Because when you have matching llama ponchos, you can’t not take them to Machu Picchu.
We awoke at 4.15am to complete darkness, the rushing of the river below our window the only sound in the otherwise still night. Huddled in our ponchos we clomped down the hill, sleep deprived but giddy with excitement. For months, weeks and days we had been looking forward to this day. The Wonder of the World Day. Machu Picchu Poncho Picture Day. We couldn’t stop repeating it to ourselves: “Machu Picchuuuuuuuu!”, always accompanied buy a grin so large it bordered on the demented. Ever since a bus ride in Ecuador during which destinations were shouted out much like the battle cry from ‘300’ (“Quitoooooooo! Quito, Quito, Quitooooooooooo!”), we had taken to exclaiming town names in much the same way.
Suddenly hurried footsteps joined our own, lights appeared and we saw the queue. At ten to five, sixty odd tourists had beaten us to the bus stop. Sixty odd people were crazier than ourselves, or at the very least, just as stubbonly determined to achieve the perfect misty morning, devoid of tourists photograph. Clutching my polystyrene cup of coffee, I ignored the quizzical looks our ponchos were getting. Smugly, we whispered that they were envious of the llama adorned, fleecy goodness of the poncho. At 5.30 we clambered onto a bus and set off into the night, passing a surprising number of travellers who had decided to walk the 8km stretch of stone steps and winding roads to reach Machu Picchu, their head lamps bobbing as they walked. Commit to the Inca Trail, or pay for the bus in my opinion – walking the two hours from Aguas Calientes is just half-hearted. The sky was turning pink as we stood waiting for the gates to open, and the crowd began snapping away. And then, we were through! We spent three hours wandering through the ruins, taking pictures and posing for a few more.
It was a perfect time to be there: the early morning mist creating an ethereal setting and the warm 8 o’clock sun highlighting the majestic beauty and colours of the surrounding landscape. Machu Picchu has been without a doubt one of the most incredible experiences of the trip. I was asked recently what I love most about travelling, my answer was “seeing with my own eyes places I thought I would only ever see in pictures”. It’s during moments like this one, sat on a rocky outlook contemplating with speechless wonder what is below me, that I remember why I love visiting new countries and just how lucky I am to be able to do so.