Machu Picchu, the second half of my reason to quit my job. When I returned home in November 2011 I some how got it in my head that I should do the Inca trail and Machu Picchu for my 30th birthday. So I did. You can't say that I'm not a woman of my words.
I hiked the trail mostly in a daze of being there. You know how when you've thought of something for a long time and then you actually go and do it and it's super surreal? Like the whole time you're just Wait, I'm at Machu Picchu AND it's my birthday...weird. yeah, it was kinda like that. But, in a good way, don't worry. It wasn't until the last night at camp that I was really like you're on the freaking Inca trail! Mind blow!
Any who, the group gets up at 330 AM...that's in the morning in case you're confused, I certainly was when the wake up call came. At the final camp site there are 29 camps and everyone has to go through the check point in single file line like little preschoolers lined up for picture day at school. Except this time it's to get to the Sun Gate by sunrise. So it's get up and rush rush rush because we need to be first in line at the check point! We managed about 7th in line, not too shabby. All to wait in darkness till 530, when the gates actually open. Doesn't that sound like so much fun? It was, let me tell you. I didn't want a bed in the slightest, nope nope not one bit.
Ok, whingeing aside, just before we entered the checkpoint my group sang me Happy Birthday in 3 languages, which was pretty cool. It is a highlight I will always remember! I wore a Happy Birthday To Me! pin all day and someone asked if I was Clarissa? They had heard my serenade from earlier and wanted to wish me Happy birthday.
We've hiked. We've waited. We've hiked some more. Annnnnnnnnnnnd.....we FINALLY make it guys! We made it to the first stop of Machu Picchu, The Sun Gate! It was too cloudy to catch any of the sunrise, but as the mist burned off it left the Andes drenched in sunlight and cloud. A stunning start to the day and suddenly all worth it, despite the fact that my legs were about ready to fall off.
The remainder of the morning was spent wandering around the achient rocks, continually being in awe of what the Inca's were able to accomplish from architecture to astronomy. Those Inca's sure were smart.
A little Machu history:
In 1911 Hiram Bingham went on an expedition in southern Peru. He was searching for the long lost final Incan city. Instead, he found Machu Picchu, inhabited by the Incans from 1430-1570. Bingham found Machu Picchu 80% intact! The Spanish never found it during their conquest. Lucky for us!
Ok, I want you to picture this: high in the Andean mountains without using iron or modern technology the Inca's used granite to completely construct an entire city. The seams on the stone work are practically flawless and the whole city is carved right into the steep mountain side. They had temples and militia, a water system, and even llama posts! There is a sun dial in the city to measure out the months and hours that the Incans knew to set at 13 degrees, because they were under the equator by 13 degrees. See? Told ya they were smart! The whole place was truly amazing. Eventually the Incans were run out when the Spanish invaded other Incan cities during the 1500s.
Annnnnddddd back to my birthday!
By about 11AM we were kinda done. Done hiking. Done sightseeing. Just done. We were tired, sore, hot, and hungry. It was time to leave machu Picchu. We took the bus to town and I had the best burrito ever for birthday lunch.
It was an amazing birthday! Certainly unforgettable. It makes me excited to see what the next decade of life will bring my way.