PERU: Cusco and Machu Picchu

Two days of meetings finished on a Thursday.  While my colleague planned to leave the next morning, I planned a quick trip to Machu Picchu for the weekend.  There was enough time to fly on Friday, spend Saturday at Machu Picchu and fly home Sunday.  After arriving on a Friday afternoon there was time to explore the city of Cusco where all the tourists acclimate to the altitude.  This city on it's own was amazing and has very interesting Incan sites in the surrounding area.  It must have been midnight by the time I retreated to the hotel and went to bed exhausted. 

At 5 am Saturday morning, I left the hotel for the train going to Aguas Calientes, which at that time was a tiny village with a few hotels and a hostel for those visiting Machu Picchu.  Arriving into Aguas Calentes, the train stopped about 1,000 yards too short of the train platform and the train conductor yelled something in Spanish and the passengers started grabbing their luggage and walking towards the town.  ... Guess we're walking so I grabbed my suitcase and followed the crowd.  Thankful that with the years of business travel I had learned how to travel with a light carry-on.  When I reached the train platform I could see a guy holding a sign with the hotel name where I was booked.  With some of my broken Spanish and sign language, he took my luggage and he directed me to a local tourist bus that was heading up the mountainside to Machu Picchu.  15 minutes in Aguas Calentes and I was assuming my luggage would be at the hotel eventually and on a bus heading up one of the steepest, narrowest mountain roads I have been on in a 50 person passenger bus ... don't look down.  Fortunately, my husband is the understanding type and didn't seem concerned when I told him, "by the way, I won't be home Friday, heading to Machu Picchu".  I did invite him to fly down to join me, but he declined due to a project schedule.
Machu Picchu is everything they say it is.  It feels different and you see differently ... probably from the altitude, the immense size of the surrounding peaks, and the ultra clean air.  I was so blown away with the beauty and view of Huayna Picchu (a peak with Incan ruins and higher than Machu Picchu), that I knew this will take more than a day.  That evening at the hotel I emailed work to let them know I wouldn't be back until Wednesday  and changed my flights.  That Saturday, I stayed at the site to sunset and took the last bus down the mountain ... again, don't look down while on the bus ... it's straight down.
Sunday morning I rode the 5 am bus back up to the site to go hike Huayna Picchu.  The fog was heavy and the ancient ruins were amazing to see peaking out of the mist as it rolled through the site and surrounding peaks.  I signed in at the gate for Huayna Picchu ... I guess if you fall of the peak they'll know if you don't sign out at the end of the day.  I hiked in the fog for what seemed like the first half of the trail.  Eventually, I was above the fog and could see that Machu Picchu was covered in deep fog.  I reached the top peak where a massive rock protruded out with amazing views and an amazing amount of Japanese kids, say what?  Okay, I wasn't the only one thinking it would be cool to get this view.  There about 15 us, me and 14 early 20's Japanese, sitting and waiting for the fog to clear.  About 30 minutes later, the fog slowly cleared and laid out before you, you can see it!  It? That Machu Picchu is laid out as a condor, the bird.  You can see the wings, with the Sun Gate at the top of the left wing, the body, and legs.  On Saturday, my guide told me how the whole site is laid out as a Condor and showed me the Condor temple that is there as well.  I had no idea you could see this from Huayna Picchu, but there it was, absolutely amazing!