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Part 1. Part 2

4:50am

Once again, we both jumped up almost immediately when the alarm went off. We were chasing sunrise, we didn’t have time to lag around anyways.

By 5:00 we were outside, our day bags packed, and moving hastily through the darkness of the town. Despite it being 5am the town was once again alive, this time with other climbers who had the same idea we did. Funnels of light were everywhere as people moved about in the darkness with their flashlights. There must have been at least a hundred people wandering about, lining up near buses that were patiently waiting as their drivers were going through the crowd, checking names off of a clipboard.

We walked by them and I gave a smirk “Pfff, you guys are taking the easy way up, where’s the fun in that!”

No, we had little concern for an air conditioned, driven, route up the mountain. We had legs, and these legs were about to have one HELL of a work out.

We walked quickly along the river, passing other hikers and dodging the roaring buses that shattered the morning silence. And there it was, a little ways ahead of us, the bridge. The bridge was the barrier between the town and the mountain, and the symbolic starting line for the trek. We handed the Charon-esque toll man our tickets and stepped onto the bridge.

The blackness of the night sky was quickly turning into lighter and lighter shades of grey. We didn’t have much time. The trek was only supposed to take 45minutes, or so we were told. In actuality, the trek took about 1 HOUR 45. We had to cover a lot of ground, very quickly. The sun already had a head start and was threatening to rob us of our “sunrise at the top” goal. We made it across the bridge, and dove head first into the thick greenery that awaited us.

The path up was incredibly steep at times, it wouldn’t have been too bad in normal circumstances, but these weren’t normal circumstances, so we were jogging, literally RUNNING up the side of this mountain as the sky grew brighter and brighter. I could hear the sun’s laughter from below the horizon, taunting us, TEASING US, but adding severity to the trek. We could do it. We WILL do it! We jogged. We ran. We sped past so many other hikers.

But the air was humid and thin, and mixed with the over exertion, the hike was definitely taking its toll on me. So was trying to keep up with Steve, who seemed to be fairing far better than I was.  “Damn your long legs!” I shouted as he disappeared around a corner with a laugh.

I had to pause and catch my breath, taking a moment to stare out over the landscape from our current position. Nice view.

Ok. No more of this pausing. My brain took my body to the side and had a little chat as it tends to do sometimes. “Look, I’m sorry I filled you up with alcohol and depraved you of sleep yesterday, but we’re on a time limit here. If you’re gonna die, let’s die already. If not, stop messing about and let’s get going”.

My usual “I’m so sweaty and dying” hiking picture

“Yeah, yeah ok, apology accepted. Let’s do it!” With a tie of my shoe and a crack of my back, I sped up the mountain with a new energy

“We’re almost there!” said Steve from a tier above me.

The final push up the mountain came swiftly, we were tired and coated in sweat, but there they were, the gates of Machu Picchu were in sight. I think we high fived, or fist bumped, or something. I can’t recall, the moments after the hike were a blur. Though I do remember, with much trepidation, that my ticket wasn’t scanning at the gate and the man wasn’t too pleased because of it. If I got turned away after all that, I was gonna be really, really bothered. (But I didn’t, so hooray)

We entered the gates and took a moment to gaze at the scene in front of us. We did it. We DID IT.  AND the sun had gotten oddly quiet with its taunting laughter all of a sudden. Most of the mountain was covered and coated in a thick cloud, so visibility was low, but the allure was absolutely heightened because of it.

(Click pictures to make them bigger)

We scanned and strolled the area, taking it all in as we went.

We’d follow the ancient paths and the beautiful stonework until we found ourselves at an edge of the mountain with nothing but air and death below us.

We’d pause here, taking a much needed sit down to drop our things, get off of our feet, and drink some water. We sat and gazed out over the mountains, and right then, in that moment, the sun peaked over the horizon and sliced through the clouds. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

I was giddy with accomplishment. By the time we finished relaxing our legs and taking pictures, the sun had burned off the cloud that was previously occupying the mountain. Now, no longer obscured, it was time to explore! I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. (Click pictures to make them bigger)

We were both shaking with hunger, but before we made our way down, we sat for a few moments alone at the peak. It was here, on top of the world, that I place my banner and claim victory. What started off as nothing more than a fleeting thought, turned into an idea, an idea manifested, grasped by my hand and pulled into reality. Not only had I made it, but I made it WITH someone else. WE had made it, together. We had ventured all this way and made it work. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion, a better friend, to share this with.

