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Location: Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo

While waking up at 4:15 in the morning was no one’s idea of fun, I don’t think that anyone minded since today we would see one of the Wonders of the World and an Incan paradise: Machu Picchu. We met in the lobby at 5 and sorted out the stuff we were leaving at the hotel so no one had to carry random stuff up the mountain. Then we split into groups, one being the hardcore hikers that decided to take the climb up to Machu Picchu by the light of flashlights and headlamps, of course, and those who wimped out and chose to take the bus. The hiking crew consisted of Avery B, Steph, Dan, Bridget and I and it was amazing. The views were unbeatable and awe-inspiring. The stories we heard were both entertaining and hilarious. Plus, the group taking the bus had to wait in line for over half an hour and the view from the bus stop doesn’t even compare to those from the hike.

We met up at the top at 7:20 with the hikers showing up only 5 minutes after the others, despite the fact that the bus ride was 20 minutes and the hike was an hour and a half with a half hour wait to even get onto the hiking path. We shuffle forward, all anxiously awaiting the first moment we lay eyes on Machu Picchu. We get through the gate and walk up some stairs and there is a hold up in the narrow area where you first see the iconic site. Mario, our guide, finally got us through and it was amazing. Indescribable is the only word to explain Machu Picchu and the mountains that surround it. We all gathered on a terrace after some death-defying stairs and Mario told us the history of the site, the people who inhabited it and those who discovered it. Then we made our way through Machu Picchu and saw all the temples of the elements, that were very important to the Incans and since we could not live without them, they worshipped them. And while taking pictures (we probably took 1000 pictures between all the cameras), Meryl and Avery B. tried to do handstands to make a really artsy picture and were yelled at by a fellow touring group and a Machu Picchu guard. It did not work out. Then Mario explained the meaning of the Incan cross that most of the group had adopted as their own and bought many a piece of jewelry with this symbol as the centerpiece.

The tour came to an end and we all thanked Mario for the information about Machu Picchu and guiding us through the masses of people all visiting. We made our way to the beginning of the Sun Gate hike and this was the point that all the postcards are from and the Lifeworks group hogged the best spot for a while, with everyone wanting a picture with everyone else. It probably took 15 minutes to get all the desired picture combinations. Then it was time to split up into those taking the hike to the Sun Gate, those admiring the view and those going down to spend time in the cafe right outside Machu Picchu. Anna, Meryl, Noah, Rachel and Jack B. all took the hike. Jack R. and I stayed to enjoy the view and the rest went their own way. After 30 minutes of admiring the landscapes, Jack and I made our way down to the cafe and ended up walking the whole mountain again. There are worse things. We also got Machu Picchu stamps in our passports. Very cool. Time to meet up and get in line for the bus down. It was longer than the wait for the bus up to the mountain. The hikers made it back in time to wait in line for 10 more minutes then we boarded and made our way down the mountain. The views were still amazing. Some of the girls broke out in song to pass the time and while we may not have sounded amazing, we all had a great time.

When we returned to Aguas Calientes and to our hotel that we didn’t have rooms in anymore, we had free time until our train at 5:30, with some people resting in the lobby and the rest doing last minute shopping. The train ride back was full of card games and good times. We got back to Ollantaytambo and returned to Tika Wasi for one more night. We got new room assignments and I finally get to be with Sophia and Bell in an awesome room. We only had time to drop our stuff before our dinner which was pizza that Anna went and got (thank you Anna) and our nightly meeting, did Highs and Lows and read a bittersweet story about a math teacher that had all her students write nice things about everyone else and then gave them the list, and when one of the students passed away, they found he still had the list in his pocket. So we were tasked with the same activity and it sounded both difficult and interesting at the same time. Time to turn in and get some rest for whitewater rafting. Today was an amazing day and I cannot believe we go home in less than a week. Miss you mom and dad! Can’t wait to go home but at the same time I don’t want to leave. This trip has been amazing and unforgettable!