Phuyupatamarka to Machu Picchu

It rained. The wind was blowing in my direction again sending whiffs from the two bucket toilet tent. This is the day, I thought, as I took a deep breath (then wish I hadn’t). No matter what happens, today is going to be a beautiful day. I’m going to see Machu Picchu.

All of my stuff was wet. Edwin had attempted to dry my pants and fleece over the hot plate, but it didn’t work. Thank the lord for my fellow New Yorker who loaned me her awesome gators and poncho. I went from being an old woman with a stick, to being an old man with a stick. It was hot.

It was cold. It was raining. We had an amazing breakfast of french toast, fresh maple syrup and hot water for fresh coca tea. The energy couldn’t be any better.

We stood outside in the rain for the farewell ceremony. The Porters sang us a song about how they were little men from Cuzco, who are strong, proud of what they do, and wish us a safe and fulfilling journey. We sang them a re-written version of A Hard Day’s Night, and gave them really good tips. They walked in a single file line and shook our hands one by one. It was quite touching. And just like that they were off, and so were we.

Having just camped next to Phuyupatamarka, we began our way down to walk through the City Above the Clouds. As we climbed down huge steps to a site that takes one breath away, I realized that somehow overnight my camera went from having 2 bars of battery to no bars of battery. (Note to self: Altitude kills your camera battery.) I was about ready to throw a tantrum, but pulled myself together to be grateful for the disposable camera I did have.

Phuyupatamarka stands at about 11,0000ft. The site consists of terraces, fountains circulating fresh water, and a number of ceremonial baths intricately connected to water channels . The top was said to be an open-faced Sun Temple, and the bottom held agricultural terraces and homes. The clouds blocked the panoramic views of the valley, but it was beautiful none the less. Incan planning at its finest.  One just knew this place with designed to exist in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

We continued downhill along the south-north path to Machu Picchu. We arrived at Intipata, also known as the “Sun Terraces”. The forest claimed the site as its own and was cleared out in 1940. To protect a rare orchid, the Peruvian officials allowed the forest to reclaim it again. In recent years, however, they have cleared it out and have found a number of terraces and rustic homes. It could’ve been a food stop, or a signal post to alert towns down bellow. We don’t really know.

The roads were long, steep, and slippery. The stones lined the backdrop of the high forest, providing a strong contrast against the green fresh from the rain. We passed by rest stops and tunnels carved by the Inca’s naturally into the mountains, landslides, men fixing up the damage caused by the landslides. Together with the clouds lifting every now and then to reveal views of the Urubamba river, it was incredible.

Tucked away off the path in between two waterfalls, we arrived at Wiñaywayna, “Forever Young”.  The entire mountainside was carved out for agricultural terracing, and had a two leveled complex connected by cluster of around 15 baths. Archaeologists have noted 19 different springs that carry water to the various baths on different terraces. Because of the sites location below two waters and above the Urubamba, it’s believed that this area had a religious base associated to water.

The view was spectacular. I could have stayed for hours listening to the silence and gushing of water from above us, next to us, and below. I think we all would’ve. But, something else more spectacular awaited us only a couple of more hours away , plus a time frame. We needed to be on our way.

After climbing many passes and stairwells, the rain stopped and the path became almost leveled. No one is seen. All one could hear was the wind speaking through the trees (and my panting). About 10 meters ahead was another set of steep steps that required some serious climbing. At the top was our guide, smiling, looking into the distance.

We had reached the Sun Gate.

I ran. I couldn’t breath, but I bloody booked it to the top of the stairs, and there she was. Coming out from behind the clouds, underneath the sun starting to shine for the first time today, Machu Picchu.

Sanctuary.

And we didn’t need a sacrificial virgin llama to stop the rain after all. Thank you Pachamama.

We arrived at Machu Picchu just in time to see the sun slowly fall into its daily slumber. We could have walked our way down, but the lure of the natural hot springs in the tourist town of Aguas Calientes told us to take the bus.

We took up at least a third of the little bus, and everyone who came on, sat near us, then moved. The bus filled up eventually. The last woman on got the seat next to me. Within exactly 3 minutes of the bus rolling away (the boys timed it), the woman screamed for the driver to stop. She couldn’t have run away faster. She said she had left her purse (she was holding her purse) and ran back to the bus-line. I was mortified.

After our much-needed baths in the springs naturally heated by the earths undulating currents of lava (aka public gene pool/veruca breeding ground) we ate dinner and walked to camp just at the base of Machu Picchu.

The sky was clear, the stars were out, the river next to us rolled so strong you could feel its rumble shaking the ground beneath our feet. The river rocked me to sleep and for the first time in days, my tent was not next to the toilet tent.

Sanctuary.

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