The final day on the Inca trail was an early one; the porters scratched at our tent at 3:30 am and before we even could get out, they started taking the tent down. It was early, it was rainy and we were hustled out of the tent to breakfast before we were even really awake. So, breakfast up until this morning was pretty hearty--not so on the last day. We got one pancake and that was it. Not a lot for an entire morning. Everyone at the camp (there were probably over a 100 people) was crammed into the bar/restaraunt building to wait for 4:30 since the checkpoint didn't open until 5am. So, we all sat there, stood there, waiting to get going. Evidently, since it was Christmas eve day, the porters all wanted to hustle down the mountain to catch early trains to get back to their familes--which I understand, but really? 3:30am?
Finally, we all left and then waited at the checkpoint for a bit until we could all get through. Day 4 was mostly downhill again, so I was able to keep up; not that I could breathe. At the Temple of the Sun, the sky unzipped and the rain intensified to the point of absurdity. We could not see Machu Pichu from there, and of course, there was no sun. Rain, rain, rain pouring rain as we walked down the mountain past some other ruins and then finally into Machu Pichu itself, well past it to the final checkpoint. The rain was hard and sideways. We huddled under some cover with a bunch of other tourists and hikers, trying to decide what to do. Finally, most of us agreed to brave the rain and get a truncated tour of Machu Pichu, a couple of our group elected to go down to the Aqua Caliente (town) to dry out.
I wish I could say that Machu Pichu was the best thing I ever saw, but I didn't see much of it since it was raining too hard to see. The Incans had cut slots into the walls and drainageways for water removal, and the water shooting out of these slots was more like a fire hose than not. The water was coming out so hard, that it shot out more than 10 feet and would have knocked a person over. Water was pouring down the steps like mini rivers and the rain just kept pounding. Our guide, Julio, said he had never seen it rain this hard. Still, it was a pretty location, and the buildings were cool. We scooted off the mountain down to Aqua Caliente and met up with the others at a restaraunt at about 10 am. We were told we were not going to get lunch until 1 pm and we were all very hungry. Our trip guide, Carlos, was supposed to meet us at Machu Pichu, but he was a no show, and he didn't show up until close to 1pm. We all had to buy food early or we were going to be very grumpy.
Walking around the town was still hard for me, I couldn't climb steps or go uphill and the sound of my breathing was getting weird. Since I was on antibiotics for my brief stint of diaherra, my ears got sunburned, adding to my happiness. The town was very touristy, and of course, it had a craft market packed with the same crafty things. Finally, and I do mean finally, we got lunch (pizza, ok but not great) and then really finally, we got on the train to begin our journey back to Cusco. The train was cool, an old train that had been redone and was very nice. The ride was slow, but better than walking! At the station, we transferred to a bus and then back to Cusco. I was beat. Carlos had prepared a nice Christmas eve meal, with a cooked turkey and we ate a lot and I crashed. Karen and some others went out to see the festivities on the town. There were lots and lots of fireworks, and they said it was almost like being in a war zone with everyone shooting off fireworks in large crowds.
I slept and listened to my bubbly breathing.