Monday, June 25, 2007

Past Vacations #19: Peru 2006 - Part Five - Intipunku and Waynapicchu

The next morning, day six, I got up early in preparation for two hikes with four people from our tour group. I got ready (bug spray and sun screen) and went down to eat some breakfast before my hike-mates arrived. I made one miscalculation on this trip. Plastic bottles were not allowed in the ruins and only glass bottles of water were available. I had only one plastic bottle to take care of me the whole day. Not a good plan. I met the other hikers (the girl from Colorado, her dad, and the Sioux City Doctor and one of his daughters) and we headed up the trail to the Gate of the Sun.


My plan was to reach the gate, known as Intipunku, before the entire ruin was in the sunshine. The hike is roughly a mile long with a 1,000 ft vertical climb. As I hiked up the trail I kept looking over my shoulder checking to see where the sun was. On the way up I passed a group on the way down - their guide was whistling Simon and Garfunkel. I reached the gate just in time. The sun was just reaching the bottom of the ruins. I had beaten my fellow hikers but they soon joined me. Many of the people at the top were hikers who had walked up the Inca trail. The sun gate was the main entrance to Machu Picchu and what a view you see as you pass through the gates. The ruins shined in the sunlight. We were very lucky as Machu Picchu is often shrouded in clouds and mist in the morning and we had gorgeous blue skies.

I noticed one of the Inca Trail hikers wrestling with something under her sweatshirt. She ripped out her bra and threw it on the ground in disgust and hooted with relief. Ha! Always wear comfortable under garments on long hikes.


We eventually made our way back down to the ruins, running into the rest of the tour group who were getting ready to go to the Gate of the Sun. I gave my half bottle of water to the wife before I went to the Waina Picchu trailhead.
Waina Picchu means Young Mountain (Machu Picchu means Old Mountain). The number of people on Waina Picchu is limited to 400 per day. We made it with plenty to spare. We signed in (they take you name and the time you started) and headed up. The climb was grueling. The vertical climb is less than the Gate of the Sun being only 672 feet but the trail is nearly straight up. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the terraced ruins at the top. The dad of the Colorado girl shared his water with me which was my salvation. He was having difficulty climbing and separated from the rest of us telling his daughter that he was going back.

Near the top we took pictures of each other on the edge of a cliff overlooking the main ruins. The Sioux City doctor was a little nervous at us standing so close to the edge.



The last portion of the climb is in a small rock cave and up a ladder through a hole in the cave roof. People were lounging on the rock taking in the amazing views from the top. There were a set of Inca steps near the top. The steps are simply stones that protrude from the wall. There is nothing under those steps - a shear drop. We found a place to rest for the return trip. Just before we left, the dad of the Colorado girl showed up - he had made it after all. He was a tough coot.

The trip back down went fairly quickly - down is almost always faster then up. I met up with the wife and went into the lodge to have lunch. I think I surprised the waiter when I downed several bottles of
Sin Gas. I was pretty dehydrated and I still had a long train trip later in the day - I didn't want my legs to cramp up as they sometimes do when I don't drink enough water.

We finished out lunch and caught the next bus down to Aguas Calientes. I was a little sad about leaving Machu Picchu. What a wonderful place. We walked through the busy market on the way to the train station. The wife but an embroidered cloth celebrating a new wedding to give as a gift to a newly wed couple in our tour group. We arrived at the train station a little early and waited for the rest of the tour group to arrive.


Here ends Chapter five. Pictures can be found
here. Coming up in the next chapter: Our train trip back to Cuzco, our tours of Cuzco, Sacsayhuamán, and other ruins in the area.

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