Getting High the old fashioned way: Peru, Day 8

Monday, June 25, 2012, Winayawayna camp site, on the Inca Trail, Peru

It was a long walk downhill today.

Not too far past our campsite of the previous evening, we went over a 3rd pass –  relatively easy compared  to the previous two. From the top we had a nice view of our old friend Salkantay, and of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, of which Salktantay forms a part.

After that, it was all downhill, literally – about 1100 meters down, most of it steep, rocky, uneven steps. The three of us (Mark, Alex, and I) managed to make good time, and stayed well ahead of the main pack of hikers, so for the most part had the trail to ourselves. Shortly after the pass we came across the Inka site Phuyupatamarka.

The trail grew lusher and  more jungle-like the lower we went, with hummingbirds, butterflies, and orchids all over the place – not to mention the occasional beehive – such as the one we disturbed when we stopped at Intipata, another Inca site along the way.

We beat a hasty retreat and found another way into the site.Which was a good  thing, because I think Intipata was probably my favorite Inca site along the trail.A series of high terraces situated above a flat area that overlooks a broad valley, it’s not as complex architecturally as a lot of the other sites but the spectacular location, for me, made up for that.

Since we arrived in early afternoon, ahead of most of the other hikers, we had the place to ourselves, and sat on the grass terrace overlooking the valley and river far below, just soaking in the atmosphere. I always wonder what it must have been like to sit here as in Inca messenger in the 15th century, prior to satellites, cell phones, and modern communications.

We got to our next campsite, Winayawayna, relatively early that afternoon. Since it was early yet and still sunny I took another very cold shower in the rudimentary shower stall set up and decided to rinse out some of my clothes – which was a mistake. No sooner had I rinsed out my clothes and arranged them, dripping wet, in the sun to dry than  the sun went away to be replaced by storm clouds threatening rain, and then actually pouring rain for a short while. So much for my clothes drying.

In between the rain showers we managed to take a side excursion to the Winayawayna ruins, thought to be one of the last rest stops for messengers along this section of the Inca trail before reaching the administrative center of Machu Picchu.

Back at camp, the rest of our group straggled in, including Nicole, who, it seems, has lost her purse somewhere along the way. Since this is our last evening together we were treated to an incredibly awkward and ham-handed tipping conversation and “ceremony” by Seoul, the new guide. Mark and I of course chipped in but had already planned on tipping the guys that had been with us from the beginning once we got to Aquas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, where we pick the train up to go back to Cusco tomorrow night.

Tomorrow is  a really early day – one might even say it’s just an extension of a late-night tonight. Apparently we need to get up at 3:30 AM to line up at the very last control point on the Inka trail. That way we be among the first through when it opens at 5:30, so we can stay ahead of the pack and be among the first to get to Machu Picchu  itself that morning, before the hoards arrive on the train.