Above cloud 9 (Kristine Kyllander)
The first portion of the hike on day 3 was a pretty sharp incline, significantly shorter in duration than day 2 but I had thought all of the climbing was behind me and was exhausted before we reached the ruins of Runkuracay (less an hour into the day). But the day definitely got better and we had a fabulous time exploring the ruins of Sayacmarca. I took a ton of pictures on this day, not because I was trying to rest like the day before, but because there were so many scenic and interesting things to see along the way. Aside from the ruins we passed by, Teddy was giving us an education on the various the flowers and plant life we were viewing. Walking through the cloud forest on this day was extra special because we really didn't see any other hikers between lunch time and reaching our camp for dinner. The trail itself was taken to a whole new level on this day as well, the stone pathway built by the Incas seemed at points to be literally carved out (as well as through) the mountain. There were some shear vertical drops bordering the left side of the trail at points juxtaposed against a silky soft type of moss growing on the right (I tended to walk on the right). I joke about this because I am afraid of heights but even so, I never actually felt threatened or in danger during the hike. As you get tired, you stop lifting your feet up as much when you walk and I noticed that I seemed to stub my toes quite a bit towards the end of the day but thankfully, I had a good pair of hiking boots that kept my toes from bleeding and my ankles from twisting. It probably would have been a good idea to have walking poles as well - Tim and Bryan used them but Bridget and I decided not to (actually the truth is I brought them to Peru but decided only take one with me on the trek and lost it before lunch time on the first day). Sayacmarca was one of my favorite spots on the trail and I love the photos we took up there. Aside from being built in this beautiful location with panoramic views surrounding, there is something special about having a touristy experience in a place that you can only get to by hiking for a couple of days preventing most tourists from ever getting there. Sure, plenty of people these days are hiking the Inca Trail, but it doesn't make the experience any less authentic or incredible if you are lucky enough to be one of the 500 on the trail on any given day. Our final night of camping we spent at Phuyupatamarca (which is known as the Cloud-Level Town) and it was by far the most scenic of all of the campsites we stayed at. This was the only day during our trip that we encountered rain which started about thirty minutes after we arrived at camp and lasted for about an hour or so. It was a perfectly timed siesta opportunity and I am not ashamed to say I took full advantage. I have written about three days of our Inca Trail camping experience and somehow haven't mentioned food yet which is crazy because that seems to be a big portion of what I had written about during the pre-hike portion of our Peru experience. Anyway, I mentioned before that our chef was Danny. We were told that this was his first season as a chef working with Adventure Life which I find a little hard to believe - it's like the river raft guide who said this was his first time rafting. But Danny was truly a miracle worker when it came to the kitchen. I will never fully comprehend how it was possible for him to prepare three course meals for five which were timed perfectly and always hot using only two small propane burners. The quality and variety of the food was amazing and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would enjoy eating on the trail as much as I did. I was pretty worried about the food situation before we began our trek and at least 3 pounds of my duffel-bag allotment was reserved for protein bars and trail mix which I ended up giving away to the porters because I didn't need it. Since our return to the states, Tim and I have invested in a cook book focusing on quinoa but my all-clad and high-tech kitchen has yet to replicate anything close to what Danny was able to accomplish out of his tent on the trail.
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