Top of the world
It's good that there is meaning through struggle, as the walk up from the town of Machu Picchu Pueblo, formerly Aguas Callientes, to the entrance of Machu Picchu is one tough mofo. It took me an hour, though the going rate is about half as long. What was worse, my weather forecast told me to expect 4 degrees at 5am, the time I got up in order to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu. Not so. Though I started in a jacket and sweater, with a spare sweater in my bag, by the time I was halfway up the mountain, a t-shirt would have been enough.
The climb doesn't end at the Machu Picchu entrance gate. There are two mountains to be climbed on the site itself, for which you have to pick one beforehand, with only limited tickets on sale for each. And there's also the trek to the sun gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu if you're coming in through the Inca trail, tickets for which you have to secure months in advance.
I brought one liter of water, which is far from enough. At the end of the day, within 30 minutes of leaving the entrance gate (dinks are not sold on site and extremeley expensive at the gate), I had consumed about 3 liters of liquids.
The views and setting, thankfully, are breathtaking.
The history of Machu Picchu is wrapped in mystery. The Spaniards were never aware of the site and for the locals it was merely legend by the time it was rediscovered. Perhaps a royal retreat, perhaps a purely ceremonial venue, specifically the terraced platforms supporting the steep mountainsides and allowing for the stable mountain top constructions and agriculture with minimum land erosion are impressive.
The town at the foot of the mountain, Machu Picchu Pueblo, is so secluded, the only way to get in is by expensive train, or by walking. Though, strangely, you can be driven up to the Machu Picchu entrance gate by tour bus.