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It was raining at our 03:45 wake up. It was raining at our 04:00 breakfast. It was raining at our 04:15 departure time. It rained as we walked to the nearby Inca Trail checkpoint. It rained as we waited under a metal roof until it opened at 05:30. As we passed through the checkpoint and out of the official Inca Trail, it kept raining.
The dark trail from the checkpoint to the Intipunku was crowded and felt rushed compared to the previous days. And it rained for the whole hour or so. The view from the Intipunku (sun gate), instead of being the sunrise view of the distant ruins of Machu Picchu, went maybe 50 feet before getting engulfed by the clouds and blowing rain.
But by the time we had come down near the ruins the clouds parted, the rain had stopped, and we could see Machu Picchu in all its splendor.
Nestled in the saddle between two mountains (Machu Picchu Mountain and Wayna Picchu) Machu Picchu is the ‘most’ Inca site we’d seen — largest, most buildings, most temples, most beautifully situated, best stonework. The Inca might have built better places — the city of Cusco, most definitely. But the Spaniards got their hands on them and destroyed and repurposed so that only a shadow now remains in those places. The Spaniards never had their chance with Machu Picchu. It remained undiscovered and out of their hands. It now remains as the pinnacle of Inca craft and engineering that still exists.
The other ‘most’ for the ruins, of course, was people. The morning crowds were small but still came as a shock. The Inca Trail is so spread out that we never really encountered more than one other group at a time. The couple of hundred people now at Machu Picchu, even spread throughout the large ruins, was a drastic change from yesterday’s solitary Wiñay Wayna ruins.
Jaime dove us right in, finding hidden corners and quiet ledges from which to tell us of the site. His tour led us through the upper western sector and hit the Intiwatana & all the main temples, concluding with the Sacred Rock at the northern end. The lingering clouds lent an air of mystery to the ruins and the surrounding peaks.
It was nearing 10:00 by then, and we had tickets to climb Wayna Picchu, the mountain peak to the north and in back of the ruins. We cued briefly in the line then started. The hike was crowded and precarious. Cables provided needed hand-holds up the steep and short stairs. There was some ruins to see and the Inca tunnel was great, but the low clouds blocked the view of most of the mountains.
We did, however, get the far off views of Machu Picchu that we didn’t see from Intipunku.
Afterwards we went back through the ruins for an hour or so to see a couple of things Jaime didn’t get to: the royal residence, Temple of the Condor, etc. The crowds had grown and the rains had restarted, so we caught a bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes.
We met everyone at the Munaycha restaurant in Aguas Calientes for beers and our last lunch. Afterwards we said our goodbyes to our Australians, Lauren and Matthew, who stayed to see more ruins tomorrow. Jaime led us through the tourist town to our train. The train was a good way of wrapping up the trek.
You gradually go from jungle up to higher & drier land. We saw yesterday’s Wiñay Wayna ruins and the first day’s Patallacta ruins. And we got a good view of the narrow green suspension bridge just past the official entrance to the Inca Trail where we first set out.
In Ollantaytambo we swapped the train for a bus and continued to Cusco via road. After farewells to Daniel, Lindsey, & Shami, our Canadians, Jaime dropped us at San Blas Plaza. We said our last goodbye to him and walked up to our hotel.
- Places & Inca Ruins: Wiñay Wayna Camp – Aguas Calientes
- Inca Ruins: Inti Punku – Machu Picchu – Wayna Picchu
- Distance to Machu Picchu: 3.25 miles
- Time walking to Machu Picchu: 2:15
- Elevation loss to Machu Picchu: 1000′
- Wayna Picchu hike time: 1:30
- Wayna Picchu hike distance: 1 mile
- Wayna Picchu hike elevation: 850′