Woo Hoo! The last day is upon us !
Upon our arrival the night before at the Winay Wayna outpost camping area, we prepared ourselves for our celebratory dinner for our last night on the trail. After a long 11-hour day of hiking down the Andes mountains to the campground our spirits lifted as the next day we would arrive to our destination, Machu Picchu.
My breathing had finally eased after being at altitudes of well over 11,000 feet for most of the past week. Although exhaustion had set in as for some strange reason, they love waking you up at the wee-hours of the morning to get you started on the trail.
Trekking on the Inca Trail is truly “Glamping.” We were thoroughly spoiled by having porters carry all of our food and camping equipment. Not only did they carry all the weight, they also set up tents for both lunch and dinner, as well as our sleeping tents. The meals prepared by our trained chef were elaborate with multiple dishes at each meal.
Now was time for us to show our appreciation to our guide and porters following dinner. Luckily my appetite was starting to return after the day of the Ceviche Revenge. I had read from other trekker’s blogs that they had been served a cake which their chef had managed to bake in a pot over his small gas stove.
Following dinner, the rumors became true ! Our chef Julio presented us with a beautiful cake that tempted even the angels. How he managed to make this delicious cake still amazes me. Alas, those of us who had suffered from the Ceviche Revenge were instructed that sugar was our enemy. So all we could do was admire the cake while Isaac and our friend who had the cooked trout enjoyed their slices.
Following, we warmly thanked each and every porter for their steadfast and sturdy support for the trek. Rewarding them generously with tips and hugs we tucked in for an early night.
For the next morning we were to wake by 4:00 a.m. to get in line for the Inca Trail check point to begin our final approach to the Sun Gate (Intipunku.)
So excited, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and by 4:00 a.m. I was ready to head out on the trail. Little did I know that what we were actually going to do is go about 1,000 yards and wait in line for the check point to open at 5:30 a.m. So we had to hurry up and wait…in the dark…in line. Can I go back to sleep now?
At 5:29 a.m. the check point officer slowly walked up the line to get into his office. Surprisingly, the line was processed fairly quickly as this is a passport and permit check point. Many trekkers are anxious to reach the Sun Gate to experience “Dawn” at Machu Picchu. Little did they know, there is no sun rising over Machu Picchu. What you actually see is an illumination of the glorious citadel.
With the instruction of “Single File – Mountainside!” from Isaac, we stayed along the mountain so that we wouldn’t be run over by anxious trekkers.
At one point, I had forgotten his sage advice and was walking on the cliff side of the trail. Before I knew it, my foot slipped out from under me and I fell! Trying to catch myself, I leaned right (since I’m right-handed) and quickly realized that there was no ground! Oops! So I quickly readjusted and leaned left to catch myself. By than Isaac was by my side and grabbed me in fear that I was going to tumble off the mountain. Being a horse woman, I’m accustomed to falling and picking myself up. So I got up and continued on my way, this time “Mountainside” with a rattled Isaac behind. Poor guy, I had to reassure him that I was just fine and I was used to falling.
Along the trail to Intipunku
It took about an hour and a half to reach the Sun Gate from the check point. Leading up to Intipunku is this last staircase of 50 steps – 50 steps to celebrate my 50th birthday. The same staircase where I was three years prior with my sister to celebrate her 50th birthday.
My Sister and I on our “50th steps” – May, 2009
The Sun Gate was full of trekkers vying for the picture perfect spot for their photos with Machu Picchu in the background. Along with us was a younger porter by the name of Leonardo. This was the first time Leonardo had ever visited Machu Picchu. When we reached Intipunku and he had his first glimpse of Machu Picchu, emotion overrode him and he had tears in his eyes.
Isaac, Leonardo & Jim
To see Machu Picchu in the early morning’s light is nothing short of spectacular. The verdant city welcomed me back as if it had remembered me. This was the third time I was to visit Machu Picchu, the first being when I was seven years old with my mother and sisters. For some reason, Machu Picchu calls to my spirit.
We continued on the last portion of the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu filled with such a sense of achievement and celebration. The journey on the Inca Trail was worth all of the pain and suffering as the brown and green Andes mountains accompanied us all along the way. But our trekking days weren’t over yet as we were to spend several days at Machu Picchu ending with a climb of Huaynu Picchu.
Sacred area entrance into Machu Picchu
The Citadel of Machu Picchu
and my new Nemesis: Huaynu Picchu Mountain