Several years ago, Chris and I were entrusted to take engagement pictures for two of our good friends. One of the settings was the backyard of the groom’s parents’ house. After we’re done shooting, we went inside and the groom’s mother serving us some drinks to cure us from the summer heat. She also handed me a coffee book simply titled “Peru”. This is where I came from, she said. As I flipped through the pages and marveled at the pictures of the mountains and valleys, she asked whether I want to go visit her country someday. One more page flip, and I stared at the grand two-page image of Machu Picchu. Oh yes, I said, one day I will definitely visit your country. And on the last week of November 2013, that dream became reality.

We did a group travel to Peru on the Thanksgiving week, and visiting Machu Picchu was definitely the most awesome highlight of the trip for me. It’s a 25-minute bus ride from Aguas Calientes, zig-zagging up the mountain (kudos for the bus drivers; their driving skills are insane) until we reached that magical place that’s recently rumored to be closing for visitors due to visitors overcrowding in the near future. While I hope the rumor isn’t true, I think preserving this world wonder is a higher priority for generations to come.

It’s very exciting to see these views when we went zig-zagging up the mountain. There’s even someone (presumably) taking a selfie with the gorgeous landscape background :)

When we first got a glimpse of the magnificent complex, we knew right away Machu Picchu is a great treasure, one of the world’s wonders that more than live up to its fame. Our Quechua guide informed us that many things about Machu Picchu are still unknown; it is not a city (despite being known as the “Lost City of the Incas”, a sanctuary, or a citadel. Perhaps it’s originally a place to learn, complete with places to live for the nobles and agricultural sections. But explanations surrounding this place are full of speculations and interpretations of opinions, which make the allure of Machu Picchu even more exciting.

I’m at loss of words to describe how I felt walking around Machu Picchu, observing all of the sturdy structures and layouts. I was in awe of the civilization, a bit nostalgic, sad because this way of building sturdy buildings are not currently economically scalable. However, at the same time, it’s very pleasant to be in here surrounded by gorgeous mountains and fair weather; I felt calm and welcomed.

After wandering and listening to our guide for about an hour, we reached a small resting place near the checkpoint leading to Huayna Picchu (more on that later). Nearby, there were 3 llamas! These beautiful, confident creatures calmly chomped on the grass and ventured towards the crowd, becoming instant celebrities. They’re so CUTE!!!

Finished with our guided tour, the group decided to go up to Inti Punku (The Sun Door). From Machu Picchu entrance, the Inti Punku structures seemed so far away that it was slightly intimidating. But it was roughly an hour hike from our starting place. The rocky path leading there was so full of character, and the resulting view at the end was definitely worth it.

When we came down from Inti Punku, we spotted more llamas enjoying the grass and sun bathing on one of the Machu Picchu grassy plains! Naturally, we side-tracked and spent time to adore these lovely creatures some more. Thanks to this sidetrack, I got my favorite Machu Picchu shot. It’s breath-taking.

The day after, the group woke up early to hike up Huayna Picchu (Wayna Picchu). We made our way back to the Huayna Picchu entrance / checkpoint (roughly 10 minutes away from the Machu Picchu entrance) and was greeted with a considerable line of people wanting to do the same thing. We’re not avid hikers, so it’s a strenuous 1-hour hike (one-way) that rewarded us with gorgeous view of Machu Picchu 2500+ meters above sea level, thinning air, and cool winds in cloudy condition.

All of us made it to the top, and it’s only natural to take pictures of all the known and unknown “survivors” (some of them also came from San Francisco!) at the top of Huayna Picchu. The trek down was nearly, if not as rigorous as the climb up, and the clouds continued to play peek-a-boo with us. Now you see Machu Picchu, now you don’t, now you see it again, now you don’t…

Shortly before noon, as we made our way back to the Machu Picchu entrance, it was our last chance to drink in this beautiful place one last time. After all, we probably will not have a chance to see, with our own eyes, a view this majestic again in the future. I admire this place, it’s something beyond us; something much bigger in significance and it needs to survive history.

With that, our 2-day adventure at Machu Picchu was over. If somehow we’re lucky enough to visit Machu Picchu again, we’re looking forward to take the “harder road”: taking the Inca Trail (4 – 5 days trip to Machu Picchu from either Aguas Calientes or Ollantaytambo). Fingers crossed.

I bow to your magnificence, the majestic and mysterious Machu Picchu.

Until next time,
Musank