Sunday, July 29, 2012

Inca Trail Day 3: 3000 Steps Down

It was with some trepidation that our group embarked on the trail on Day 3.  None of us slept well on Night 2, despite being tired down to our bones.  The ground was hard, we slept on a hill, and the night was cold.  To top it off, despite being told that Day 3 would be “Unforgettable,” and probably our favorite day on the trail, we knew the day started with a 500 meter climb to our 2nd pass, and ended with 3000 steps down.  Curse the Incas and their beloved stairs. 

The first climb of the day, everyone in our group (except our marathon runner, Katie, who finished the last leg of Day 2’s climb (the part I finished in about 80 minutes) in 46 minutes) was moving considerably slower and stopping more often.  It was rather nice to have a larger group of us hiking together.  Another bonus was that G-Money was finally feeling better and was able to carry her own pack again. 

It took us perhaps three hours  to reach the top of the second pass, with one  20-30min stop along the way at a set of Inca ruins.  Though the climb was hard, because it was so short, and we took it so slowly, I didn’t feel the same strain as the day before.  The view at the top was, once again, worth it all.  Our group got together, and Cocaman gave us each 3 coca leaves and guided us in a prayer and offering to the Pachamama (the mother earth).  I won’t say it was a spiritual experience; it felt rather forced and touristy to have all of us following along, not really knowing the meaning of the Quechua words Cocaman was saying, but it was evident that Cocaman believes deeply in everything he showed us, and that for him it definitely was a spiritual event.  And that part was very cool. 

After the pass, we spent about an hour walking downhill to the next Inca ruins.  These steps were much more bearable for me, and G-Money and I spent our time chatting amicably.

After our talk at the next set of ruins, it was a short half hour walk through the beginnings of the cloud forest to get to our lunch spot.

Cloud forest

Our cook, Apu, wowed us all at lunch when he presented us with 2 cases of what was clearly magic.  First there was pizza.  How, we pondered, does one bake a pizza with no oven?  And then the meal finished with jello (or as those from the UK and Australia called it, “jelly.”)  How did he get that to set up with no refrigerator?  Maybe he made it the night before?  But wouldn’t it have frozen overnight?  Perhaps it did freeze, and that’s why it didn’t melt in the heat of the day?  We were confuddled.  As my sister says, clearly our cook was actually a wizard. 

As we were heading out from our lunch spot, G-Money stopped on a low bridge and tried to make way for a porter to pass.  In the process, she more or less…stepped through it.  Her foot found passage between the slats and she ended up with one foot approximately 3 feet below her, under the bridge.  Well, you know…no sickness to bring her down; she had to scrape up her foot and arm to make up for it.  ;)  Thankfully no serious injuries were sustained. 

Llama in the path...and in the distance, the bridge that
G-Money stepped through.

The last part of the day was truly beautiful.  We continued on a mainly flat path, with just a slight uphill climb, to get to the third pass.  Then it was a short downhill climb to the next set of Inca ruins.  And then, it was the steps down. 

Once again, knees started shaking if we stopped moving downhill.  So G-Money and I picked up our pace, and we powered through those 3000 steps down.  

3000 Steps Down

As a result, we couldn’t really stop and enjoy the beautiful forest scenery on our way, but it was a price we had to pay.  We made it to the last set of ruins quickly.  We were only the third group of two to reach the site.  This provided us with nearly half an hour to sit and wait, chilling with the llamas on the terraces there.  And that, too, made our speedy descent worth it. 

Intipata terraces

After a brief explanation of Intipata (the llama terraces) we continued on to our campsite, rolled out our sleeping bags, and then left again with Cocaman to go to one last set of ruins before the sun went down.  Wiñay Wayna was the coolest set of ruins we’d seen so far—a combination of immense terraces and houses and temples—but because the sun was setting, I didn’t get many good pictures.  The ruins were the most extensive we would see before Machu Picchu.

The night was an early one, due to a very early wake-up call the next morning.  We finished with one last delicious meal.  Apu baked us a cake (say what?! Again…no oven!) and we bid all our porters and cook good-bye, as they wouldn’t be joining us again.  And then, we all retired, visions of Machu Picchu dancing before our eyes.  

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