We arrived in Aguas Calientes at 9pm on a rainy Saturday night, four T-Birds on a packed train from Ollantaytambo, in anticipation of seeing Machu Picchu early the next morning. It was the middle of the Peruvian Independence Day holiday weekend and Aguas Calientes was overflowing with tourists from all corners of the world. We had been site-seeing for 12 hours that day, leaving Cuzco at 8am that morning and meandering through the Sacred Valley and Pisac, filled with Inca Ruins, Alpacas and Artisan Markets. It was winter in Peru, so we were sticky from humidity, wet from the rain, touched with altitude sickness and a handful of bug bites sporadically placed for good measure. Over a very late dinner of Chaufa, Lomo Saltado and Inca Cola, we talked of being there in the rain, discussed contingency plans if was still raining tomorrow and how it was their “dry season”. How we just knew the rain would stop just for us. But it didn’t. A few hours later, at 5am, when we met the hundreds of others in line, for a bus up the mountain, it rained. We bought ponchos from one of the street vendors and for the next hour and a half we waited. We were convinced, once we got above the clouds, there would be sun and clear skies.
But it rained. And rained. And rained some more.
By 7am, when we reached the entrance, our tour was beginning and we followed and listened closely through the ponchos and umbrellas. We hiked in the mud and we walked and talked and listened. When we reached the top of a peak, and saw the remains of the great Inca Civilization with the mist and fog, through the moving wisps of clouds, layered over the mountains in an eerie and possessed way, it all just felt exactly right.
This was the only way we saw Machu Picchu that day, through the rain and mist and fog. We saw a Machu Picchu we didn’t know we wanted to see. A Machu Picchu without the lines that would have felt like Disneyland and pictures of the new world wonder without tourists in the background.
There was no more talk of sun and hope of clear skies. It was raining in Machu Picchu. And just as it was, was just right.