Today we got up at 4:50am - it was still pitch black, and it was raining, but we made it to breakfast and then onto the first bus up to Machu Piccu at 5:30am. It got lighter as we climbed the switch-backs to get up the mountain. We waited for a few minutes in line for the doors to open and then went in.
We first climbed up to the Watch Tower. The view was spectacular - the rain was down to a sprinkle and the huge clouds and mist were moving quickly across the landscape, so it was constantly changing.
When the rain stopped, we decided to walk to the Incan Drawbridge. It's a 20 to 30 minute walk and is pretty level, but hugs the edge of the mountain, with sheer cliffs if you look over the side. It offers some beautiful views, but definitely makes you watch your step - at most points if you took a couple steps to the side, it'd be a long way down.
From there, we crossed the ruins and decided to head up to Waynu Piccu, the large mountain you can see in the background of pictures of Machu Piccu. I thought at first that the hike might take you up the smaller peak near Machu Piccu, but as we climbed what seemed to be endless stone stairs, we realized that wasn't the case. Jeff guesses we climbed the equivalent of 80 stories, maybe more. We were out of breath the whole way!
We started the hike at 7:45am (you have to sign in when you start, because they only allow 400 people per day to climb). By 8:45am we had made it to the top. The views of Machu Piccu as well as the surrounding mountains and valleys was incredible - worth the hike. We were pretty proud to have made it.
Having done quite a bit of hiking, at 10am we just found a shady spot in the ruins - against one of the terrace walls, and relaxed and read books. I finished "The New Invisible College" and started "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which is a fiction book about a nerdy kid from the Dominican Republic.
Around 11:20am, we headed to the ticket gate to grab some food and meet our guide. After some very refreshing passion fruit juice and a chicken sandwhich, we were ready for the tour. We spent two hours being shown around and hearing about the monuments - normal houses, the temple of the three windows, the sun dial, the temple of the panther, and lots of other things.
After the tour we did a bit more reading, relaxing, and enjoying the view. Around 2:30pm, we could see storm clouds coming in, and content with our eight and a half hours at the ruins, decided to head back to town. We had some palm-heart pizza and Cuscquena beer before catching the train back to Cusco.