This morning we got up around 4 am to head back up to Machu Picchu. We had a brief breakfast around 5 am at the hotel and the boarded the bus up to Machu Picchu at 5:40 am. The line to get into Machu Picchu was very long in advance of the 6 am opening time.
We finally got into Machu Picchu about 6:45 after a brief argument with the attendant at the entrance over the size of my bag. The bag that had been just fine on the previous day was somehow too big on the 2nd day, so we had to go grab all of our stuff that we absolutely had to have and then check the bag for the day.
Once we got into the site, we hiked up to the Watchman's Hut area and took a few pictures as the sun came up. We then headed up the Inca Trail towards Intipunku, also known as the Sun Gate. Intipunku was about a mile and a half and probably close to 1000 vertical feet above the main city of Machu Picchu.
We took our time on the way up because Andrea was still nursing a sore ankle. It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to get up to the Sun Gate. The views from the top were truly amazing as the entire city of Machu Picchu was laid out below us. From the top we could see the terracing from Machu Picchu almost all the way down to the river below. These were truly the best views of the entire city of Machu Picchu. It really gave the best perspective on the true size of the city because you could not see the entire city from within.
Another thing that really struck me on the hike was the abundance of tropical flowers. There were orchids growing everywhere, along with dozens of different kinds of wildflowers. I ended up taking a ton of pictures of all of the flowers along the trail.
After reaching the Sun Gate we hiked a little ways down the trail on the back side, just to see what was there, before the attendant who had been placed up at the Sun Gate came to tell us that we weren't allowed to go any further. We then took a bunch of pictures at the Sun Gate before heading back down the trail.
It took us a little longer to get back down the trail because Andrea's ankle had a harder time with going down than with going up. We got back down into Machu Picchu around 11:15. We stopped to take a few more pictures, including some of the best pictures of the trip with a handful of very cooperative llamas on the overlook above Machu Picchu. We then headed back down on the bus about an hour later.
Once we were back in Aguas Calientes, we mailed some postcards then went and had lunch before meeting back up with our group. We hung out for a little while before we all went and got back on the train to Cusco around 3:15. On the train ride down, the train staff provided a bunch of different kinds of entertainment, including a native dance down the aisle, and a fashion show of baby alpaca clothing. We ended up getting off the train in Poroy at 6:45 and then taking a quick bus ride from there down into Cusco.
After we got back to the hotel, we were all pretty tired, so we went and had dinner at the Charlotte Cafe restaurant right near the Eco Inn. It was easily one of the worst dinners of the trip. We then went back to the hotel and watched a bit of the Peru vs. Columbia World Cup qualifier while we drank pisco sours before heading to bed.