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It dawned overcast and cloudy, but we still got our mate de coca at 5.45!  Packed up and ready to breakfast by 6.30.  While we were having our breakfast each day, the tent porters took down the sleeping tents, packed them up and dashed off to the next night’s site.  The youngest, fastest, fittest porters do this job as campsites are allocated on a first-come basis! 

We had about a two-hour pull up to the first Pass – Warmi Wanusca or Dead Woman’s Pass.  (So called because the contours of the mountain look rather like a woman, lying down!)  The weather was cool and misty which helped the climbing.  I took quite a lot of ‘altimeter checks’ on the way up as the altimeter was only calibUs by self-timer photo at Warmi Wanusca Pass 4,200mrated to 4000m. and I was concerned at what might happen over that height.  No problem, it just kept on winding upwards!

It’s quite an achievement to reach 4,200m and everyone stops at the Pass to take photos and record their efforts.   We were no exception.


The descent from the Pass was steep, stepped and our walking sticks were invaluable.   This night our campsite was at Runcu Raccay, an Inca tambo (stop point) and granary.

Overall, an easier day.   Bed early.  What’s new! 


Usual wake-up call of other people scuffling in plastic bags, mate de coca and hot water. 

The first part of the walk was uphill past lakes and then over the second Pass and back up to 3,950m.  The weather was again misty and cloudy with little sun breaking through and we walked past 4 proper, designated viewpoints and all we saw was swirling cloud.  Sadly the views were totally obscured, I suggested buying some postcards to see what we had missed!

 It was another fairly easy day, with the final Pass at 3,650m close to our final camp.  We were warned that the site would be cold, being so high in the mountains and when we reached it our tent had been pitched on a slope!  But what a view!  The cloud and mist dispersed towards the end of the day and through 360 degrees the view was fantastic.   The mountains around here are relatively ‘young’ and still have sharp peaks, the lower ones completely covered in green trees.  The scenery was spectacular, the air thin but pure and clean and we took enormous pleasure from just standing admiring the wonderful majesty of the place.  Memory box ‘Golden Disc’ award!

I needed to get up at 2.00 a.m., it was crystal clear; the moon was bright and glistening on the tops of the snow-clad mountains.   Magic!  


It started to rain some time in the early hours and by wake-up the mist and cloud had obscured the wonderful views completely.  It was a pity as the final photo shoot of porters in their colourful national dress had such a dull background.   But it was followed by a rather nice episode.  A large plastic sheet was laid out on the ground for clothing donations for the porters.  Colin gave his Ipswich Sweatshirt, I gave my multi-pocketed jacket, others put down t-shirts and warm leggings etc.  The head porter had a hat of tickets and as each porter was called and chose a ticket, they could, if they had chosen a lucky ticket, pick an item of clothing!   The Ipswich Football sweatshirt was first to go, followed by my jacket …. The faces of the porters showed that this wasn’t seen as charity, they really appreciated the clothes.  Andy then announced the tips for them. $2 per porter per day (26 porters) and more for the cooks.  The official payment for the porters was $4 a day – a total of $20 (plus food ) for the 5 day trek.   It was difficult to grasp that there were plenty of men who were keen to do the job.  They carried often heavy and awkward packs over the rough ground wearing flip-flops made out of old tyres, sweating profusely as they puffed uphill, or careered dangerously downhill, their calves a mix of muscles and varicose veins.   On the last night our novice porter suffered the indignity of a flour, egg and milk initiation’ mix stuffed down his trousers, much to the amusement of his mates! 

We left the campsite later than other mornings and were in for a day of steps – Eddy said at least 1,300 steps!  A whole variety of steps:  ancient Inca ones, modern ones, steep ones, shallow ones, huge smooth stones worn by the passage of millions of feet all added together to take us from 3,600 m down to 2,700m.   It took us 3 ½ hours to reach the Trekker’s Lodge where we had lunch and Brian had his first beer for over a week!   Outside the Lodge was an orchid garden with examples of some of the 270 different ones found in the arWonderful elegance of Winay Waynaea!   After lunch we made a short visit to the elegant terracing of Winay Wayna.  Beautiful in the afternoon sunshine; Inca walls with their precise shaping, terraces dropping away below and a series of complicated ceremonial fountain baths.   Then it was the last stretch to The Gate of the Sun and Machu Picchu.  Much longer than we expected, more downhill awkward steps, more caterpillars to rescue – until we tired of the game!    At last, a series of really steep uphill steps (maybe 40) and a stone gate at the top.  The climb was so steep I was really worried about toppling backwards, and after all that effort; it wasn’t the Gate of the Sun!  What a disappointment, what a drain on hope and enthusiasm!

Inti Punku was a further kilometre of walking – but then we were there and below At the Gate of the Sun with machu Picchu in the distance! us the postcard picture beauty of Machu Picchu.  The sun was shining as we stopped to congratulate ourselves and everyone else, take our self-timer photo and generally soak up the magic of the area.   One has seen hundreds of photographs of Machu Picchu and yet the reality is quite awesome.  Wayna Picchu towering in the background, the Urubamba River below and sitting manicured on a hill top, the ancient lost world discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. 

The final stretch, down to the terraced inclines, greenswards, natural stone walls, houses, temples and cascading water troughs of Machu Picchu.  We trooped into the Café Restaurant, grinning with self satisfaction and ordered the best beer and chips (with mayonnaise) of our lives! 

The Sanctuary Hotel (Las Ruinas) was our 5* reward!   A glorious long, hot shower with added moans of ecstasy followed by a relaxing hour lying on the bed a in a luxurious, thick white bathrobe watching BBC World!   Add a decent meal, with white napkins and wine, a post-prandial Pisco Sour or two, for the perfect prelude to a comfortable, delicious night’s sleep.  Life was sweet!

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