Inca Trail Day 3 – And Then There Was Sun!

(Note there are a lot of pictures in this post because we could finally take pictures!)

I love the sound of rain while I sleep and it rained on and off all night, so no one was more surprised than me that I didn’t sleep much the second night either. I couldn’t even say I was cold, even though the temperature dipped to single digits. My sleeping bag and base layer kept me cozy warm all night.

Nonetheless, I was still excited for the day ahead.

Day 3 is when the views are supposed to be the most stunning, and I was hopeful the rain was over so we could enjoy them.

We emerged from our tent and the tiny, biting bugs were swarming everywhere. Nothing says good morning, like a good dose of bug spray. We scrambled to get our gear packed up, and I think we were determined to show everyone that we could keep up.

After breakfast, the fog was still heavy and it didn’t appear the sun was going to break through anytime soon. I had purposely left my poncho on our tent overnight and now it was wet inside and out. I shook it out and begrudgingly pulled it over my raincoat and backpack as we set off to the third pass.

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The third pass at Phuyupatampa – no views, just llamas and llama poop. (Photo by Cherise Neilsen)

The pass was chilly but not as cold as the previous day. The fog seemed to have grown thicker, and there wasn’t much to see at the Inca site except for some llamas. A guide with two women on a private tour joined us. The women proceeded to phone home and share a detailed recap of each day’s events with whomever they had reached. We were all to happy to be disconnected from the world, but apparently four days was far too long for some.

We decided to keep going and rest in a cave further up, out of the rain and cold.

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Day 3 – here we come!

We were one of only a few tour groups that had pushed ahead over the second pass the day before, so the trail was pretty quiet for most of the day until the others started to catch up. The government limits access to the Inca Trail to 500 people daily, and that includes porters so only about 200 hikers start each day. By day three, all 500 of us were staying at the campsites near Winay Wayna, a short walk to the start of the trail that leads to Machu Picchu.

Day 3 is also when the stairs can be challenging for some people. Picture rocks arranged into a stair-like fashion but different sizes and shapes. One step might be 6 inches high and the next is two feet. It can be slow going at times and with the rain, everything was slippery. More than once I lost my footing but was lucky enough to catch my balance before falling.

Photo by Cherise Nielsen

While the rain stopped, the clouds persisted for most of the rest of the hike. I believe we walked along the edge of a cliff for a good part of the hike, but again, the clouds and rain meant no views. A few times we came across places where the trail had been washed out by landslides or we had to cross a narrow, tiny bridge. I think if we actually could see how high we were, fear would’ve crept in more.

Instead, I was just grumpy. Here we were on this amazing, old trail built by a civilization over 500 years ago and somehow still fit for use (more or less) on the side of a mountain and could only see the trail.

“You can’t control the weather,” the farmer in me kept saying, but I was bummed all the same.

We went around another washout and took some pictures, then turned the corner to find several members of our group. Another Inca settlement was spread out above and below us. You could just see them, so we took advantage of the chance to take some photos for the first time that day.

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Thrilled to finally have a view at Intipata.

We were almost to camp but stopped here to rest and hear some more Inca history. We marvelled at the size and stonework. This was the biggest ruin we had seen yet.

Then, like magic the clouds parted and the valley below us came into view. We were all awe-inspired. It is not exaggeration when they describe this place as magical. For 2 days we hiked through rain with nothing to see but the trail ahead of us and then in minutes, the clouds disappeared.

Our awesome, diverse group of thirteen consisted of two Americans, five Canadians, two Europeans, two South Africans and a couple from New Zealand.

The mood of the entire group lightened instantly. We peeled off layers and put away our rain gear. We held a mini photoshoot and shouldn’t have been surprised by our guides’ photography skills. When you take a dozen people to Machu Picchu every 4-5 days, you get good at taking pictures.

I added to the humour after I stepped in llama poop, then sat down in it after I put my foot up on a rock to tie my shoe. I stood up to find llama poop all over my butt.

The sun burned through the clouds shortly after and we were grateful for the sun and heat at our campsite. We spread our wet gear out on our tents and the ground and it was dry in minutes.

Some people attempted showers and washing their hair after lunch. Having already said no to the bathroom, I decided the shower likely wasn’t much better and had no interest in a freezing cold shower. I hadn’t sweat in two days anyway, thanks to the rain.

Llama selfie? Done!

For us, we let the llamas amuse us. Until now, I thought the random llamas belonged to farmers who lived in the area. Turns out they are actually property of the park. They roam as they please (and poop where they please) along the trail and campsites. If taking a selfie with a llama is on your “shot list” for the Inca Trail, it turns out to be pretty easy.

Before dinner, we set off to explore the Winay Wayna ruins and enjoy the sunset in the mountains. We could see the third pass from the morning from here and I couldn’t believe how high we had been.

We thanked the porters that evening. They were leaving first thing in the morning once camp was torn down and this was the last we would see them. It is customary to tip the porters and cooks, and those who could speak Spanish among us presented them with our gift.

Our attempt to take a photo with the Porters in our dinner tent after dark.

It seemed so little for what they did for us and I felt that feeling I get sometimes traveling. It’s a mixture of humility mixed with embarrassment and gratitude to be born Canadian. These men came from poor families and worked so hard so we could go on a hike, albeit a difficult one, and take some pictures. I guess that’s tourism though, and the Peruvian economy depends on it.

We saw how much development is still needed in Peru and what is twenty dollars to us versus them? I no longer cared about the taxis or guides who ripped us off earlier on our trip in the Sacred Valley. And maybe a few extra dollars from me might lead to better toilets along the trail too, who knows but I wouldn’t count on it.

As soon as dinner was done, we were off to bed again. It was going to be another short night because we were leaving our camp at 3:15am. Llama Path liked to be first onto the trail when it opened at 5:30am and being first also meant you got to wait until a shelter on a bench. I was all for not standing for 2 hours in the rain. We went to bed in our clothes for the next day, essentially ready to get up and go.


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