For those uninitiated, I’m starting a movement where I call the great and venerable Macchu Picchu, The ‘Chu™ and you slip it in casual conversation. I need the royalties.

After probably the worst and best day of our lives, we woke up this morning, groggy, the moon unbelievably still in the sky. I had given Zoel a bit of a fake option to sleep in and go later in the afternoon but we both knew it wasn’t going to happen. That’s because twenty-five hundred tourists show up everyday here to visit The ‘Chu and by 8, they seem to all be there at once. Which is why we were strongly advised to line up for the buses at 4:30 in order to depart at 5:30am, strapping in for another edgy ride up the mountain reaching the gates opening at 6am. So we did.


There's even a lady serving breakfast on line!
There’s even a lady serving breakfast on line!

We lined up, we boarded, we were in front and we ran in like weirdos rushing the Blu-Ray players on Black Friday.

But instead of stopping like everyone else at the first sight of an Alpaca…


…we instead promptly put our bodies in gear and through yet another ringer for the hour it takes to climb up the stone road to the famed Sungate, dedicated to the cult of the Inti, the Sun god and the end point to the Inca trail, the entrance the Incas themselves used on their pilgrimage to the sacred city.




The highest point surrounding the city built by Yupanqui, the ninth ruler of the Incas, the Sungate is a stone door through which, during the Winter Solstice, the sun’s rays shine directly into the city and into a small window to a rock in the Temple of the Sun, staff of Ra-style!

We were in a zone, almost running up there and meeting on our way the descending trekkers, just in from their Inca trail, dazed looks upon their faces and encouraging us to get up there before the sun came up too high. We listened, damn our pancreas!

An hour later, there we were, we had arrived on top of the Inca world, finally, almost alone, and it was beyond beautiful…




This was it, the moment we had dreamed of in our cold yet fevered dreams for the past week, we had come through the door, in more ways than one, and so we sat, and sat, and sat some more… Slowly feeling the sun’s warming rays shine upon our faces, telling us it was ok to rest.



Once the stragglers had gone, we were by completely left by ourselves, hanging off the terraces and looking down on the ancient religious and astronomical center, the way a guest of the king from the mid-1400s might have felt the first time he or she gazed upon this sacred city in the sky. Just beautiful.


Eventually, about two hours later but not a minute before we had properly realized what we had accomplished, it was time to go down… And what a way down it was.






We meandered around the site, taking every corner in as it came, without a guide or a plan, getting lost in The ‘Chu was incredible…








But in the back of our minds, we knew the strike was still ongoing and we didn’t know if Gina and Leeloo would make it in when they were supposed to, around lunch time. So after scouring the land, including an glorious peek at an Inca bridge…


…we went down to the restaurant, as there must always be a restaurant, and waited for them to show up. Hours later they hadn’t and we waited some more, gorging ourselves at the all-you-can-eat buffet, with little way of contacting them.

By the middle of the afternoon, my anxiety scaling up, I received a phone call from an unknown number, IT WAS MY WIFE! She was stuck in Ollantaytambo now too, had been there all day, without any assurance that the strike would conclude in time for her to get up the mountain today! Why? because the first train to leave the station after the strike had derailed and they didn’t know when the tracks would once again be made available for subsequent trains! This is crazy! But not only that! With me was Sebastien who needed to get down back to Cusco because he had a connection in Lima in order to catch his plane back to Rio, but guess what? A plane’s landing gear failed at that very moment and closed the airport for at least twenty-four hours! I am writing these words after the fact and I feel like I’m making it all up but I assure you I am not! The circumstances surrounding us at this very moment are beyond our control and, surely, karma for my stealing gum from my neighborhood grocery store in Paris when I was nine and never got caught, right?…

In complete disbelief, we all came down this mountain, now increasingly wary of its powers, and decided to wait for Gina to hopefully appear at the end of the dark road…

She never did that day, instead calling exasperated, still in freakin’ Ollantaytambo, having now spent seven hours there and getting acquainted with her fellow stuck, a story of dashed hope and despair she will hopefully tell on her side of this blog. So Zoel and I, so tired we could hardly recognize each other, jumped into bed as Sebastien jumped onto an oncoming train without a ticket, no joke, in the hope that the airport might re-open the next day and he might make it to Rio even though he had been told that would never happen. (it did.)

In the middle of the night, as we were surely dreaming of sun Gods and sacrificed Alpacas, Gina and Leeloo burst through the door, both angry and joyful, having caught a train in extremis, and made it to Aguas Calientes in the nick of time. Why? Because we would have to once again wake up only a few short hours later, again at 4:30, for them to have at least as good an experience as we had on our first day up The ‘Chu! There would be little sleep tonight!

The next day, we arrived and forewent the high ground, instead tackling the center of the city, the agricultural platforms and temples, dedicated to the sun and moon, the center of Inca religious and spiritual life…

















Finally leaving, a day late but completely fulfilled, was exhilarating. Thank you Hiram Bingham!


I am foremost proud of my little Zoel, perhaps little no more, who went up the mountain a boy and came down a man, on the eve on this thirteenth birthday, thereby saving me thousands on a now redundant Bar-Mitvah and for that, I will forever be grateful.

Looking at my trusty pedometer, I see that we ended up walking 44.3 kilometers (or 71 miles,) far more than we what we thought we could have but just about what we should have. I’m loving’ it…

We left on a train back to Cusco that afternoon where I am writing these words, looking for a shower and clean socks. I will let you know how that goes tomorrow…


1 Comment Leave a reply

  1. Gary
    Permalink to comment#

    Bravo – u guys did it. Amazing views. I can only imagine how this place was like when it was populated and constructed. Magical.


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