As you have figured out by now, I missed the entrance and found myself at the Sun Gate after about 45 minutes of easy walking.

A large group of Californians was walking at the same time and kindly took photos of me when I asked, but no one engaged me in conversation even as we kept passing each other at different points on the trail. It wasn’t a great feeling. Then I felt worse when I realized I was about to reach the Sun Gate and had missed the mountain entrance entirely. I did not even remember to take a photo at the Sun Gate. All I wanted to do was drink a few sips of water and make my way back to find the missed turn. After asking for directions from a few guides along the walk back, I found the turnoff.

I generally believe in karma (meaning some larger force sending you what you need when you need it) and felt it to be in full action on this day. I met J & J, a mother and daughter from Brooklyn who were starting the climb at the same time. They asked if I wanted to climb with them. Had I not screwed up and walked to the Sun Gate, I never would have encountered them and my whole mountain climbing experience would have been significantly less fun.

Something else I did not know until I was in the middle of it is how hard the climb was going to be. My guide told me it would take about an hour and a half, but didn’t mention that it is a very steep climb, mostly up uneven stairs. I started to feel my legs burn after a short time, which continued for the two hours it took us to reach the top.

Machu 03

At the top with J & J

The views were amazing. The feeling of accomplishment when I reached the top was amazing.

As they say, “Ignorance is bliss.” Had I known what I was in for, I might not have attempted it at all. Or, I would have gone in expecting the worst and then would have spent most of the climb confirming that expectation. Instead, I had no idea what lay ahead and passed the time in great conversations with J & J, who were on the trip to celebrate the daughter’s 20th birthday. She wanted to document the occasion,  so we stopped to take fun photos along the way and traded cameras for a while so I we could snap shots of each other.

We parted soon after descending but I am forever grateful that our paths crossed. A perfect example of being in the right place at the right time.