Travel | Peru - The Inca Trail Day Four

By Issy Goode - 20:09

The final stretch to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu 
Prepare for a very photo heavy post!

Today was the day. When we initially thought about going to Peru, Machu Picchu was the main reason, however, we'd come to adore the country itself and everything so far had been incredible. The Amazon was Michael's favourite part by a long stretch, he got to adventure through the wilderness and spot wild animals. For me, it was all just perfect. But day four was absolutely my favourite day of the trip.

We woke before sunrise to climb to the top of the hill at our campsite. A few porters carried up a table and hot water with cups and coca leaves so we could have hot drinks whilst we waited for the rays of sunlight to descend upon us and our surroundings. I've never watched a sunrise from start to finish before and whilst it was a very cold moment, it was also an incredibly peaceful one too. 

We watched on as the light first caught Salcantay mountain in the distance and brought down beautiful colours across the rest of the Andes mountain range. Our campsite was surrounded by it and the view was spectacular whichever way you looked. For this, I'll leave the photos to do the talking...
After we had warmed up in front of the rising sun we headed down to pack up the last few things and then to have an al fresco style breakfast. On the previous days we had sat inside the dining tent but today the tent had been stripped away and we were having breakfast with the surrounding mountains in full view. 

Following on from breakfast Bobby gathered all the porters who had been with us since day one of the Inca Trail and made a speech. It was all in Spanish so being a useless monologuist like I happen be, I didn't understand a word, but neither did any of my fellow campers (some of whom did speak fluent German and other languages though!). We stood around as Bobby undoubtedly said some kind words and Michael handed out tips to individuals such as the cook, the sous chef, the head porter who was given the tips to pass on to the rest of his team, the man who had the awful job of managing the toilet tent and Augustine, our waiter. Many of them would head back home from here but a few we would see again at lunch, but regardless of whether we would see them again we all went around each individual man and personally thanked him for making our trip much easier on our backs, feeding us fantastic food and in general, being very lovely despite the language barrier. 

It was a humbling moment and they had genuinely made the trip amazing for us, clapping each time we arrived at camp despite our bags being 1/4 the weight of theirs and always greeting us with a smile.  

From there, our final hike began. Today was mostly about descending and exploring more Inca sites. From our campsite we had a view of two sites called Phuyupatamarca and Intipata. 

We had two kilometres of Inca Steps to hike down today and after a fair few we stopped at Phuyupatamarca to explore this unfinished site. From the campsite it had looked relatively small but when we reached it there was a lot more than the almost aerial view had shown. 
We again stayed together for this final day. It felt right to enter the Sun Gate as one group, however, at one point we did lose Martin who was moving at great pace with the constant downhill steps really helping him pick up speed. We stopped at a very small Inca Site, again one that was incomplete, but Martin had unknowingly gone on ahead. One of his daughters had too but upon hearing our voices, she made the climb back up and arrived mid-tale. 

Bobby sat us down for a rest and a snack and told us all about a local farmer who had, a few years ago, discovered an Inca site. Before discovering the site the man had quite a history and an on going quarrel with the local authorities. He was asked to leave Machu Picchu Park, as many farmers supposedly had been when it was opened, but refused on the grounds he had no where else to go. Suspicions surrounded the individual regarding him having 'no where else to go' as he had been spotted frequently in Cusco. One day, all his farm animals were let loose when he was in the city and upon arriving home he hastily went about his business gathering the animals. Whilst searching for one of his cows he supposedly stumbled upon an Inca Site. It's not uncommon for this to happen in the Park and many suspect some sites remain undiscovered or left to the hands of Mother Nature when the money is not there to clear them after being discovered. 
The Inca Site, being undiscovered, had treasures still within it. He made the decision not to tell anyone for two years. After those two years, he travelled to Machu Picchu where archeologists were constantly at work. He found a man who willingly followed him to the Inca Site he had discovered. The archaeologist applied for sponsorship in order to fund the clearance of the site and after being turned down a few times, finally found a sponsor, however, this fell through and to this day the site still remains closed off to the public and overgrown. The farmer also didn't find the future he was looking for - the suspicions surrounding him turned out to be true and he was found to own two hotels in Cusco and had a family living in the city. It transpired that in order to afford the hotels he had stolen treasures from the Inca site and sold them on the black market. Most, if not all, of the treasure from this site remains in unknown hands. 

