on August 24, 2006
After the slog of Dead Woman Pass, Day Three was a treat. We woke to see dawn sparkling gold on the clouds in the valley below us, leaving us feeling that we were truly on top of the world. We started off with another hard climb for an hour or so, broken by a stop at the semi-circular Incan tambo (way-station) of Runkuracay which kept an eye out over the pass we had cleared the day before. From here onwards I really enjoyed the hike. The route was mostly downhill, I had got to know my fellow hikers enough to have some good chats, and Runkuracay proved to be just the first of a series of impressive ruins. The next one we reached was the stunning Sayacmarca, its stone blending in with the mountains as it overlooked the trail and the smaller settlement of Conchamarca. Julio was in his element as he explained the features of the site. Down into the valley, and an early lunch. That afternoon we followed a stone highway as it curled around the mountains, skirting sheer drops above misty tree-tops, and delving through an Inca tunnel. Humming-birds blurred past. Phuyupatamarca was our next halt, where Julio revealed some important information – this was the only point of the Trail where patchy mobile-phone reception could be obtained. Cue looks of bafflement as the Brits in the party immediately tried to call home to find the final placings in the football league. As the Manchester United and Arsenal fans celebrated and the Liverpool and Tottenham fans cursed an Australian was heard to comment “If they put half as much effort into other sports as they do football, England would be unbeatable…”Incan steps lead down from here. In good spirits we sang all the way down to Winay-Wayna. From the top of the ruins here we had our first glimpse of the Machu Picchu mountain. The archaeological site itself was hidden around the other side of the tree-covered peak. Then we climbed down past an altar and walked on until we reached a restaurant perched incongruously above the Urubamba valley. Gratefully we rested, used the toilets, and bought ice-cold drinks. Normally this would be the end of Day Three, but with the trail from the Sun-Gate closed by a landslide we had to detour down a side path which zigzagged the 700m descent down the valley wall to Chachabamba, beside the river. There was a tributary we could splash in, and a woman sold bottles of Cusquena, with which we toasted our efforts.That last night was a blow-out feast. The cooks surpassed themselves. Another birthday cake was produced. We even had table decorations – toucans made from carved aubergines with carrot-beaks. All the guides crowded into the marquee and treated us to a traditional song. We replied with a rewritten version of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, and our heartfelt thanks to Julio, his assistants, the cooks and all the porters.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009