By the third day we had become accustomed to our morning routine, and were easily on the trail by 06:30. Today was going to be a good day. Most of our elevation gain was behind us. We had one final low pass, then ~3,000′ of descent. The distance, too, was short at under 6 miles.

And we had Lindsey from Canada to thank for this good day. She really wanted to arrive at Machu Picchu in the fourth day, rather than the planned third. She emailed, called, & generally pestered both the office & Jaime, and her perseverance paid off: our third night would be at the Wiñay Wayna Camp, the one that had the wash-out issues. This shortened the day and gave us plenty of time to tour the ruins around the camp.

Fairly shortly after leaving camp we arrived at an Inca tunnel, not our first, where the trail passes into the rocks and out the other side. It was all wet inside, especially the walls.

And even though we hadn’t yet begun our main descent, we’d come back below treeline and were in a warmer and wetter climate. Moss, especially, was varied with color and texture as to seem a living art installation on the walls beside the trail.

Moss

Moss

Phuyupatamarca

Phuyupatamarca

Phuyupatamarca

Directly after the last pass, the paltry 12,000′ Abra Phuyupatamarca, we came upon the Phuyupatamarca ruins. Its name means ‘cloud level town’ and that’s exactly where is was this morning with clouds above and below it. This is another Inca-Trail-exclusive ruin. It was smaller than Sayacmarca from yesterday, but had a more interesting design. From our approach it seemed almost triangular with a series of fountains running down one side. At the top was a small platform with a low outcrop of rock that the top terrace seemed to nestle. But on the other side stood paired sets of prow-like curved platforms stepping down the hillside — almost undulating in their design.

After Phuyupatamarca our descent began in earnest. Some stretches had a 40% incline, but all of them heading for the camp ~3,000′ below.

We also began to catch sight of the Rio Urubamba, now flowing among the steepened slopes of granitic rock covered in green jungle. And we also spied out first glimpses of the Intipata ruins, standing out as ordered terraces amid the jumble of forest.

Intipata

Intipata

Intipata

Intipata (sun place) is lovely. Convex terraces fan out below a single semi-circular building at the top. It had about 400 vertical feet of terracing. A few buildings, but nothing extensive or important. And high up on the mountainside it had commanding views of the surrounding mountains and the Urubamba snaking below them.

The trail led through the ruins and then to our camp for lunch. Save for a quick trip to more ruins, that was it for the day. it was marvelous. We ate lunch, napped, and just hung out all the time looking out on this exquisite and expansive view. After days of being closed-in by clouds, it was a relief to see so far so clearly. You could also hear the river grumbling its way to Machu Picchu, now only a few mile away.

View from Wiñay Wayna Camp

View from Wiñay Wayna Camp

Wiñay Wayna Ruins

Wiñay Wayna Ruins

Wiñay Wayna

At 16:00 we walked the short distance to Wiñay Wayna (forever young) ruins. As we arrived we had the whole thing to ourselves. The nearby waterfalls were all we could hear. After Jaime’s talk we all just continued to sit there on a terrace, enjoying the beauty and the solitude. This was Jaime’s favorite ruin and I could see why. The concave terraces gave it a dramatic sweep, the well-survived buildings gave it a focus, and the double door jams and fine masonry told of its importance. A prominent window in a curved wall perfectly framed one of the waterfalls. The washout that hit the camp also affected the ruins — the regal run of fountains, normally spilling with water, stood dry and silent. But the site was just about the most perfect we’d seen in Peru.

By our last dinner together everyone was feeling better. A portable speaker gave us some music as we hung out after the ruins until our final dinner. We gave our tips and said our farewells to the porters & the cook. And the had even baked and decorated a tres leches cake for our last night. This abbreviated last trail day might have been worth that first long day of pain. It had been a good day.

  • Places: Chaquicocha Camp – Abra Phuyupatamarca – Wiñay Wayna Camp
  • Inca Ruins: Phuyupatamarca Ruins – Intipata Ruins – Wiñay Wayna Ruins
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Time walking: 5:00
  • Elevation loss: 3,000′