After hearing the story we continued on our path with our minds on the Inca treasures that were likely spread around the globe and the overgrown sites, no money to fund the care they needed. The sun was shining on this fairly open area of the trail with a few shaded spots thrown in. We managed to finally catch up with Martin who really had got quite far ahead of us and then came to a fork in the road. Bobby offered us a choice here - one way led directly to our lunch spot and the other, to the Inca site we had also seen from our campsite the previous night, Intipata. Surely it's obvious which one we took? 
Intipata is an absolutely huge agricultural site built into the mountainside. From the angle above you wouldn't have thought it sits the way it does, slotted so neatly into the mountain. It wasn't circular like Moray, the site we had visited on the Sacred Valley tour, but the terraces we're built the same way with each layer having it's own microclimate. We strolled around the site for a while and saw burnt out embers that had blown this way from the fire. 
More steps took us down to the bottom of Intipata where we exited the site and headed for lunch. Upon arriving to the smiling faces of our hard working porters we were told lunch wasn't quite ready, a first for our trip, but this was planned it would seem, as Bobby invited us to follow him for a visit to another site. 

Winay Wayna was just a short walk from our launch spot. It held similarities to Intipata but had many more houses of varying sizes, for more important people in the cases of the larger ones. This name is Quechua for 'Forever Young' and there was a beautiful view down to the Ollantaytambo River.
We headed back for our last trek supper, said our final goodbyes to the remaining porters and began the last two hours of our hike to the Sun Gate. At the bottom of this campsite we stopped to make some friends:
Unlike earlier in the day when Martin had broken free of the pack and Michael, Stansa and I had wondered ahead sometimes, we all stayed completely together for this final two hour stretch. The walk was a pleasant one, in and out of the beautiful sunshine, through another Inca tunnel carved into the rock face and not long before the Sun Gate we approached a set of steps which some call the 'Gringo Killers'. These were some very uneven, very steep steps that we had to scramble up using our hands. Bobby took our poles for safe keeping whilst we scrambled our way up. It was a good bit of fun and Bobby waited until the end to show off by running up the steps laden with 16 walking poles under his arms with ease. 
The steepness continued with slopes and steps but after more deep breaths, we'd done it. Bobby stood at the top, a high five to congratulate us and we rounded the corner to our first real life view of Machu Picchu. 
It was incredibly beautiful and breath taking and I stood gawping for a few moments. I actually felt quite overwhelmed and a little emotional, it was just hard to believe a dream had come true and we'd really spent 4 days hiking and achieved the goal of climbing to Machu Picchu. It just felt so very surreal. 
We spent around half an hour here taking pictures and absorbing the view before it began to get busy. Whilst in our heads we thought the trek was done we still had to get down from the Sun Gate to the exit of Machu Picchu. The walk took another 40 minutes or so and we were the only people geared up for a hike, so we assumed many had either come for a day visit or completed the hike on the previous day, because they all looked very clean and stayed away from us if they could. It's not like we hadn't showered in 4 days or anything...

The view as we headed down to the bottom was stunning. We didn't stop much as crowds were descending and we'd have a tour of the site the next day, but we couldn't help pulling over for a few photos.
We joined the big queue at the exit to hop on the only buses allowed to travel on the road to Machu Picchu and made our way into Aguas Calientes. Here we stayed in a lovely hotel called Inki Puntu which was rather basic but we didn't need much after four days of hiking! Our dinner that evening was a little disappointing but it didn't matter much. We'd just come down from the hike to Machu Picchu and would be waking early the next day to make our return...
MissIsGoode

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