Inca Trail: The Recovery

After Freddy concluded our tour yesterday, we were given some free time to roam around the Incan city before having to meet the rest of the group for lunch in Aguas Calientes. There are only two “directional path” options to take, so we took the route that we had not already traversed, climbing upwards for a better vantage point of the complex.

 A few of our group members actually raced back to the sun gate (Intipunku) since the skies had cleared of the cloudiness from earlier. (Tom and I opted not to do this since a) I’m slow and b) We thought the view would be underwhelming.

 

Apparently we were right, though the others decided to go moreso for the sense of closure.)

At lunch we were very disappointed to discover that our train and subsequent bus back to Cusco would not have us arriving until 10 or 11 PM which was far later than the advertised typical time of 8 PM, especially considering the fact that we had woken up at 3:30 AM. We ended up having to burn about 4-hrs of time just drinking, chatting, and roaming aimlessly. By the time we got back to the city, after a 2-hr train ride followed by a 2-hr bus ride (requiring a baño ecologíco stop for everyone that had been drinking), we were completely drained.

About 10-mins later Tom and were very unhappy to find out that the Pariwana Cusco Hostel, whom we had made reservations with over the phone when we stayed at their sister hostel, Pariwana Lima, had absolutely no record of our reservation! Nor did they have any private, double rooms available! We were both beyond pissed as they only had dormitory beds available and did not offer any viable alternatives for us. The last thing we wanted to do after a 4-day hike was to share a room with strangers that would very likely compromise our sleep. 

Fortunately, Milhouse Hostel, who we had stayed with before we left for our hike did have the availability we were looking for, and was just around the corner. (Note to self: I still need to leave the negative review for Pariwana).

After a warm and toasty night’s sleep in our private room within the restored monastery, Tom and I ventured out in the late morning for a lazy, hazy day. We grabbed a quick bite and visited the Cusco Cathedral (no pictures allowed) in the afternoon, roamed the streets of San Blas in the early evening, and then headed back to relax for the rest of the night. 

Originally, we had both  been thinking of buying either a lute or flute from Sabino Huaman (one of only two luthiers in all of Peru, and whose small shop we accidentally stumbled across before we left for our hike), but we decided that while conceptually it would be a unique item to own, it was not a necessary souvenir….and our legs were so so tired.

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Inca Trail: The Reward

Last night was our final evening with the Porters. Freddy and Emerson invited a few of them into the food tent throughout the evening to share Hot Toddies with us. Unfortunately there was still a language barrier, so the most we could do was smile, salute them in cheers, and shout Macháremos! 

After, we gathered in a circle to present them with their tips. 2 individuals had backed out of the trek last minute, so the porters only received an average tip of 83 soles when the average tends to be 100. 😦 After finding this out, we all felt a little bad, but it wasn’t our responsibility to make up for being a group of 14 instead of a group of 16.

We then went around in a circle shaking hands in thanks. One of the older porters came up to me afterwards to give me a hug and a quick cheek kiss! It was very sweet of him and I was touched by his gesture. He was one of the porters that passed me a few times while on the trail, and I’d always say hello and ask him how he was doing. “Como Estas?” We certainly up to the porters in the past few days of hiking, which is a far cry from day one when they seemed to have a disdain for us gringos. I think Freddy was correct with his observation that they were just very shy and got used to us as we spent more time together.

This morning, we had to wake up at 3:30 AM, although I actually ended up waking up at 3 AM since I could hear the porters chatting softly and shuffling around outside our tent. Tom was also up so we took our bathroom breaks and then packed up our gear for the day. Once we were done, we put all of our bags on a laid out tarp and headed into the food tent for a filling breakfast of porridge and pancakes.  

At 4:30 AM, after topping off the water in our Camelbaks, we took a short 200 meter (650 ft) stroll to find the end of the line to the Sun Gate, where we got comfortable and waited. We spread out the rain ponchos on the ground and sat on them at first, but it started drizzling, so a few of us put them on and formed a poncho-tent with our bags. I decided to just cover my bag with the poncho and use my rain jacket instead since it’d be more comfortable. 

About an hour later, everyone started standing up and shouldering on their packs on as the gatekeeper walked past each group. It was almost time for us to make the final push! Once the gates were open and we passed the final checkpoint of the trek, we began our last few hours of hiking on the Inca Trail. For awhile the path undulated until we started reaching intervals of climbing stairs. We kept asking if we had reached the infamous “Gringo Killer” yet, but kept being told by our guides that it was still farther ahead.

When we finally reached the “Gringo Killer,” it was no where near as intimidating as we had built it up in our heads! While the stair case was very steep, it was also very short, so after some systematic, methodical steps and trekking pole placements, we quickly conquered this last challenge. (Tom was at the top and shot a very unattractive video of my climb as I am not graceful in any way, shape or form).

We had made it! We were at the Intipunku, the primary control point used for the Machu Picchu sanctuary. The rising sun passes through this doorway during every summer solstice; This is particularly appropriate since Inti was the sun god and also the patron deity for the Incan civilization.


Unfortunately the sky was cloudy so we couldn’t actually see Machu Picchu from its vantage point. 😦  It was a little anti-climactic and disappointing.