The 4 am hike to Machu Picchu

Hello all,

My name is Ankur Shah and I am an Earth System Science and Physics major at UAH. Thanks in part to the Honors SAGA program, I got the amazing opportunity to visit Peru to volunteer in the Amazon rainforest. The first two days of my trip were entirely up to me so I decided last month that I would visit Machu Picchu as it would be a shame if I went to Peru and missed out on one of the magnificent wonders of the world.

The stars shone brightly in the deep blue sky with tall mountains looking down upon you. This can be the closest description for the first hour of the hike to Machu Picchu. Words fail to explain the beauty of this experience.  Walking on cobblestone streets with no lights and looking up to find a vast array of constellations against the backdrop of gigantic mountains is a truly humbling experience. The entrance opened at 5 am and we chose to climb the steps to the top instead of simply taking a bus. I was with two other people I had met the day before and we did not want to miss the sunrise. The picture is below but it does not do justice to the moment.


The Incan architecture and symbolism is expressed wonderfully at this World Heritage site. The trails make you think that you are in an Indiana Jones film!


Since I was alone on this trip, I had the opportunity to interact a lot with other people including two cool French guys with whom I hiked to the amazing Incan bridge. This trip made me realize how much the Incans knew and piqued my curiosity for diving deep into Peruvian cosmology.


It is absolutely mind boggling that hundreds of years ago, they knew the exact dates of Summer and Winter Solstices and their observatories had specific symbols which shone only on Winter Solstice. Along with that,  they used constellations to orient their structures with proper cardinal directions and had well defined water drainage systems.

It is hard to choose favorites on this journey but I would pick the Incan bridge simply because the path to reach there was extremely narrow and  dangerous! The drop was about 2000 metres so it was an intense hike. Even the way they might have constructed that bridge is food for thought.


In just two days, I visited three separate cities for going to Machu Picchu and until now, I was traveling alone. Hence, my Spanish skills came in very handy while asking for directions and simply talking to Peruvians, who were super friendly, and I met some amazing people on the way. Travelling alone has perks of its own as you make your own decisions and you create the strength of the experience. Now, I am with a group and we will be heading to the Amazon rainforest tomorrow for volunteering with biodiversity conservation and reforestation projects. Will keep you updated! Ciao for now