Day Three was easily my favourite day of the hike. Not because it was easier, it was but anything is easier after Day Two, because we visited my favourite ruins of the hike. That's right, I actually enjoyed them more than the main event- Machu Picchu. Ooohh zing!
That morning we had a sleep in, 6am what a luxury! Coca leaf tea, hot water to wash, breakfast and we were off again. Day Three was to be a short walking day, in total 5 hours. The first 25 minutes was a punishing hill, which in our still drowsy state felt much worse than it was. Things quickly leveled out and for the most part the rest of the day was gentle hills or downhill.
We were all in jovial spirits after Day Two and we were also celebrating birthdays for two members of our group.
Reaching camp by 1pm we had a leisurely lunch, with cake for the birthday boys. The sun was hot and the tents far too much like hot houses to nap in so we sat in the shade and played cards. I even had the chance to snap a pick with some Llamas, Alfie (my alpaca mascot) even got in on the action.
By this point I was all too aware that the experience was coming to an end, tomorrow we would say goodbye and in the short-time we had spent together I felt real friendships had formed. In short, I wanted it all to keep going even if I had to walk the same trail over and over.
The Inca Trail does something to you. It shows you what you are made of, removes walls, facilitates conversation, and makes you into a champion. That is a feeling I could become addicted to. The ruins along the way elucidated to me the vastness of the Inca plan, so much more than one set of ruins. I began to see formulas, and could appreciate the work and planning that went into each location.
After resting for 3 hours we walked down to Winya Huayna (meaning forever young). With the beautiful waterfall in the background you could believe it contained the fountain of youth. The name refers to an orchid that flowers year round, but I prefer to think of a fount of water keeping its inhabitants young.
What was so special about these ruins? Why did I enjoy them more than Machu Picchu? Simply because I got to enjoy them with less than 10 other people. I could walk without bumping into 100's other people exploring the temples, fountains, agricultural houses and terraces. Set nestled into the mountains, the sounds of running water allowed me to drift into imagining life there at the zenith of the Inca empire.
Not that it was called the Incan Empire in it's prime rather the Quechuan name is Tawantinsuyu, meaning ‘The Four Regions’, Inca literally means King, so the way we commonly refer to this technologically advanced civilisation is completely incorrect. Yet we continue to do so, perhaps Tawantinsuyu ( pronounced Ta-wan- tin-su-u) does not roll of the tongue quite as well as Inca. In any case we will continue to call them the King civilisation for many years to come, I find this comical.
The Inca King is a king king, just like an ATM machine.
All that aside, Winya Huayna will stay etched into my memory for as long as I live. It's an incredibly special place.
That night we went over the plan for the next day, we would rise at 250am to try and be one of the first groups at the checkout point that opened at 530am. Tomorrow we would see Machu Picchu. It was time.
Next time we make the journey to the famous Sun Gate and finally see Machu Picchu.