After two brilliant days of clear skies on the Inca Trail, the heavens open on us as we begin our trek. This high up on the mountain, we are in cloud forest, and the humidity hovers at almost 100%. The rain pelts down, blanketing sound and sight. I double up, putting on my weatherproof jacket underneath my poncho, but still rivulets of rainwater find their way down my neck. My boots are soaked. We climb up and down as the trail winds its way, focusing only on placing one foot ahead of the other. The third pass is quickly obtained, and it’s all downhill from there.
Waterfalls of rain happily gurgle their way over my ankles and down steep Inca steps. I pick my way carefully down – I hate going downhill and my ankle injury from Day 2 doesn’t make it any easier. Other hikers pass me and porters, their packs protected only a flimsy waterproof, dance nimbly from stone to stone as they fly pass.
Terraces galore and the Sacred Valley in mist.
From ahead comes the deep, mournful call of Carlos’ conch horn – the rest of our group, hurrying by, has gotten ahead of us and are waiting at the ruins of Phuyupatamarka, a site filled with impressive terraces almost all the way down to the river. As the rain finally lessens, the clouds lift and below us is the Sacred Valley, verdant with jungle and dreamy with mist. From a view point, Jonny points out Wayna Picchu. We’re almost there.
Mist and rain on the Inca Trail.
We finally make camp, our last night on the Trail, a mere 6km short of Machu Picchu. There are the glorious ruins of Winay Wayna nearby, terraced At night, after a tremendous celebratory dinner which culminates in a cake (how did our cooks bake a cake on a camp stove? Mysteries abound on the Inca Trail), Wilbur brings a jug of mulled red wine to the table. The warm, rich drink is very welcome, and I watch as our guides spill the first mouthful from their glasses onto the ground – a gift for Pachacmama, the Earth Mother, who loves dark, sweet drinks. It is a reminder that the culture and beliefs of the Andes, which is itself derived from pre-Inca and Incan histories, is still very much a part of the people there today.
After dinner we have a small fiesta, grateful speeches and a little dancing with our stalwart porters by hurricane lamplight, a heartfelt farewell then a quick goodnight – it’s a very early start for the next day.