Sorry it's been awhile since I last wrote, but we were very busy, as well as exhausted. Our last day of hiking was probably the roughest (even compared to Salkantay pass) because it was 3 miles nearly straight up (gaining 2000 ft) and it was really sweaty. However, lunch (fabulous, like all the others on this trek) was on a ridge where we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu, albeit from a long way away.
As you can tell, all the hills and mountains were covered in vegetation - such a difference from the early part of our trek in the high, arid areas of the snow capped peaks.
Our hike down from lunch then, was 3 more miles (and 3000 ft) of constant downhill that just about killed everybody's knees. I didn't take any pictures that day except for the top and the distant views of Machu Picchu. We then boarded a train for about an hour's ride to Aguas Calientes, the town where the buses take everyone up to Machu Picchu. We stayed at a super fancy hotel there (Inkaterra - Bernie and Mark stayed here on their trek) that I would have loved to spent more time in, but we had to leave at 0530 the next morning to stand in line (45 minutes) for the bus.
When we got into the ruins, our guide who had been with us all week, gave us a tour and detailed explanations of most of the main buildings. At our first stop, where he spoke for quite awhile, this was what I saw behind him:
It was like, the clouds parted and you could hear angels singing... :-)
We had absolutely fantastic clear weather for our entire trek, including our morning at the ruins. Even though I hate the word, the "iconic" pictures of Machu Picchu will come in the next post.