Peru 1988

The bearded stranger was right to try and reach this place just after dawn. It’s  a special magical place, where its best to be alone - but I have to earn a living.  Towering above the Inca ruins at Macchu Picchu is a peak called Weyna Picchu, where you find the Gate of the Sun. The view is one reason he came. The clouds scudded past fast, occasionally wrapping him in damp cotton wool, occasionally revealing views of the ruins, sunlit and stunning in one direction, and then cloaking, and quickly revealing, the valleys and mountains stretching away in the distance. Magnificent.

The other reason strangers come up here is because its where the Inca himself, the Emperor, used to come and commune with the Sun, his God. His seat, the Gate, is right at the top, carved out of the stone and it’s where people like to sit in the silence under the sun and sky, look around at the world below them - and dream of godhead.

The bearded stranger looked a bit strained when he emerged from the short tunnel in the rock near the top. He was clearly wanting to be the first up, to enjoy the silence and being alone. It was before 7am, its 2500 metres high and the climb is not fun in the early morning drizzle. There’s a sort of track but you do have to pull yourself up the rocky path at times. There are some ropes to help, but too much pressure of the foot on the outside of the narrow track and something may give way - and you’re starting a rapid vertical 500m descent.

His face fell when he saw me up there. Because he wouldn’t be alone? Or perhaps it was my prices? But I deserve to charge 50 inti more than the hotel for the bottles of soft drink I drag up here for the tourists every morning before dawn.