When we woke up, the sun was brilliantly shining over the valley. Some snowcapped mountains were far in the distance, adding to the beauty of the place. I had no idea our surroundings were so beautiful the day before, since we were surrounded by dense fog.
After the hike of day 2, I was not at all afraid of what was to come on day 3. Only 1000 foot climb? No worries, I could sleepwalk that far. My arrogance was soon transformed to humbleness. After about 20 minutes of hiking, we saw some horrendous looking stairs. Likely the steepest we’d seen on the trail thus far. We kept going up for about 10 minutes, then took a much needed break. After some more time we came upon a small but cool ruin called Runkuraqay. It was a small lookout post for messengers. What an incredible view of all the nearby mountains. Another push for the end brought us to another good lookout point. The stunning beauty of the mountains was accented by some small ponds that also found themselves on top of the mountain. A deer came to one of the ponds to drink, and we all excitedly clamored for our cameras. You might call that sad, but I hadn’t ever seen a deer at 13,000 feet. At the top of the mountain we also gave an “offering” to the Pacha mama, which is the Quechua expression for mother nature. Meghan and I were trying to figure out whether or not Edwin was actually a believer in this Andean religion or if it was all part of the show for the trail. There are some interesting parallels between this religion and Christianity. The most evident is the presence of the number 3. Three important mountains, 3 key figures (Condor, puma, snake), and 3 worlds (sky, earth, and under the ground). Again we descended for a while, this time overlooking a cool lake. Eventually our hard work was rewarded with another beautiful Incan ruin called Sayaqmarka. This was a place for the royal family to stay, along with a place for religious rituals. It’s a beautiful place, situated on an outlook over another valley. This place was different than most because it lacked terraces. There was no need for them if the royal family were the only inhabitants. Food could be imported from surrounding areas without much problem.
The little structure you see here is Runkuraqay
Beautiful outlook from today's mountain pass :)
Lunch was good, then we continued our walk for our final destination. We arrived after a short hour and 15 minutes because we had to stay so far from our final destination. Still, this place was stellar. In the distance we could see the tip of the Machu Picchu mountain, as well as Waynapicchu. Also in the distance was Intipata, an impressive terrace system with only a few buildings. I guess this was a place of agricultural experimentation, used to optimize their protocols for crop growing. Very near our camp was another ruin called Phuyupatamarka. I know your first impulse is to try repeating that name 10 times fast. This was yet another center for agriculture and religious rituals. It was very foggy/cloudy, but a few times it opened up and Meghan and I were able to see it well. The ruins out here are gorgeous, but almost no one is able to see them because of the distance from civilization. There isn’t much to report on the rest of the day, but it was our last time to hang out as a group. My understanding of the Argentinians had improved significantly, so I was able to follow the majority of their conversations and occasionally contribute. It was also decided that the Germans, Meghan, and I would be waking up at 3:30 to attempt to catch the sunrise in Machu Picchu. Had to be worth the shot. The Germans had insisted on this because they had paid money for the sunrise. They didn’t handle the situation in the calmest or most professional of ways, which I know made many of the other hikers and guides uncomfortable. They absolutely had the right to be angry, but there wasn’t much that could be done so their anger was unfortunately directed at people who had minimal power to change their situation. Tonight was also collected tips for the porters and guides. I don’t think the porters are paid very much, so it was good to give them a little extra for their services. They come from rural areas instead of cities, so they don’t tend to be very picky about work. To them they are paid perfectly fine, but to us it seems like very little.
Intipata (thank you zoom lens)