I was so beyond happy, I wanted to laugh, to cry, to scream, to dance, to FLY off the mountain! And I think I did, mentally of course. I stood up, and as I did, I felt some of the hooks from my great enemy release their hold on me. Shackles no more, they fell to the ground and turned to ash. Victory.

Rite of Passage. Complete

Hike up to Machu Picchu

Watch sunrise from Machu Picchu

We were both satisfied enough to make the descent. But! I turned around and looked at Steve and said “I AIN’T WALKING, I’LL MEET YOU AT THE BOTTOM!” and I jumped off the side of the mountain. With a flick of the wrist, Parasol Companion (Fun fact: The actual name for my parasol is Parasol Companion. Second Fun fact: I named my parasol) was in my hands and opened as we accelerated downward. We flew circles, gliding in a declining corkscrew, laughing as we went.

Little did I know, Parasol Companion had ALSO been up all night drinking, and my weight was more of a strain than usual. Without warning, the parasol collapsed and we both ended up falling to our deaths. Steve would find my broken body in the river as he crossed the bridge we so hastily jogged across hours before.

Luckily I had an extra life, so I climbed out of the river and we made our way back to town.

Shaking with hunger and sore from the day, we limped into a restaurant and had the best smoothie I’ve ever had. It probably wasn’t even that good, but I was so thirsty, so hungry and exhausted, that it was perfect in that moment.

We had hours to kill before we had to make it back to the train station and flee the town, so we took our time eating (and falling asleep at the table). We also didn’t have a room to return to since we checked out early…so, what could we do…?

Steve came up with a BRILLIANT idea. MASSAGE! I’ve wanted a massage since I landed in Peru, but this would be my first. The massage places are about as numerous as the restaurants in this town, so after a bit of shopping around we settled on a place. Deciding factor? Hot shower. Woohoo! Smelly kid no longer!

This was bliss, minus the extremely painful bit when she got to the legs, after RUNNING up the mountain. Highly recommend.

Have a massage in Aguas Calientes

Afterward we had a celebratory drink. Machu Picchu was now a beautiful memory, cheers to a successful journey!

Our train would be arriving very soon, so we finished up and made our way to the station. I was happy to go, we had done what we came here to do, and the allure of the town had all but worn away. It was fun at first, but spend enough time there and you realize what a “casino” it is. Flashy lights and stimulus to pull you in, then to strip as much money from you as possible with overpriced everythings. Which is understandable with the amount of tourists who come through, but rather bothersome when there is an unmentioned 15-30% service tax added onto almost everything. I’ll love it forever for being a part of my trip, but, things to know for next time.

The train would drop us off at Ollantaytambo once again and we headed to the bus terminal to find our transit back. Now to find our bus….

This one? Nope. Maybe this one? Nope. This one! Hmm, nope. Our names weren’t on any of the lists, that was odd…and a little worrisome. I tried to get in contact with the travel woman. Oh yeah, no minutes on my phone. Efff. Steve found one of the bus drivers and managed to get in contact with her through him, but there was still no bus for us. There was a van with a couple empty seats, which seemed to be a quick fix to the issue on their part. Despite both Steve and I talking to the van driver, he started the vehicle up mid conversation and said he’d be back to pick us up. “When?” “In two hours

Two hours!? We weren’t about to sit there in an empty parking lot for two hours. We were already exhausted and it was bitter cold outside. We ended up flagging down the last taxi that was moments away from leaving. We grudgingly paid the 100soles he charged for the trip back to the city. We paid it, because we knew we were going to storm into the travel office in the morning and ask to be compensated for what we had to pay out. The other issues; the guide, the hostel, we let it all go. It wasn’t a big deal, but this? This one got to both of us.

Get left at a bus station in Ollantaytambo

We arrived back in the city and returned to the Millhouse. In the morning we did as we planned. We stormed the travel agent office. Did I say office? I meant CASTLE.  After Steve incapacitated the guards, we both used our grappling hooks and climbed up to the upper levels. We were met with heavy opposition, but we were still hyped up, rabid even, from the successful hike, so we couldn’t be stopped. Not now, NOT EVER! Steve kicked the heavy, barred doors to splinters and we rushed inside for the final confrontation. There she was, clad in dark robes, screeching and waving her staff in the air. She used all kinds of magic against us, but we were already well versed in the arts, so we overpowered her and broke her will. “TAKE IT, TAKE IT AND BE GONE” she screamed. After a jumping high five, Steve and I ran out of the castle as it collapsed behind us.

(Short version, we asked for our money back. She gave it to us)

The journey was concluded as we arrived back in the tiny town we started off from. We did it all. The Rite of Passage was now complete.