In an attempt to make sunrise at the Sun gate we were awake by 4am. The day started peacefully enough, with each of us carefully picking our way down the dark stairs by the shine of our flashlights. As dawn approached though, people began to realize that we might not make the sunrise. "Lance" was the first to make a break. Once the porters started running by Uri and me, we decided to follow suit. Eventually, we met up at the base camp, which was perhaps a 60-70 minute walk from the Sun gate. Looking up, though, the rays of the pre-dawn sun were cresting over the mountains, so we realized that we had to make a move. So after hitting the Machu Picchu checkpoint, we began to run.
Thank goodness I've been running in Potrero Hill for the last few months, or I wouldn't have been able to make it. I'm not sure what everyone else's experience was (except for Jim, who fell ill), but I had great fun sprinting by incredulous hikers and guides. I reached some exceptionally steep stairs, which were capped by a stone structure that I could only assume was the Sun gate. After scrambling to the top, I realized that my assumption was wrong and that I still had a few minutes to go. Two minutes after I reached the top, the sun rose, and upon reaching the real sun gate, I discovered that I was about 10 minutes to late to see the light break over Machu Picchu.
Despite missing the sunrise, most of us thought that it was a pretty amazing sight. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon exploring Machu Picchu. A few of us made the hike up the precipitous trail to the top Wayna Picchu (including Vicki, who had an amazing ability to conquer her fear of heights). Eventually, we finished up with a bus ride back to Aguas Calientes ("gooooooooooooooooooood byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"), and caught the train back to Cusco.
[If you can't see the "twilight" navigation on the left please click here.]