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Inca Trail - Day 3

Written on: Sunday November 4th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Winaywayna, Inca Trail, Peru

Author: Julie and Kevin

Napaykullayki (Hello in Quechua)!

We woke up early this morning for a 5:30 AM breakfast call. We both had slept like babies the night before and felt refreshed for the day ahead. Becoming experts at getting ready quickly, we were out on the trail by 6 AM.

Up we climbed towards the first pass of the day at 4000 meters. Our resting point was the first of four ruins we would visit during the day, and was a great place to remove the extra layers of clothes that we put on in the morning. Runkurakay is a small round ruin, overlooking the valley we had camped in the previous night. It was used as a small tambo (resting house) and a watch tower for the pilgrims on the Inca trail. A few sleeping quarters and storage rooms were aligned around the main.   There wasn't much to this place so we carried on with our climb up and over the pass. This one was easier than Dead Woman?s Pass we had ascended the day before.

Up and over we went and soon we were at the staircase leading to the next ruin site: Sayaqmarka. There were 98 very steep stairs leading to the site and this was a warm up for the stairs we would have to descend later on in the end. The sun was starting to shine and the clouds that had been laying around the mountain tops were starting to dissipate and rise over us. Sayaqmarka was used as a fortress ensuring the safety of the trail and was an important site for the worship of the mountains surrounding us. Raoul, our assistant guide, spent a bit of time explaining the belief system of the Incas at. Their belief system is symbolized in the 4-sided triple notched Inca cross. The first side represented the past, present, future; the next represented the underworld, living, and the spirits; the third was for snake, puma, and the condor; and last was for water, earth, and sky. We had seen pendants with the cross in the markets but didn?t know the meaning of it. It was adopted from the Christian cross during the time of the Conquistadors, to help indoctrinate the indigenous people who had more natural beliefs.

After the explanation and a quick tour of the ruins, down the narrow, steep stairs we descended. The trail meandered up and down with more and more stairs as we slowly descended in altitude. One section of the trail brought us to a hand-carved 20 meter tunnel. Everything was carved out of one large rock, including the smooth stairs. The feats of engineering the Incas accomplished never stopped to amaze us.

About 5 hours into our day, we crossed our third and last pass to arrive at Phuyupatamarca, also known as the Cloud City. It is located on the slopes of a mountain with 6 large fountain baths descending the center of the ruin. Unfortunately, we were in the cloud forest and we were enveloped by a thick mist so we missed out on some of the prettiest views of the whole trail. Like the other ruins we had visited, this site had agricultural, security and religious purposes. We were getting cold in the rainy mist and moved on quickly.

The last section of the trail was a long, bone-jarring, knee killing descent down almost 2000 stone steps. We had been moving quickly all day and were the first group to arrive at the campsite, which had been our plan all along. This campsite had a small restaurant and best of all: hot showers! We had been warned by our guide that by 2 PM there would a long line-up and a 5 minute limit, so we had plenty of motivation to be the first to arrive. We all quickly ditched our bags in our tents, grabbed our camping towel and made a bee-line for the wonderful hot water that was waiting for us. We had spent the last 3 days covered in sweat, dust, grime and we couldn?t wait to feel clean again. We spent the remainder of the afternoon watching the other groups slowly come into the campsite. The line for the showers grew longer and longer and I was so happy that we had avoided the wait.

After a nice little rest, Orlando our guide took us to the last ruin site of the day: Wiñay Wayna. In my opinion, this was the prettiest site we had seen yet. It was 5 minutes away from the campsite, along a trail behind the trekker lodge. It was built along a steep slope, with row upon row of terraces.  Ceremonial baths of spring water flowed one into another down and through the ruin building. We were lucky to have had the site to ourselves. The view of the river way below and knowing Machu Picchu was around the next mountain added to the magic of the place.

In the evening, after another wonderful supper, we met as a group with the porters and presented them with their tip money. They seemed to be happy and we all wished them a wonderful trip back home since they would not be joining us at Machu Picchu the next day. We played a few hands of cards and retired for an early night to a cloudy sky.