Day Three – The Eye Candy!
Distance: 10 km / 6.2 miles
Highest point: Phuyupatamarca Pass 3,680 m / 12,073 ft
Campsite: Wiñay Wayna 2,680 m / 8,792 ft
What Our Brochure Said:
This is the most impressive and wonderful day (in our opinion!!!). We wake up for breakfast at 6am, and start the day with a climb to visit the archaeological site of Phuyupatamarca, the views from here of the mountains, canyons and surrounding areas are spectacular.
After the Inca site we continue walking down (3000 steps!) through the cloud forest and the impressive agricultural Inca site of ‘Intipata’ until we arrive at our third campsite Wiñay Wayna. Today we have only walked about 4 to 5 hours and have arrived to camp by lunch time!
A short distance from this campsite is located the Inca site of the same name ‘Wiñay Wayna’ (‘Forever Young’). Even if you are tired after your day’s trek, don’t miss out on visiting the most impressive site on the trail.
This was more like it! You basically only hike for 5 hours. This is the sight-seeing day. You actually get to slow down and take in all the sights. The trail wasn’t flat by any means, but was not nearly as challenging as Day Two. Thank God. You climb up to the clouds and survey the surroundings from Phuyupatamarca. Because the next two days were at a more leisure pace, we got the chance to slow down, smell the roses and meet new friends, Ingrid and Marian. If you get the chance, make sure you read Ingrid’s take on this trip, “Fuck. That Was Hard.” It’s hilarious.
Then you come down from the clouds to visit Intipata.
Finally, you get to camp. You actually get to camp near an archaeological site, so once you drop off your stuff, you can wander around Wiñay Wayna for half the day.
Day Four – Macchu Frikking Picchu!
Distance: 5 km / 3.1 miles
Highest point: Sun Gate 2,730 m / 8,956 ft
What Our Brochure Said:
We leave the last campsite at about 5:30am on the final day (breakfast 3.30-4:00am). It is an early start in order to get to ‘Inti Punku’ (‘Sun gate’) (2730m/8792ft) before sunrise.
This is the place from where you will have your first dramatic view of Macchu Picchu (2400m/7873ft) with the sun rising over it! After some time there, we will walk down the last part of the Inca Trail Clasic Trek to the spot where you can take the classic photo (picture postcard shot) of this ancient city. Finally we visit Macchu Picchu itself!
What I didn’t understand until that exact moment was the Inca Trek was actually a narrative that told a story chronologically.
Inti Punku – The Sun Gate
The Sun Gate is the entry to Macchu Picchu, but it’s still not a cakewalk getting there. The idea is to get there before the sun comes out so that you can see the sunrise over Macchu Picchu. But, the gates don’t open until 5:30 AM, and you still have to hike from the Sun Gate to Macchu Picchu. And guess what? There will be a line at the gate because everyone’s trying to catch that once-in-a-lifetime money shot. This means waking up super-early so that you’re in front of the line at about 3:00 AM. If you’re lucky, you have a bunch a friends with you, keeping you company in absolute darkness. I mean dark, like a darker shade of black in the middle of the jungle. Bring some cards, a harmonica, or whatever, and oh yeah, a thick jacket because it’s cooooold.
Once the gates open, it’s a mad dash to Macchu Picchu. We’re trying to get there before it gets riddled by tourists who took the train there or stayed at the hotel next door. Because of the hell I went through, by the time I got to Macchu Picchu I hated everyone.
Here’s how you tell from their Macchu Picchu pictures if they hiked there or just walked right in the front entrance. If they looked like the jungle took a huge crap on them, they hiked there. Otherwise, they went through general admission.
After a challenging 4 days of hiking the Inca Trail in relative solitude, we finally reached the conclusion of our trek, Macchu Picchu. As majestic as Macchu Picchu was on its own, it just became that much more impressive after doing the 4-day hike. What I didn’t understand until that exact moment was the Inca Trek was actually a narrative that told a story chronologically. As we progressed through each archaeological site, the ruins got progressively better and more preserved until we concluded at its pinnacle, Macchu Picchu. In relative comparison, Macchu Picchu was the most well-preserved of the sites. In the earlier sites, it was really hard to visualize what the final product might have looked like. Macchu Picchu IS the final product.
According to our guide Raul, the huge granite rocks that made up this city all came from the Urubamba River below. Yep! The same river we crossed at the beginning of the Inca Trail. The Incas managed to lug these massive rocks from thousands of feet below, then carved them, using primitive tools with laser accuracy, finally fitted them perfectly to form this grand city in the clouds. Unbelievable. No wonder conspiracy theorists think that alien intervention might have been involved. Every superlative you can think of pales in comparison to splendor you experience being here. The city is truly majestic! Every gripe about the hike and every pain in my body went away. All I felt was wonder.
(360 View of Macchu Picchu – Drag to View)