Valley view from Winay Wayna (Kristine Kyllander)
Day three ended and Day four began with all of us awake listening to a symphony of frogs. Apparently these particular frogs are tiny and transparent so they overcompensate your inability to see them by being too loud to ignore. Similar to the song of the roosters the night of day one, these frogs were able to keep it going all night long. But the lack of sleep made no impact on the excitement that today we would be reaching Machu Picchu. The morning at Phuyupatamarca was absolutely breathtaking. It is difficult to describe in words and even the pictures I took don't quite convey the vastness of the Andes. After breakfast we said our thank you's to our wonderful group of porters and Danny and started the final leg of our trek descending about 4000 feet and almost 7 miles to Machu Picchu. This was, in my opinion the most beautiful portion of the hike. There were butterflies that would fly in front of us following the trail and appearing to guide us to our destination. Teddy pointed out an orchid that only grows at a specific elevation and is so tiny that we needed to use a lens in order to see its' flower. And the view from the ruins of Winay Wayna was the backdrop for some of the best pictures we took on the trip. But as incredible and beautiful as everything was along the way, nothing compared to the view of Machu Picchu that awaited us from the Sun Gate. Before reaching the gate, there was a stretch of steps we had to ascend and Teddy challenged us to get to the top without stopping or using our hands. None of us were able to do so! But shortly after reaching the top of this Inca staircase, we crossed the threshold to the Sun Gate without any warning from Teddy and so it took a few seconds before we realized where we were. We were so lucky to have a perfectly clear afternoon with an unobstructed view of the city laid out before us. It was still a bit of a walk from the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu but we headed down to check into our hotel and indulge in our first shower in four days. Fortunately, Adventure Life was able to book us at the Sanctuary Lodge and we enjoyed every part of the five star treatment. Aside from the much needed showers, the Sanctuary had a complimentary laundry service so we were able to get clean clothes between the time we checked in and the time we had dinner! But the afternoon was not to be wasted enjoying the luxury of the Sanctuary Lodge and after our quick showers we headed out once again to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu with our trusted guide. The park was completely empty as it was late in the day and most tourists had taken buses back down to Agua Caliente so we had this incredible treat of getting to enjoy the ruins and take tons of pictures without the crowds. Teddy took us to all of the highlights and pointed out the best spot for sunrise. Once the park closed, we headed the 100 yards or so to our hotel where we were greeted with turndown service which included a lit candle and chocolates. The dinner in the hotel restaurant was very fancy but honestly the food was not as good as what Danny had prepared for us during the hike. We appeared to be the youngest guests in the dining room and also appeared to be the only ones who came to Machu Picchu by way of the Inca Trail. With that said, the staff of the hotel was not concerned about our appearance or attire and we were treated fabulously during our stay.
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