Day 4: Once again Pascal and I awoke well before dawn, bursting with excitement to be returning to The Citadel. Joseph, our wonderful guide, met us at the lobby and we headed down to the buses. We didn’t have long to wait and soon we were swerving our way around the hairpin bends, as we wound our way ever higher through the cloud forest to the entrance.
Tickets and passports had to be shown, they stamped our passports with a Machu Picchu stamp, and we headed up the steep stone steps along incredible stepped terraces. We walked along a narrow stone pathway, turned a corner and suddenly, there it was!!! The Citadel was revealed in all its majesty, taking our breaths away!! Cloud free for the most part, it truly appears as though we stepped in to another world. Words truly cannot describe its splendor, it’s enormity, too big for the Eye to see, let alone for cameras to capture. There truly is an awe inspiring power emanating from the ancient citadel with its complexes of stepped terraces that cling to the mountain, the peak of Huayna Picchu rising imperiously behind it, crowned at its peak with more stepped terraces, and the temple of the moon. This vision, for it truly appears as a vision is further enhanced as the Grey granite city is vividly contrasted and framed with lush green rainforest robed mountains that surround and somehow protect it. Awestruck! A dream come true, as this wonder of the world, that I had seen in books since my childhood loomed before as though we were in a waking dream.
The site is enormous as Joseph guided us through the multi level city (lots and lots of steps). It’s complexity, the ingenuity, the incorporation of the sun, using the solstices to create their calendar, even reflecting pools set in the Inca’s dwelling to reflect certain constellations in the night sky, their irrigation systems, aqua-ducts, their universities and vast workshops for artisans that made up this unique micro city were mind blowing.
Surprisingly the Citadel was not too crowded, giving us time alone to really appreciate what we were seeing. Each turn revealed more awe inspiring views of the citadel and the majestic mountains surrounding it. The clouds drifted through, changing the light , rain came and went, and all our senses on sensory over load. Joseph then led us to the Sun gate, a trail up out of the citadel which is part on the “Inca trail,” the original trail that the Quechua people and their Inca walked to access the Citadel. It’s also now a famous four day hike. The hike was breathtaking, challenging at times, but the views were out of this world. We met a pair of llamas at the half way point, which was a fun welcome break.
As with our hike up Machu Picchu, we met lots of hikers. Everyone was super friendly, some were finishing their four day Inca trail and were euphoric as they came through the sun gate revealing the Citadel below. Sitting up at that gate, through which the sun would shine through on the winter solstice, was magical.
The vast valley below, lush green rain forest, the cone shaped Andes Mountains as far as the eye could see and the Citadel below was mesmerizing. Clouds came and went in quite whispers gently drifting below us, enhancing the dreamlike feeling of this other worldly experience. We made our way back down to the Citadel, calf muscles most definitely on fire as we racked up over 9000 steps on this hike. We made our way back to the terraces facing the citadel where sat down to eat our sandwiches and just sit and attempt to absorb all that majesty. The sun was shining, the light was magnificent, as we sat there speechless, in awe, just taking it all in. Truly and utterly a once in a lifetime magical experience.