Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 4 - Phuyupatamarca to Machu Picchu

We wake about 5:00am, no doubt for the excitement of the day. Lucio reminds us that the sun is about to rise and we scramble up to the lookout, Coca tea in hand. Ah, the hot Coca tea!!! I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s cold up here and in the low 40’s on the high passes. And during our summer months, June, July and August, the temps are even colder. There isn’t much in the way of precipitation and that makes it a popular time to go. Also, school is out and these months sell out way in advance if you decide to do this on your own.
I’ve added a temperature chart below that features the different months and the rainfall, as well. I should also add that the trail is closed in Feb. for the rainy season and for maintenance.

                                 J      F     M     A    M     J     J     A    S     O    N    D

Av. Max Temp C          68    70    70   72   70   70   70   70   72   72   73   72
Av. Min Temp C           45    45    45   40   36   34   30   34   40   43   43   45

Wet days / month       18    13    11    8     3     2     2     2    7    8    12   16

The day is sunny and warms up quickly as we make our way back down to breakfast. This morning we will dine al fresco for our last breakfast on the trail. In the distance we can see another group of porters coming in to make camp for a meal. Eddie tells us they will make their final camp at Wiñay Wayna and then get up in the middle of the night for their final hike to Machu Picchu for the sunrise. We all agree we much prefer the pace of the 5 day 4 night and camping at this incredible site for our last night on the trail.

After breakfast we have the ceremony to thank the chef and the porters for their services and to give them their tips. From here on out we will only have the chef and 2 porters with us for the hike into Machu Picchu. The rest of the porters will go down an alternate trail to catch the local train back to Ollantaytambo and home. You can hear the excitement in their voices as they are talking and laughing while packing up the site, eager to get home.

We say goodbye, take off and now we descend the more tropical side of the mountain range. We hike down to Phuyupatamarka and it is clouded in but beautiful, none the less. This archaeological site also features the sacred cascading baths found at other sites once used long ago by the nobles.

We hike down steep steps that wind down the mountain side and are covered from above with masses of thick growth. The steps can only be negotiated by walking sideways, they are so steep and it is wet so we've got to take it slowly. Flowers and orchids start appearing in huge numbers and soon we are the orchid paparazzi as someone put it, snapping away, picture after picture before Eddie brings it to our attention that we must stay on schedule. But they are just beautiful and in every shape and size!

We hike for 3 and a half hours, through the ever changing cloud forest breaking for a rest and snack. We come to the second tunnel before reaching the Intipata and it is just as fantastic as the previous tunnel and just as steep! At this point in the forest we are at about 9,300 ft. 

An Inca stairway partially cut from living granite finally delivers us to Wiñay Wayna, the largest and most impressive site before Machu Picchu which was discovered in 1941. Built on the steepest hillsides, with many buildings, terraces and sacred fountains, this site is concave and is meant for sun worship. The sacred ritual baths are still flowing today as they are in all of the sites. It's raining so we decide to go for lunch and come back to the ruins after. We move on to the next campsite beyond Wiñay Wayna. There is a building here built for research workers that is now used as a dining area. You can also get a welcome cold beer here!!! The building has bathrooms and there are tent sites nearby. We break for lunch and a beer and we also say goodbye to Quintin, our chef and Julian, who has served us so graciously for the past few days. I've never camped in such a manner and it was quite fine to be met each morning with tea and served our meals high up in Andes. I can't say enough about their services on the trail. They were all fantastic! Soon after, we travel back for a site lecture at Wiñay Wayna archaeological site.

One of the most special orchids on the trail, Wakani Orchid, Masdevalia veitchiana, in Quechua means "you will weep", from an ancient Inca story

Elleanthus Capitatus Orchid

And one of my favorites, Wiñay Wayna, "Forever Young", Epidendrum secundum, can be seen at Machu Picchu easily, as well as at Wiñay Wayna archaeological site and along the trail.

We move now from Wiñay Wayna and continue on the trail as we descend more in elevation and hike for approximately 1 hr and 45 minutes. The ancient stairways are hanging off the steep sides of the mountain and orchids continue to pop up everywhere along the trail. We notice Eddie no longer mentions them as we hike so that we won't stop and we can stay on schedule. I think he's figured us out by now. It is raining a bit and clouds move around us as we hike slowly down to the site.

We finally arrive to the Intipunku and the steps to this sacred and ancient gateway are so steep we laugh as we almost climb on all fours to the top. As we reach the gateway I am so excited and I know that I am experiencing something that I will never forget! It's breathtaking and we are all smiling at this magnificent site, Machu Picchu!!! We made it, and what a trek it has been!
I am nearly moved to tears and stand off to the side to regroup. There are few places where reality exceeds your expectations and I have to say this is truly one of them....

A couple of group pictures and we are on our way. The park is empty and the only living things we see are the llamas munching away in the rain!
We still have 45 minutes to hike down from the stone threshold of Intipunku, "The Sun Gate", go through the ruins and get to the exit gate. We walk in total silence and reflect the last few days hiking and sites.

As we near the exit I notice eveyone looking back, again and again at the site of Machu Picchu devoid of any humans! and I realize that I may never see this again....

Once out of the park we are all smiles as we wait for the last bus to arrive that will take us down to Aguas Calientes and we celebrate with a hug! We made it!!!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures! Planning a trip there for June & I am soo excited. Has been my dream trip since I was 8 years old!