Peru 2005 Day Thirteen: Inca Trail

by Kara on August 3, 2005

Porters and guides near kilometer 88 on the Inca trail.

Porters and guides near kilometer 88 on the Inca trail.

That morning, we were to say goodbye to our porters. They would run down to the train so they could go collect their pay, and they would also drop our duffels at the hotel in Aguas Calientes where we planned to stay. We gave them their tips (honestly, there aren’t enough tips in the world for what they do – they were so supportive and enthusiastic and they carry 30 kilos, gosh darnit!). Then we took a group photo, with me on a chair, of course. I wasn’t too confident about standing at that point. Then they brought out this amazing caramel and chocolate cake they had brought. It had probably originally been intended to celebrate Eric and Claire’s anniversary, but since Stephen and I had just had our second anniversary, they made us the celebrants that morning. I managed a microscopic bite of cake, and then we headed on our way.

Going down steps was really hard on my stomach at that point. We passed through a really cool steep tunnel, and at the bottom, I threw up for the first time while out on the trail. I knew there was something funny about it because it was so dark and I had nothing in my stomach, but I was too out of it to figure it out. But then our cook, who was hanging around to make sure I was okay, said, “sangre”. I don’t know a lot of Spanish words, but I know that one. I had been having a lot of acid reflux since I stopped eating, and so I knew the acid in my stomach was probably having a field day. Even when you know why it’s happening, vomiting blood is still pretty scary. But at that point, there was nothing to do but continue. We did a brief experiment with the assistant cook trying to carry me on his back in the traditional Peruvian manner, but I immediately decided that was much less comfortable than walking. Besides, I was about a foot taller than the poor guy, and I was afraid he’d have permanent damage to his back. I’m not exactly a petite girl.

We passed Phuyupatamarca, and from there, it was a steep downhill climb to Winay Wayna. At that point, I don’t know what was keeping me going. Every time we turned a corner and I saw another switchback, I wanted to cry. By this time, the cooks had gone on, but Narciso kept two porters with us, just in case I collapsed. All I could think about was lying down. Finally we reached Winay Wayna for our lunch break. A friend of Narciso’s who ran a concession there sent her little boy to buy some Gatorade for me from another stand. In the meantime, Narciso gently suggested that perhaps it would be better if the porters carried me the rest of the way on a stretcher and I tearfully agreed. There were only three miles left and I desperately wanted to walk it myself. While we rested and those who could eat (read everyone but me), ate, and I managed to drink the whole bottle of Gatorade and kept it down.

Terraces northeast side of Machu Picchu

Our challenge was that we had three miles left to travel (two to Intipata, the Gate of the Sun, and one more on to Machu Picchu) and we HAD to make it within three hours in order to make the last bus from Machu Picchu down to Aguas Calientes at 5:30 p.m. Well, I now believe that Gatorade is some sort of miracle drug. After drinking that one bottle, I decided that I could indeed walk the last three miles myself. There were some steep parts, but nothing as bad as the stretch between Phuyupatamarca and Winay Wayna. I actually took off at a fairly rapid clip, and we made it to Machu Picchu in just over two hours. It wasn’t exactly easy, but after we passed Intipata, the last of the porters felt confident enough in my condition to go on their merry way. It was on this final day of trekking that we began to see beautiful orchids all over the place. I was finally coherent enough to fully enjoy the scenery.

When we arrived at Machu Picchu, Stephen and Narciso wanted to head up to one of the higher areas so Stephen could take some pictures. I knew I was fading fast, so I headed down to the entrance to wait for them. On my way down, I ran in to Claire and Eric heading up to catch the sunset! We talked briefly, then they went up to talk to Narciso and Stephen and I sat on my rear end until it was time to catch the bus. I very discreetly threw up on the bus, but that may have been more due to motion sickness. Narciso showed us around Aguas Calientes, and took us to our hotel. We were to meet him for dinner later, but I kept throwing up, so I sent Stephen to meet Narciso and stayed in bed. Before I got in bed, though, I took the most wonderful hot shower I’ve ever had. Even my dirt was dirty, and my normally thick and luxurious hair (really!) was flat and limp. I watched some Sandra Bullock movie in Spanish and attempted to drink more Gatorade.

It was SO nice to sleep in a real bed that night. The only downside was that we were supposed to get up at 5 a.m. to get up to Machu Picchu for the sunrise.

Check out more of Stephen’s pictures of Peru.

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