Day 4 of the Inca Trail started with a 4am wake up. Yup. FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. Don't these people know that nothing good ever happens after 2am?? (Name that sitcom!)
Anyway. We were dressed, packed and in the lodge by 4.30am, where the porters had very kindly made us pancakes for breakfast to lessen the "OH GOD, WHAT TIME IS IT???" feelings of doom. Then, after a visit to the moth-ridden bathroom (and if you think THAT didn't cause me to have a minor nervous breakdown, you'd be wrong), we set off towards Machu Picchu. IN THE RAIN.
We reached the final checkpoint at about 5.15am, which was something of an issue because they didn't open the gate until 5.30am. Nothing quite like standing around in the rain going "Dammit, I could have had another 15 minutes of sleep..."! *sigh*
Anyway, the gate was eventually unlocked, and we had a delightful hour and a half's stroll to the Sun Gate. I say 'stroll', because there were 200 people walking in a line in the dark, so it was pretty slow going. On the plus side, after the first half hour, it was getting light enough that we didn't need to use our stupid headtorches any more. Such things are always a plus.
The only tricky bit of the walk was the climb up to the Sun Gate, because you have to go up a flight of 'monkey stairs' - really steep and narrow, and basically you had to use your hands to keep yourself moving. That was followed by a couple of steep flights of stairs up reasonably big hills. We finally got to the Sun Gate at about 7.10am.
Now. The idea of getting you up at stupid o'clock and making you hike in the dark is that you get to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu and go "Oooooooh". Instead, we saw this:
|Not actually from the Sun Gate. But you get the point.|
Yup. More rain. We stopped at the Sun Gate for all of ten minutes before the head guide announced that he didn't think it was going to clear up for aaaages and so we may as well head down to Machu Picchu. That took about 45 minutes, because it was downhill on rocks that were extra slippery thanks to the rain. I MAY have had a couple of little "Oh crap, I'm sliding and am going to fall off a cliff and die" moments. (Obviously, I didn't fall off a cliff and die. Although being the world's first zombie blogger would be quite an achievement..........)
By the time we reached Machu Picchu, it was PROPERLY raining. So we headed for the cafeteria, and spent an hour or so hanging out under patio umbrellas, eating overpriced second breakfast, and waiting for a break in the weather. Our tour leader clearly didn't have high hopes for it clearing up - he took our passports and $20 each, and set off into Aguas Calientes to try and change our train tickets so that we could go back the next day if it didn't clear. But thankfully, by 9am, it had eased to drizzle and we were able to set off on the tour.
And because I don't really remember much of the detail from the tour (BAD ARCHAEOLOGIST), have a bunch of pictures. WHEEEEEEEEEEE:
The tour took about an hour and a half, and then we had two hours free before we had to be on the bus down to Aguas Calientes. So a bunch of us decided that we'd climb the smaller of the two peaks that rise behind the site (the one that's going off the left side of the frame in that last photo). It was only about a 15 minute walk to the top, but the trail was pretty narrow and winding, and there were occasional scrambles over tree branches and rocks and stuff. But the view from the top? Totally worth it.
When we'd finished marvelling at the view, we meandered through the site on our way to the bus.
|See that little V in the mountains? That's where the Sun Gate is.|
The bus ride to Aguas Calientes was a LITTLE hair raising, due to a millionty hairpin bends. And I'm sure the day visitors really appreciated how delightful we all smelled after four days with no showers. After a lunch of pizza and beer (hey, we deserved it!), it was time to head to the train station.
Oh. AND. The culmination of the Watermelons saga: after she was stretchered to camp on the third day, she declared that she would walk on the fourth day. She made it to the Sun Gate, and basically gave up. The two guides that were with them had to stretcher her down to the medical station at Machu Picchu to get her checked out. Then one of the guides had to go back UP to the Sun Gate to get Mr Watermelon. Because he'd been so worried about his wife over the past three days, that he'd forgotten to drink enough water. And so he'd basically dehydrated himself to the verge of a heart attack. So the guide had to PIGGY BACK HIM DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. And THEN? The SAME guide had to walk back up there AGAIN to get their bags. And the Watermelons spent the whole day at the medical station, and didn't get to see Machu Picchu at all. So yeah. That happened.
(Incidentally? I'm pretty sure that "So yeah. That happened" is going to be the title of my hilariously witty and completely hypothetical autobiography...)
The train ride back to Ollantaytambo ended up being kind of hilarious. Because there were lots of tunnels. And Ness and I were listening to her iPod, which decided to play "Scotty Doesn't Know". So whenever we went through a tunnel, all we could think of was "Mi scusi!" (name that movie), and we'd fall about in fits of hysterics. I'm not so sure it was particularly funny to anyone ELSE on the tour. But WE sure as hell had a good time!
That night, after quite possibly the most welcome shower I've ever had, we all headed out to Inka Grill for dinner. If you're ever in Cusco, GO TO INKA GRILL. Seriously. The food is fantastic, and if you order guinea pig, it comes to the table with a little crown made of red capsicum/bell pepper on its teeny tiny creepy-looking head (We didn't order guinea pig, hence the lack of photos. Someone at a nearby table did though). Oh. And order the warm chocolate tart. You won't regret it.
After dinner, we went out for a few well earned drinks. And several people tried to complete the Machu Picchu challenge - staying up for the full 24 hours and drinking. After one (free poured, and therefore disgusting) vodka raspberry, I caved and headed for bed. At least I got a good night's sleep before the unexpected drama (HI NESSA!!) that was to come the following day... Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun: to be continued.