Day 17 – Day 3 of the Inca Trail – Paq’aymayo to Winayhuayna

I was a cold night last night with temperatures dropping to around -1C! I had several layers on and was very happy I had bought a down throw that I could wrap inside my sleeping bag. It was pretty cozy all things considered.

The altitude that our camp was at was around 3,800 M. Pretty high, and yet I did not feel the lack of oxygen that was ever present. Perhaps the diamox coupled with a couple of coca toffees each day, and the daily starter of coa tea helped the cause! Views from this site were breathtaking in many ways.

When I first looked at the map, and out of the 4 days of hiking, it was day 2 that gave me the most concern. But after hearing our guide say that our next campsite would be 1,000 M lower that this one, with a 300 m ascent and a 200, ascent with many other ups and downs (undulating was the way our guide described it: torturous was how I described it when I thought of the total 1,500 m descent that we would have to do today. That’s the equivalent of 450 flights of stairs all going down!!)

Off we went, bright and early. This would also be our longest day of hiking. Before heading out I took one last look back at the descent we finished with yesterday.

Up we went right off the bat to our first summit of the day, Runkurakay pass. The obligatory group photo was in order again ( at this point, I figure a group photo could be appropriate every 100 meters!!)

As we descended from this first pass of the day, we came to a tunnel on the path. Yes, they had actually taken advantage of a natural cave / overhang and build stairs through this interesting ( but a little precarious) rock structure.

Stairs, descending paths, and more stairs again in this “undulating trail”. The views were inspiring…

As were the mountain streams.

After another short ascent, and corresponding descent, we stopped for a quick bite before resuming our trek.

Down down we continued to go. We could see the vegetation changing from the sparse alpine flora, to a more dense tropical forest.

We passed some interesting ruins, including Phuyupatamarka. These sites seemed to be for religious purposes as well as providing military oversight for the region.

We walked through this site…yes up those long stairs on the left, only to go down even steeper stairs to the north ( hidden). It was a bit of a maze, and I got separated from the group for a while. So I started looking for flowers and other things of beauty, and what did I spot but a Winayhuayna orchid stretching up in supreme beauty against the backdrop of the Andes!

I also came across a Llama grazing on a terrace just above my head!

If it weren’t for these things of beauty ( oh yes, I need to include Dan in that category as he assisted me the last 2 km into camp…my legs had turned to jelly by that time, so he was my stairs guardian!!). I don’t think I would have made it. This day was one that I was not dreading at the onset, but it really tested every ounce of me to get through the hike!

Finally, we made in back to camp and settled in for a lovely tea and dinner (rather late as it was around 7:30 when we wrapped things up). We said goodbye to our Porters and cook this evening, as they break camp fo tree last time tomorrow morning, and we wont need their support on the last leg. Even the cooks were off in the am, as they prepared a box lunch for us all for our breakfast.

Speaking of which, wake up was for 3:45 with a 4:30 departure! Time to get to bed and quick!!

Categories: A South American Adventure

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