Monday, February 24, 2014

Intipunku - Hiking to the Inca Sun Gate at Machu Picchu

The 2014 Peru Adventure continues on.  Today we arrived at the world famous Machu Picchu.  The arrival was not without incident though.  We grabbed the 7:15am train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.

The train was right on time and off we went.  After about an hour of cruising along next to the rip-roaring Urubamba River we suddenly came to a stop.  Seems a mud slide had blocked the tracks ahead.  We sat for two and a half hours while it was cleared.

Anyway, on to Machu Picchu we went.  I purchased my Machu Picchu ticket for 126 soles and then my bus ticket for another 53 soles. (be prepared as it is cash only and only Peruvian soles).

After a 15 minute bus ride up the mountain I was back at Machu Picchu.  Last time I did not make it over to the Sun Gate so I made that my mission for day one on the mountain.  Hike to the Intipunku.  The first place on the Inca Trail where Machu Picchu comes into view.

 Had no idea about the difficulty or length of the hike, but off I went.  I sat out at 1:15 making my way up the switchbacks I finally reached the sign that said Intipunku.  Made the left turn and started up the ancient Inca Trail that connected Machu Picchu with  Ollentaytambo and the Inca capital of Cusco.

About fifteen minutes into the hike it began to rain.  No worries.  I had packed my light rain jacket.  I stopped and put it on before continuing.

At over nine thousand feet I definitely could feel the effects of the thinner air.  I would go aways and then pull over for a pitstop.  As the rain picked up it began to get a bit chilly.  The views back to Machu Picchu were breathtaking.  Every time I stopped and looked back the Inca site got smaller and smaller in the distance.

Finally I got in range of the Sun Gate.  The final part of the hike gets a bit narrower with more stair climbing involved.  Make a mis-step here and off the cliff you go with nothing to stop you for quite a way.

I carefully navigated the final stairs and arrived at the Intipunku.  Quite an accomplishment.  It took me one hour and thirty five minutes to make it in the rain.   One could certainly do it faster, but I don't see it as being much less than an hour and that would be going at a good pace in good weather.

The way down was much easier of course.  It was very wet, but I did not have any footing problems at all.  Make sure you have good hiking shoes.  The hike down took me fifty minutes and I did not stop once to rest.

So there you have it.  Two hours and twenty five minutes round trip in the rain from the front gate of Machu Picchu.  If you are only spending one day on the mountain I would say do not hike the Sun Gate.  There is so much else to do and see at Machu Picchu.  If you are spending a couple of days in Aguas Calientes then I say go for it!

Read about the secret sights of Machu Picchu


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