Even though it poured most of the night, we got our best night sleep! This was our view when we unzipped the tent flap on the morning of Day 3.
Day 3 was described as the easiest day of the trek but the trek from Chaquicocha to the camp ground near Winay Huayna included a total descent of 3,281 feet over 5.5 miles. Marco's strategy was by making Day 2 a ball buster, we'd get more time and enjoyment walking through the cloud forest and the ruins today. Also, we'd be more rested for Day 4 and the early start to Machu Picchu.
Sun, blue sky, cool temperatures, good breakfast, and Gerry ready for Day 3. Who could ask for more.
6:00 am and time to pack up our gear and start today's trek.
Today the hike transitioned from a rocky and scrub brush environment to a lush cloud forest and then to the higher rain forest.
There were amazing views of the Andes in every direction.
Dave walking through one of the longer tunnels cut into the rock by Inca engineers. This tunnel was broken into 2 sections each at least 20 feet long. What an incredible feat of engineering.
There is no way to describe the sensation of standing among the clouds.
We were following the trail along the mountain's edge and heading down into the valley. This is why it's called the 'cloud forest'.
One last view from the mountain overlook.
In the distance were the Phuyupatamarca ruins. This was where it began to sink in that the endless granite stairs to Winay Huayna were going to be a hassle.
Puyupatamarca or 'The City Above the Clouds' is so named because most of the year it's surround by clouds due to its closeness to the high rain forest. We were lucky to have this relatively cloud-free view.
We reached Phuyupatamarca by descending a very long set of stairs.
The settlement contained agricultural terraces in the center with buildings located along the perimeter. In the picture below, you can see the clouds hugging the hillside.
The Incas took advantage of the local environment and built walls and structures that incorporated the bedrock, cliffs, and ledges.
These ruins contained an intricate series of ritual baths for priests who lived in the complex. In the picture below you can see 2 of the baths and the water channel connecting them. These water channels were still functional.
After exploring, it was back to the steps and our descent into the high rain forest. Most of the 'gringo killer' stairs were part of the original Inca Trail constructed over 600 years ago. The challenge now was the steep, narrow, and uneven surfaces sometimes covered with slippery moss. Of course the occasional tight corners didn't help but at least we were not navigating these stairs in the rain! We needed to descend another 2850 feet to our next destination.
We had to pass through another cool tunnel. The trail was definitely taking on more of a rain forest appearance. It was incredible to think that we had started our morning walking through a rocky and brush environment.
In the distance we could see Intipata. the ruins which were only recently discovered in 1992.
Since there were hardly any residences aside from a few terrace houses, it is thought that Intipata was used to grow food for the people of Machu Picchu.
It had about 400 vertical feet of terracing and one theory suggests it was used for food experiments. Testing the growth of new seeds with the varying environment levels along the mountain.
Eve, Gerry, and Dave resting after walking up and back down the terrace stairs.
When we left Intipata, we were only 30 minutes away from our camp ground and a shower. It had been 3 days since our last shower! What a view from our tent.
After a cumulative descent of 3,281 feet, we took the opportunity to take a brief siesta in our tent before showering up and walking to the Winay Wayna ruins for a lecture about this site by Marco. Winya Wayna was discovered in 1941 is built into a steep hillside overlooking the Urubamba River. It is named after a pink orchid which grows in the area and means 'Forever Young' in the local Quecha language.
The site consisted of an upper and lower complex connected by a steep staircase. The upper ruins included a circular structure (visible in the picture below) which might have served as a religious or ceremonial site.
The buildings and walls of the upper complex were constructed using precision cut and almost seamless placed stones. The Incas usually reserved their best construction methods and materials for ceremonial centers.
The lower ruins featured a large number of rectangular building with peaked roofs that served as housing for residents or pilgrims to Machu Picchu engaged in ritual cleansing for the final leg of the trail.
These building were constructed using large local field stones stacked and cut to form strong supporting walls.
The Incas diverted a mountain stream to run through baths in Winya Wayna. These baths may have been used for ritual cleansing by pilgrims prior to their entering Machu Picchu. It was amazing to see these water still flowing after 600 years.
It was great to explore these ruins but it was time to head back to the camp ground for dinner. Looking sharp and clean after 3 days of hiking. But in 6 hours, Dave would discover that he had accidentally swallowed water while showering and Montezuma's revenge would strike.
Surprise! In addition to another outstanding meal, the cook prepared a cake to celebrate the team's accomplishments.
It was early to bed with a planned 3:30am wake up.