Adventures with Renee and Jane
It's a short, quick 6km/4 mile hike from camp to Machu Picchu. Get up at 4am to be in line by 5am before the gate opens at 5:30am... then people freakin' haul *ss towards Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) and Machu Picchu.
The quick people took off first, as usual. Michael, June, Rani and I stuck together, then Michael and June took off, then Michael took off by himself, then the whole group thing just went to hell. Up the 50 steps of the "gringo killer" to Inti Punku, you then stop just beyond it for the group to reconsolidate, then head on to Machu Picchu, passing a few llamas on the way. In the winter, views are great from Inti Punku, but in the rainy, cloudy summer-- well, we took what we could get.
Walk as quickly as possible... and then over the next few fits and starts, you're at Machu Picchu! Even in the clouds and rain, it's awesome.
The main disappointment is not hiking Wayna Picchu-- raining and cloudy. We still should have done it, but we didn't. ;_; Then you go down on the bus to Aquas Calientes, which is indeed a dumpy little railfront town. Hang out, have lunch (mmmm ceviche!), take the train and bus back to Cusco... Take a nice shower and be clean for the first time in four days, then at 10:30pm as dinner ends, you realize you've been up since 4am and you're barely going to make it back to the hotel before you die.
It's worth it.