Day 8; Thursday April 8, 2010 (Day 4 of the Inca Trail)
Machu Picchu Pilgrimage
We began walking about 6:30 am. We walked down many, many steps for several hours. The first part of the trail was quite steep but we were moving at a leisurely pace. This was the most enjoyable and awesome part of the trek. We were walking through the lush green forest; a heavy mist was in the air, water dripping from the leaves. Everything was damp but the temperature was comfortable. We all talked and laughed and told old war stories about our life’s adventures. Ayul had some great stories to tell about all his experiences on the Inca trail. He shared his wealth of knowledge by pointing out all the different plants and wildlife that we encountered along the trail. After about 3 hours of downhill walking, we finally arrived at our last stop: Winaywayna. Ayul told us that Winaywayna means “Forever Young” in Quechan. We adopted this as our new motto in life. This was a nice campsite with running water and toilets, a souvenir shop, and a snack bar. We rested for about 30 minutes and then headed off for the last part of our trek to Machu Picchu. The terrain along this section was rolling and wound its way through the forest. The trail itself was quite smooth, not too rocky. Everything was going smoothly until Ayul asked for one of my trekking poles, he said he seen a “Bushmaster” snake curled up on the side of the trail. Linda picked up the pace and our conversation died out for a while. We finally saw the Sun Gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail. The last part of the trail leading to the Sun Gate was probably the steepest and difficult set of steps we had to climb along the entire trail. The fog and mist that followed us along the trail had and finally burned off. We arrived at the sun gate around 12:30 p.m. and got our first glimpse of the ancient city of Machu Picchu. As we were walking down to the city we encountered several hikers, who we met days earlier along on the trail, walking back up toward the sun gate, they said they camped at Winaywayna the night before and left camp that morning in the dark so they could make it to the sun gate to see the sun rise, unfortunately they said it was to foggy to see anything when they got there.
As we toured the city, Ayul gave us the history of the Inca civilization, the Quechan people, the city of Machu Picchu and the theories behind why it was built. We finished up our tour around 4 p.m. and headed toward the bus that was going to take us down to the town of Aguas Calientes, and best of all, our hotel. The bus and ride down the mountain to Aguas Calientes wasn’t that bad, except for all the switchbacks. We checked into our hotel at the Machu Picchu Inn. We were very impressed with the room; king size bed and a flat panel TV with dish network. The hotel employees were extremely friendly and provided outstanding service. We finally got to that much needed shower and shave. We were like children under a sprinkler celebrating the water. Days of sweating and squatty potties made this an occasion to savor. Up to this point the beauty of the landscape and the wonder of the ruins distracted us from our lack of toiletries, but now we were free to scrub. “We survived the Inca Trail and bought the T-Shirt to prove it.”
Once we were revitalized by our shower, we met up with Ayul at 8 p.m. for dinner. A restaurant right across from the hotel had live Peruvian music and provided a relaxing, lighthearted atmosphere. There were children playing in the street as the sun was going down and the tourists passing by smiled to see the fun. It was good to be off of our blisters and to reflect on our tremendous trek. Linda bought a CD of the band that was playing. The food was outstanding and provided perfect closure for the day. We were in bed by 10 p.m. Linda watched American TV and I slept.