We woke up at 4am on August 22nd and ate a light breakfast which our fantastic porters had prepared at 4:30. Thirty minutes later, we walked the 50 metres from our camp site in the dark to queue at the entrance of the final checkpoint of our hike which did not open until 5:30.
The reason for our early morning start was to get to Machu Picchu in time to pick up a permit to hike up to Huayna Picchu, the ruins atop the mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu. The permits were limited to 400 a day and given out on a first-come-first-served basis so we had to hustle.
It was an eerie hour of hiking in the dark before the sun slowly began to rise, clearing out the misty clouds. I reached the Sun Gate after climbing the "Oh my god" stairs, so-called because they were crazy steep and crazy high - so steep and so high that you have to literally climb them. The view that eventually greeted me was worth it though:
If you look really closely, you can see the profile of the alpha-llama just to the left of the building against the blue sky:
I'm amazed that these delicate flowers were hardy enough to grow out of the walls of the ruin:
We rode a bus down this windy pseudo-two lane road down to Aguas Calientes below, where we caught the train that would take us back to Ollantaytambo.
It was while leaving Machu Picchu that we heard there was a forest fire along the Inca Trail, the same trail we had been hiking the last few days! So not only did I dodge an earthquake - I missed a forest fire too!