Sometime in the night, the rains came and woke me. When they died down, the furious din of the frogs returned with renewed fervor and I slept some more. When morning came we found a world saturated with water, and the sunrise for which we had hoped didn’t come, replaced by a dense brume that obliterated the light from above.
During breakfast the deluge resumed, and when our guide suggested a departure time of 7:30 we were all in agreement that there was no reason to wait, and we could be ready by 7:00, a brief 15 minutes later. As I donned the rain gear that had heretofore gone unused, I felt strangely sanguine about the weather which had now validated the packing and preparation I had done and the extra weight I had been carrying.
Thus began our grand descent through a world in which all colors had been obliterated except for muted shades of grey and green. We left our camp, sitting at 12,000 feet, braving the slippery steps as fast as we safely could, our vision impaired by the rain, the dark, and the hoods of our ponchos.
Below the camp, we came first upon those ruins of Phuyupatamarka. Here we were shown the spring from which our water was collected, and told that usually at this point in the hike we would explore these for some time. Today, however, we gathered and listened to the theories about her history, then continued down deeper into the forest.
As we continued forward and downward, there was little talking among the group, although at some point songs about rain and even “The Rainbow Connection” were invoked.
Briefly the hike was paused while we provided aid to an elderly hiker from another group who had fallen and hit her head. By the time I arrived another of our team members, P, had done what little could be done. She was awake and walking, and we all agreed that nothing more could be accomplished on the mountain and she should continue forward with assistance.
Through it all the rain came and went, and in due course we came into sight of the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, a grand terraced structure sitting in the distance, but soon the view was again lost in the mist.
When we reached the farming settlement of Intipata, we took photos and climbed down through the ruins, and by lunchtime the rain was at last abating and some of risked removal of our ponchos.
After lunch, where we bid farewell and thanks to the porters, we resumed our course, interrupted briefly by a herd of llamas.
When we passed the last checkpoint, and the official end of the Camino del Inka, we still had far to travel.
The sun finally emerged from behind the clouds, the day grew warm, and the rest of our rain gear was shed. From here we took a leisurely pace forward, enjoying each others’ company, the orchids, and the breathtaking views.
At last we came to the Monkey Steps, also known as Gringo Killers, which we clambered on all four, like a tall stone ladder.
We knew we were near the end, but weren’t quite certain how close when we climbed this last incline.
And without even realizing or believing it could be possible, we were at the Sun Gate, with our goal, the ruins of Machu Picchu standing gloriously in the distance.
After basking in our accomplishment, we took many group and individual photos, then walked down the trail toward our long sought goal, growing ever larger in our sight. And we noted that others who had taken the train to the site were struggling upward against our tide, giving us all an even greater sense of satisfaction at the realization of our objective.
After four arduous days of strain and sweat and body odor, we had at last arrived. And it was absolutely marvelous, the sight being even more special for the exertion we had spent in the process.
We had done something special. We had dug deep physically, mentally, and emotionally, and because of this we were utterly euphoric. This is something my friends and I share and nothing will ever take it away.