What to expect on the final day of The Inca Trail
A 4.30am alarm on the Inca Trail is your tent moving as the porters shake you awake from the outside in.
Day 04: Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu (5km), Return to Cusco:
After breakkie, we packed up our things, and joined the other groups sitting in the dark, lined up, waiting for the final part of the trail to open up. For the most part, teh tour groups are ins constant communication with eachother. You set off from your campsite in teh morning based on how long it took you to get there during the day. The groups that are muy rapido start out later the next day, to give other groups the chance to get a head start and avoid congestion on the trail.
This last part was the only time of the trail where every tour group converged at once. Everyone waiting to begin that last leg through the sun gate, in order to get to Machu Pichuu while the sun's still low.
Once the queue started moving, we spread out along the trail, hiking until we reached over 50, gigantic steps that need to be climbed to reach the Sun Gate. I had to take two of my own steps for each one on the staircase. For small people, the Incas made their steps as grandiose as their ruins. It was like climbing mini platforms.
When we got to the Sun Gate, the most spectacular view of Machu Picchu was a pretty misty affair. Low hanging clouds shrouded any view in an impenetrable grey, so we settled for the guides description of what we were missing on the one morning of the entire trek that the sun wasn't out in full force. In the end, it didn't matter too much. Ha-dey and I hiked to the top of Huayna Pichuu the following day, where we found a rocky cliff edge of a perch that looked out over all of Machu Picchu.
From the sun gate we began the final hike along the trail towards Machu Picchu. I was jolted out of a daze by a a small sprite that popped out from the bushes like a tiny Incan apparition. Ha-dey had made the journey from Agua Calientes to Machuu Pichuu, honed her way along the path towards the Sun Gate and spied her dishevelled, unshowered, sister coming towards her with just enough time to leap out from her hiding place and stun everyone in the group, myself included.
I was so happy to see her. Not just because she'd bought snacks either.
To see Machu Picchu rise up in front of you makes walking a minimum of eight hours, through altitude, for four days, wearing inside out socks and sweaty leggings worth it.
It is in retrospect that I can fully appreciate Machu Pichuu and the Inca Trail. By that fourth day, I was so exhausted that I heard half of what the guide was explaining on the one and a half hour tour of the ruins. Machu Pichuu is huge. Being inside it felt like walking a paved labyrinth of crumbling stairways, stoned rooms snd rocky walls. The attention too detail and intelligence of the design lends support to the theory that Machu Picchu was built for royalty.
If you can look past the tourists you can imagine what it would of been like when it was made, when it was a real civilisation for the higher likes of society.
After the tour we explored the ruins on your own. Which pretty much means we had a photo shoot. We had become pretty adept at jostling our way through throngs of tourists taking selfies to claim the best vantage point. Machu Picchu was no exception.
We made it back to Agua Calientes late than night. Taking off my shoes before laying down on the bed was the Best. Feeling. Ever.
My final thought before sleep took me was looking out into the distance from Machu Picchu, past the llamas that grazed the grass like sheep on a hillside back home, towards the prominent rise of Huyana Pichuu.
This four day trek was about to turn into five.