The ‘tough day’ may have been in the rear view mirror, but the bad weather was still very much swirling around us. A soundtrack of rain drummed on the tent rooftop again in the early hours, and whilst it teased us once more by letting up when we were ready to set off on the trail again, it resumed shortly afterward.
It wasn’t long before we came across our first ruin at Runkurakay, which I’m told commands sublime views over the landscape around, which is something I’m naturally unable to verify as the scenery was wiped out by cloud again. So we pressed on in the hope that it would improve, but as we continued the cauldron of mist brewing in the valleys and rising up to much of the Andean peaks around meant we only got fleeting glimpses of jungle-clad mountainsides as we continued the ascent – much gentler than yesterday’s – toward the next ruin at Sayaqmarka.
Our guide Diego explained the functioning of this former Incan town, which manages to be both expansive and tightly-constructed across the acute mountain peak. It’s certainly much bigger than it looks at first glance, and exploring the hidden corners and hidey-holes of the complex is undeniably great fun.
When we pressed on the rain seemed to redouble, and the twisting paths up toward an Incan tunnel was certainly a bit of a challenge. At this point I managed to both fall behind the pace-setters and pull away from those bringing up the rear, completing this section on my own. The rain was so bad that I barely noticed Phuyupatamarka; the weather can certainly induce ruin-fatigue to a higher degree than usual!
Thoroughly soaked with no part of my body feeling like it wasn’t drenched by rain, we all sat, shivering and pretty miserable, at the third and final pass of the trail for lunch. With the rain continuing to hammer down, there was a general air of reluctance to leave the tent, and when a girl sat next to me started shivering so badly that I had to give her an impromptu back and shoulders massage to get her circulation flowing again, there was a bit of a temptation to ask if we could just camp here for the night…
But press on we did, and this meant going down some 3000+ steps to the Winay Wayna campsite, which I’d anticipated being hell on the knees. However, with the rain gradually easing away, I actually found this bit reasonably easy and straightforward, and by the time Intipata swung in to view, in much clearer conditions, moods were considerably lifted at what was a truly spectacular sight.
Intipata is an optional part of the route, but is strongly recommended.
Be sure to turn left at the fork in the road to check it out. It only adds about 15 minutes to the walk, and is so worth it. Descending from the top to its sheer, terraced, ziggurat-style structure is akin to descending something like Chichen Itza (I imagine!), and it helped that the weather had sufficiently cleared for us to enjoy some great views, across to our campsite and beyond…including the mountain that guarded the entrance to Machu Picchu.
The campsite, split across various levels, had stirring, cloud-wraithed mountain views, and represented our last chance to thank our great porters with suitable gratuities and an early night for a very early start the next day. This was the big one!