We are on a mission, and lucky for me, the fog density keeps my curiosity in check and sense of direction honed in to the Wayna Picchu markers we see along the way.
Wayna Picchu, Huaynapicchu, however you want to spell it, our goal this morning is to ascend the peak that rises out of Machu Picchu, the giant green nose on the Machu Picchu profile, for everyone says it’s an absolute must for killer views of the city below.
So, we rush along, determined to be one of the 200 people permitted to pass through the gates for the 7 AM hike up the “scary mountain that definitely wouldn’t be permitted in the US,” per our Cusco tourmate, because Huaynapicchu only sees 400 visitors a day, broken into two waves–ours and one at 10 AM–totally for free with regular admission. By 6:50 we stand in line, and shortly after 7, we immortalize our journey with our registry signatures.
It’s up, up, up for a solid hour plus, a stair stepper for sure, but not any burlier than a First Flatiron hike, or so we think. Again, the fog keeps us in check, nicely cocooned against the lush mountain side, sense of depth obliterated in the sea of pea soup, wire handrails drilled into the bedrock as we pull ourselves to the mountaintop.
We know the end is near, for now, we literally walk in the footsteps of the Incas, boot inserted in the same stone indention that cradled the soles of their feet five centuries ago, terraces of garden growth still strong and virile.
Here, we peer into the abyss, and finally, we sense the dizzying heights that threaten to cement us to the stone ledges we dare look beyond. How our predecessors zipped up and down these now-closed stairwells built into the corridor amazes us, for it seems death assured, especially if llama, boy-playing-with-ball and old lady all intersect in the bend.
Food is prohibited, it says, but Graham and I play devil’s advocate and take a leap of faith into the unknown, stepping up the protruding stone ladder over the void, happy to find two backpackers feasting over a late breakfast on the terrace top as we regain our footing and sanity.
By 8:30, we reach the zenith, final moments demand that we pass down, around and over a lodged boulder while a dude’s girlfriend cries from sheer fright, paralyzed from going any further, a mind trip for those of us who suffer from vertigo and know too well her plight, and while Chilean chick’s boy toy bitches and whines to her in French, naive and annoying behind a fake cloak of linguistic anonymity.
The fog cares little of our presence up top, and frankly, I’m not too sure that I care, either, for what we see right in front of our eyes is magic enough, stonework so solid and intricate, it defies and astounds. But, the start to the show suffers only a delay, and after a thirty minute pause–for, what else, an Incan chocolate bar–the clouds thin out, and between the veil, we catch glimpses of Machu Picchu.
Wow, incredible, and in unison, the throngs of us up top, lined up like sardines along the stone walls, gasp and point and smile, all of us here for exactly the same thing.
Amazing, really, to see the mountain top village from such heights, for instead of humanizing, it amplifies the grandeur of this place, its rank as a New World Wonder well earned.