42km and then…The Inca Trail Day 4
When we reach the Winay Wayna campsite late on the evening of Day 3, for once, the sky above us remains cool and dry. After our arduous 16km day, I expect to be completely exhausted, but the mood in the campsite is jovial and exuberant. All around us, I can hear the sound of different groups cheering and clapping for their porters, and thanking them for all of their work over the last 4 days.
With just the 2 of us, our celebration is a little more mellow, but we are just as grateful for the level of service, strength and caring our porters displayed. It is not an exaggeration to say that the trek would’ve been next to impossible without their dedication.
After our last supper with our super-porters (we won’t see them again because they leave early in the morning in order to catch the first train home), our exhaustion finally catches up with us and we make our way to the tent for our final night of sleep on the Inca Trail.
I get a solid 4 hours of sleep before I am woken by the dreaded sound of raindrops against the tent…and this time, the drops are strong and insistent. It’s definitely a downpour this time and not a dribble. I lie awake for awhile, praying that the rain will stop, but eventually I give up and fall back asleep.
When I awake the next morning, the rain has stopped, but everything feels soggy and to be honest, I am a little relieved that it’s our last day on the trail. After 3 full days of no showers, no hot water, filthy pit toilets that don’t flush, and wearing the same old dirty clothes, I have almost reached my discomfort limit and the dampness that now seems to pervade almost everything doesn’t help matters much.
Day 4: The Culmination of 42km of trekkingIt’s 5:00 in the morning and after having breakfast and packing up our gear one last time, we race to the final control point, just in time to…
…stand in line.
Hmm. It turns out the control point doesn’t open until 6:30am, leaving 200 trekkers anxiously waiting at the gate. I’m not sure where all the reports of seeing magical sunrises at Machu Picchu come from, because there’s no way to get there before sunrise, if the Control Point doesn’t open until 6:30.
When we’re finally allowed to pass onto the trail that leads to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, the first golden rays of the sun are already starting to make their way over the horizon. With the mist hovering in the valleys between the mountains, hushed silence all around and dawn starting to colour the clouds in the sky, the feeling is no less than mystical.
Buoyed by our excitement, we race along the trail, making speedy progress towards our final goal. After an hour, we run into another line-up of trekkers, and I cannot imagine what the hold-up is. After all, Machu Picchu is nowhere in sight.
It turns out that the downpour of rain from the night before has weakened the trail and a small mudslide has occurred. We jump over the void one by one, assisted by other trekkers who have already crossed over. My heart is thumping in my chest as we make the leap and we later hear that the trail washed out, just as a trekker was about to walk across it!
Three km later, we reach the final set of stairs that lead to Intipunku, and boy are they a doozy. Super steep and narrow, getting to the top feels more like climbing, than walking, and most of the trekkers claw their way to the top using hands AND feet. I honestly don’t know how people made it the top with fully loaded bags.
Below the Sun Gate are the majestic ruins of the lost city, Machu Picchu. After 42k, 3 days and a million steps, I was more than ready to get my first glimpse of the ruins. My brother had done the trek years earlier and described his first sight of Machu Picchu as a spiritual experience. I wondered if it would be as meaningful for me.
We crossed through the Sun Gate, and this is what we saw:
Distance covered: 7 kilometres
Maximum Elevation: 2700 metres
Duration: 2 hours
Day 4 Summary:
I guess you can’t win em’ all. 😉
Next post: Our pics of Machu Picchu