As much as yesterday’s challenging ascent made me feel like I’d accomplished something, today was really special. We are so far into the mountains it is as if we on the trail are the only people in the world. The terrain is less steep and more undulating and we have crossed into what is really a rainforest. Today we will travel just over 9 miles (15km). The area of the Andes around Machu Picchu is actually the beginning of the Amazon basin and there is a different quality to the air. It’s warmer, there are so many clouds but we are so high up that they’re eye-level in the distance…someone called this a cloud-forest. We saw rainbows, wild orchids, more birds and waterfalls. The highest pass we climb today is about 13,000 feet (4000 m) but only about about a 1,300ft (400m) elevation gain from our last camp, tonight we sleep at Winay Wayna, at a relatively low 8,800ft.
Also, we got to see more outpost ruins from the Inca. The feeling of truly being separated from the world was palpable. The ruins themselves, maybe because of how remote they were, felt surreal in a way. Only the people who walk here can see these. There are no other people alive today who have seen these ruins except the few hundred a year that climb Dead Woman’s Pass who get to see and touch these ruins. The feeling of relatively ancient history made me reflective. How much effort it would have taken to build something so far removed? How secluded the people who lived here way back then were and how beautiful and pristine the rainforest here is even now, much less how wonderful it must have been then.
Highlights of the day included another historical talk from Papa Freddy at one of the ruins, getting to walk very close to some wild llamas and a brief rainshower that produced some awesome rainbows. Oh and we hit the “gringo-killer” stairs. For as high as we climbed yesterday, today we had to descend on some wickedly endless steps. Just for fun and added challenge, some of the stones were loose so watch it! Again, glad to have my poles. Near the end of the days hike Papa Freddy gave us the option to go an extra mile(ish) and see the built-in terraces up close or just head to camp. Of course I went to see the terraces and was so glad I did. The views there were stunning and the sun setting made the light just right. Also Daniel caught up to me and we got one of the best photos of the whole hike together there. As a downside, I didn’t ever get to see that camp in the daylight but I’m sure the terraces were better anyway.
That final night before bed we got to show our appreciation to our chasquis and our guides in the form of a few speeches and giving our tips. We really had a great group of hikers but the trip would not have been a success without the great men who helped us get there, well fed and safely. I can’t express how hard these guys worked and with a smile the whole time. I would definitely recommend Peru Treks to anyone thinking of doing this hike to Machu Picchu. It was hard for me to sleep, it rained which was nice to listen to but being so excited about tomorrow and how much warmer it was left me dozing on top of my sleeping bag, waiting for a sunrise over Machu Picchu.
Up next: Our 3am wake-up call to finish the trek at Machu Picchu!