On our last day of the Inca Trail, we woke up at 4am, sleepily ate our breakfasts, and packed up to wait in line at the checkpoint until it opened at 6:30am. Seeing the sunrise at the Sun Gate wasn’t an option for us because the check point gates don’t open until after sunrise and we still had about two hours of hiking left before we got to Machu Picchu. It really didn’t feel like a loss because the storm hadn’t passed and it was still raining pretty heavily. Even by the time we got to the Sun Gate, the fog hadn’t burned off and we couldn’t see Machu Picchu quite yet.
But then, it was as if pacha mama heard our prayers because as soon as we got to Machu Picchu, the fog started burning off and unveiled the beautiful, hidden city.
Before letting us loose to explore on our own, Pedro gave us some history and context about the city. We talked about the different uses for the terraces and how the stones were laboriously sanded down to build amazing, earthquake-proof structures. We also talked about the four mountains at each corner of the world surrounding the city.
We were reminded of how the number three was significant to the Andean people. We had previously discussed the condor, puma, and serpent representing the upper, middle, and underworlds respectively. Pedro explained that the two other sets represented the values of the Inca culture, which included respect or obligation to parents, to the Inca ruler and to the gods. The other set reminded the Incan people of three commandments: do not lie, steal or be lazy.
We explored the terraces and saw llamas. Examined the sun dial. And saw the Urubamba River running through the valley.
Overall, I thought this trip was the most physically and mentally demanding trip I’ve ever embarked on–but it was also the most memorable and worthwhile one. Although the intent of the hike is to get to Machu Picchu, I thought that the most rewarding part of the trip was the 3 day hike. Hiking in the Peruvian jungle for 8-9 hours a day, through a rainstorm, fighting altitude sickness, and making fast friends with strangers from across the world make for one hell of a story and was the best way to have celebrated my quarter-century birthday! If you ever have the opportunity to hike the Inca trail, I highly recommend it!