Tuesday the 20th of May 2003 – Day 91 (Day 4 of the Inca Trail)
From Huiay Huayna, trekkers have but one goal remaining: reaching Intipunku (the Sun Gate) and descending to Machu Picchu, preferably in time to witness the dramatic sunrise over the ruins. Most groups depart camp at 4am or earlier to reach the pass at Machu Picchu and arrive in time for daybreak, around 6:30am. We got up at 4.00am to have breakfast (a very quiet affair) and started walking at 4.45AM. It was pitch dark and we all had to use our flashlights. Awaiting us first, though, was a good hour-to-90-minute trek along narrow Inca stone paths, and then a final killer: a 50-step, nearly vertical climb. When we got to the sun gate, there were only 20 or so people there. The view was shrouded (blanketed) with mist. Nothing could be seen as visibility was only 10 or so yards. After about 30 minutes, there were about 200 there. The guides took one look at the sky and recommended their groups to take the descent from Intipunku to Machu Picchu which takes about 45 minutes. Our group decided to go against our guides advice and stayed put. Only about half a dozen other people did the same. We stayed there 4 hours until the sun finally burnt a hole through the mist and allowed us to see Machu Picchu. At that point after witnessing it, we followed our guides down.
Having reached the ruins, we had to exit the site and deposit our backpacks at the entrance gate near the hotel. There, our entrance passe to Machu Picchu was stamped; and the pass is good for 1 day only. We followid Michel around the site for about 3 hours taking in all the sites. He knew his stuff. See Frommers for more details of the specific attractions at the site. Too much to get into here. It turned into a beautiful day which I enjoyed. Alex and Francis were staying an extra day. We left them and so Damien, Paul, Faith and I had lunch and decided to walk to Aguas Calientes. It was supposed to take 30 minutes but it was like one hour thirty minutes. You can take short cuts all the way down instead of walking the longer winding road. We arrived there at 3.00pm to collect our “backpacker” train tickets from Michel who was eating lunch at the restaurant. I had a beer and we went to the station. We found out that our train had been delayed from 4.20pm to 5.00pm. We waited looking tat the SAS travel participants who had paid 280 US for the trek (many added comforts). Total distance: 7km (4 miles) (not counting the walk to town).
Damien, Paul and I sat together. Faith was in another carriage. Here it gets funny. Faith had told me the train journey to Cuzco was 4 hours (true) but If we got off at Ollantaytambo and took a bus to Cuszo, we would shave an hour off the trip. As it would be dark, it was a great idea. Anyway, Ollantaytambo approached and I woke up the two lads. We got off and persuaded two American girls called Vanessa and Stephanie it was also in their best interests. We got off and the train pulled off but no sign of Faith. We thought the poor girl had fell asleep. Anyway we got a motorized rickshaw to the Plaza (1 sole) and as there were 5 of us bargained a taxi to take us for 5 Soles each (the bus was 4 Soles). Great, off we went. The funny thing is, that it was a hatch back and the driver put this drunk guy in the very back. I took the front seat. Nightmare journey. Whatever the guy had ate or drank, he left off wind every two minutes. No ordinary sell but the foulest stench you would ever likely smell. The girls were in tears and all the windows were open. We had a good time nevertheless but the taxi was going very slow. We could not get over the foul stench coming from the guy. About 1 hour into the journey, we were wondering whether the trip would ever end. It did with a flat tyre. No problem, says we but the driver was clueless. He had no jack or tools. All he had as a pliers. The tyre was screwed under the car with a new bolt. It could not be took off. We had got out and the drunk guy went to the back seat for sleep. It was about -5 oc on top of a ountain road with no trafic 30 minutes from our destiantion. add to this the girls had a rotten time on there Inca Trail. They were told not to bring their sleeping bags, found they had none and had to borrow two well worn sleeping bags from their already improvished porters. They also were told to bring no money so theyhad to borrow. They also got drenched on the second day even though they had paid porters 10 US each to carry their bags. They were also overcarged in various ways, and their train ticket was not back to Cuzo (this was the main reason they came with us). We were there for 30 minutes and thankfully a Cuszo bound bus appeared. We grabbed our bags and gave the taxi driver (now stranded) some loose change. We paid 3 Soles for the bus but standing room only. Swerving widely, the bus lurched along for 30 minutes until we reached a god forsaken spot on the outskirts of town. We walked for a while until the two boys recogniised the streets. It was 9.30pm and I rushed back (to the same hotel I had stayed in previously) for a long scrub and a shower, change of clothes and hair cut. I promised to meet the two boys at 11.00pm at Les Peros for a drink. The town was very quiet. I heard that there had been trouble or confrontations between the police and the teachers that weekend and on Monday (yesterday). I only had one drink with the lads as we were all shattered. I was in bed by 12.30.