The Inca trail is tough, there is no denying it. But our guide was spot on when he said that the first glimpse at Machu Picchu from above, tired and aching, makes you feel like you’ve really worked to see it. And it is worth every second. The city had always impressed me in pictures, but to be right there, watching buildings emerge from the mist, is breathtaking. The incredible architecture, the placement between mountains in every direction, and the craftsmanship involved in it's creation is absolutely superb. It truly is spectacular.
After the walk down from the sungate, we stopped to take the classic ‘postcard’ shots of the site, then showed our permits for a final time, had our passports stamped, and began our tour. Luckily, although there were people arriving every minute, the whole site stayed relatively empty until around 11am, and as we were there by 6.45am, we had plenty of time to explore. It’s a vast area, packed with things to see, from wide terraces to temples, and as we were walking around our guide spotted the chief archaeologist of the site, and stopping for a chat, explained that they were working on clearing the huge swathes of forest at the base of the site, which hide even more terraces and possibly further buildings. Yet again our guide was wonderful, explaining in detail the significance of certain areas, and after a couple of hours he left us so we could wander around on our own to admire it all, although I have to admit that by this point we were so tired and weary that there was a limited amount of extra walking we could manage!
Finally it was time to take the train back to Cusco, where we could relax, and have a massage. The icing on the cake (quite literally!) came on the way back, when our guide suddenly stopped in a small town where we were grabbing a bus for the last part of the journey, and pulled us into a café, emerging with large boxes of one of the most delicious pieces of banoffee pie I have ever had. A British woman runs this heavenly establishment, making the pie from scratch every day for hoards of admiring fans. Banoffee happens to be my absolutely favourite dessert, and temporarily helped me forget about my sore legs and feet.
So, now we leave the lovely city of Cusco, and catch a short flight to our next destination – the city of Arequipa, and the deepest canyon in the world.