As if I'd withhold a story about my day at Machu Picchu!! I'm not going to outline every step I took, because frankly, we'd all be here all day. Suffice to say, the whole place is amazing, breathtaking, awesome, mindblowing etc. So I'm only going to tell you the story of my trek to the Sun Gate.
If you do the Inca Trail trek, the sun gate is where you get your first view of Machu Picchu. The guide I'd had on my tour in the morning had said the walk up to the gate was an easy incline and should take about an hour. Well, I definitely wouldn't call it a slight incline. The city is at 2,350 metres, the Sun Gate is 2,720...it took me about 45 minutes to get up there. Red faced, dripping with sweat and puffing madly (though the few others up there were the same!) I turned to finally enjoy the view I'd been restraining myself from peeking at on the way up. Spectacular. The city looked so small, dwarfed by Waynapichu, the peak that overlooks the city.
I found myself a shady, grassy spot and settled in to enjoy the view, a big drink and some biscuits. From that high, I couldn't really see the detail of the city, but knowing what was down there, and trying to imagine how it had all gotten there was mind boggling. I started the descent with an American guy, who reminded me very much of Putin from this photo...
Anyway, he was a bit scared about going down, even as buff as he was, so I left him in my dust. I was about half way down when something jumped out of the bushes on my left, and raced across the track in front of me. Something red, something with a fluffy tail and long nose. At first I thought it was a fox. Then I thought perhaps I shouldn't stand around in case it jumped out and bit me, as a course of rabies medication wasn't an attractive thought.
Then I heard a sound - sort of a clucking then whistling. I imitated it. And waited. And then...a little head poked out between two stems of bamboo. It was the most precious little face, with a long nose and big eyes that were looking right at me. In a split second, it jumped just as the first and ran across the track. I got a better look at its body - red and brown on the face and body, with the same colours in a stripey, bushy tail, about the size of a normal to small house cat (not a fat cat like Sam...just kidding Rowan!). I settled down on a nearby rock to wait for more, and I was rewarded for my patience. There must have been another 5 who came out nervously, stopped to look me over, then jumped the trail.
Eventually, I continued down the track - going down almost as hard as going up - and when I reached the bottom, and looked out over the city again, I quickly asked a tour guide what it was. He said the name in Spanish too quickly for me to catch, but said it was a native raccoon-type animal. He also said that I was very lucky to see one, and couldn't believe it when I said I'd seen over five. I've done a quick google search, but can't figure out what it is. Very unfortunately, the computer has decided not to let me upload any photos, so I can't even give you a visual clue. I will give 30 points to the person who can discover what it is from my description - with a link to a picture of it of course.
So, in conclusion - I've wanted to go to Machu Picchu for as long as I can remember - and like my visits to Petra and the Taj Mahal, it didn't disappoint. My day there coincided (give or take a day or two) with a year of being single, and the same feeling I got walking across the Golden Gate Bridge struck me again - it's a liberating thing to be able to go to the places I've always wanted to go, and do it on my own, and do it the way that I want to.
An incredible day, an incredible experience - I just wish I could share the 100+ photos I took with you right now!