On day four of the hike, we woke up to rain pitter-pattering on the tent. It was a bit disappointing, but we got ourselves up and ready to go for the day. We still had a few hours to hike before we got the Machu Picchu. We hiked through the rain for two hours before we got to the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate is the first place where you can see Machu Picchu from the trail. When we arrived, we were surrounded by clouds... however... after a few minutes, the clouds separated and we were able to see.
Here is some information about Machu Picchu. The site was basically unknown to the world before 1911 when it was discovered by Hiram Bingham. Bingham was looking for the Lost City of the Inca's, and although this wasn't what he was looking for, he did find something incredible. The words Machu Picchu mean "Old Peak" in Quechua, is actually the name of the mountain behind the site. It is thought to have been built around 1450, during the height of the Incan Empire. It was built as a religious, sacred site, therefore, commoners did not know that it existed. There are, of course, many different theories about what the site was used for, but most scholars agree with it being a religious place.
Our guide filled us in on many of the theories and information as well. One of those supports the sacred theory in that the Spanish conquistadores never found Machu Picchu. They traveled all over Peru, conquered the Inca Empire, found most sites and either destroyed them or turned them in Catholic cathedrals, but they never found Machu Picchu nor many of the other sites along the trail. Another idea is that the site was used to keep the "Virgens of the Sun", or young maidens who were destined for life in the religious aspect of society pure from the temptations of daily life.
The two pictures above show some of the landscape around the site. Instead of a grounds crew or lawnmowers, Machu Picchu is home to around 30 llamas who keep the grass around the area neat and trim. It also includes a lot of terracing, which most of these would not have been for farming but for medicinal herbs.
Above, here we are in what was assumed to be the leader's bedroom. It has an attached bathroom behind us. Below, another shot with llamas, because I love them.
Here we are, with the famous, postcard picture. Proof, right here, that we made it.
After the hike was done, looking back, it was the most strenuous, arduous, fulfilling, and worthwhile experience I've had. One thing that helped to make it so worthwhile is that I got to experience it with my father and Jess. It was an adventure of a lifetime, and even though 200+ people start the trek every day, we accomplished something great here, and we did it with some outstanding individuals, guides, and porters.