Day 4: The Sun Gate and Machu Picchu


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South America » Peru
October 27th 2014
Published: October 22nd 2017
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Geo: -13.1628, -72.5158

Breakfast was minimalist at 3:45am. The chasquis had to haul tail down the mountain to make their train and we had to walk about 150 yards in the dark to get in line. No one was very happy about the line part, but I'm glad we didn't walk far in the dark. Day 4 had the most narrow trail and steepest drops of the trip. That's not a great combination to pair with dark. A head lamp was a key piece of equipment for this day.

From the checkpoint, we hiked mostly up to get to the Sun Gate. From there we played a bit of hide-and-seek with Machu Picchu. It was in and out behind the clouds. Whenever we saw a break in the mist, we would whip out our cameras and snap away. If you visit Machu Picchu by bus or train, you can hike up to the Sun Gate and get the view as well.

Arriving at Machu Picchu, we had to do one last check in and we were able to get our passports stamped as a souvenir. David gave us a 2-hour tour of the place. It was a little surreal to be in the middle of crowds after so many days on the trail. All the women were unreasonably excited for the opportunity to pay 1Sol (about $.33) to use a bathroom that had all the things a bathroom is supposed to have. The only amenity I wasn't so grateful for was a mirror. Warm running water helped that situation though.

After our formal tour, we walked around in a bit of a daze for a while. Machu Picchu was a little anticlimactic after the previous 3 days, honestly. We were scheduled to meet the rest of the group down the mountain in the town of Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters) for lunch. Mike and I enjoyed having drinks at the cafe, looking out at the mountains and checking in with the kids via an abysmal wifi connection. My favorite message was one from 2 days earlier asking who was going to pick up Alex. Since there was no follow up message from Alex, I assumed that some kind-hearted friend with a car got him home (I was right. Thanks, Marla!!). I picked up a cheesy t-shirt at the gift shop that announces to the world that I successfully completed El Camino Inca and has a map of the trail through the mountains. Part of the appeal was the "show-off" factor; the other was the joy of being able to put on a clean piece of clothing.

At lunch we collected tips for David and Eddie and they awarded us with certificates of completion. The porters gave us back any of our gear that they were carrying for us. After beer and pizza, we said goodbye to few of our number and went with some others to the hot springs of Aguas Calientes to get clean and enjoy a soak. Didn't bring a suit or towel with you on the trail? No problem. On the street running up to the springs, you can rent one, the other, or both for a dollar each. Just return them when you are done. Add swimsuit and towel rental to the list of "Things You Won't See at Home." As we were walking through town we noticed that they have the game Jenga set up on many of the restaurant tables here. Kind of funny. Massages are widely available as well. Surprisingly, I didn't feel any need for a massage. I was just desperate to get clean.

The baths were not very good in comparison with ones I've enjoyed in Costa Rica and Canada, but my standards were pretty darn low at this point. We only stayed in a little while before retiring to the bar for Pisco Sours.

The trip home was a real bear. Keep in mind that we were up at 3:15 after some very long days and short nights. We took a 2-hour train ride back to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and then got on a bus to Cusco. The bus did that sharp turns along winding mountain roads thing. I'm generally not that susceptible to motion sickness, but I suffered through most of the 100-minute or so ride back to Cusco. I emerged onto the street with a pounding headache and horrible nausea, but with the contents of my stomach still in place--minor victory. Believe it or not, they don't drop you back at your hotel. They leave you near the Plaza de Armas and you either have to walk back to your hotel or catch a taxi. I was not getting back into a car so we had to hoof it back to Andenes al Cielo (Platforms to Heaven). It wasn't pretty-- a very mind-over-matter, one foot in front of the other sort of trip. When we arrived, the staff had carried the bags that we had checked with them up to our rooms. That was an act of kindness that I may never forget. I can't remember when I was so grateful to another human being. And so, we stumbled into soft, warm beds.



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Machu PicchuMachu Picchu
Machu Picchu

This is what they think the original roofs looked like
Waynu PicchuWaynu Picchu
Waynu Picchu

If you arrive by bus you might want to do this climb to a peak next to Machu Picchu and look down from there. They say it takes about an hour up and another down. We had no interest in our group. The record, we were told, is 23 minutes to the top.
David tries to hold our attentionDavid tries to hold our attention
David tries to hold our attention

He should have put us in the shade. We were all falling asleep. Laura said she actually dozed off


Tot: 2.754s; Tpl: 0.054s; cc: 10; qc: 54; dbt: 0.0457s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb