Sayaqmarka and Aquas Calientas

by CameronM Sun, April 16 2006 21:54

Today we faced three smalled passes, the first immediatley after leaving the campsite. At 3950 metres, it was only marginally lower than Dead woman's pass, however the gain in altitude was only about half as much.

In addition to the challenge of the trail, we stopped at a number of interesting Inca ruins, the main one being the storage and overnight Inca rest stop at Sayaqmarka. The town was located on a beautiful hillside and would have had amazing views over the valley below, if only we could see them for the cloud!

A recent series of landslides meant that we could not walk the final 6 kilometres from the Gate of the Sun into Machu Picchu, so the group decided to walk directly to Aquas Calientas, where we could stay at a hostel and take the bus to Machu Picchu in the morning. This meant that as well as having the normal full days hike, over three passes, we also spent an additional 2 hours descending to meet the railway line and then a 45 minute walk along the line to Aquas Calientas.

On the descent from Winay Wayna (2700m) I decided to follow the example set by our porters and began a slight jog down. Although running downhill with a 15kg backpack seems illogical, it actually reduces the impact on your legs, which normally begin burning after a few kilometres. This was also only possible because the descent is more gradual than “Gringo Killer” and had few steps.

We finally intersected the railway line, but had to wait for the rest of our group, who arrived just as it was getting dark. The brisk walk along the railway line was rather boring, although having to get out of the way of the train returning to Cusco added some interest. The railway line follows the river into Aquas Calientas and is bordered by rainforest on the otherside, so there wasn't a lot of scope for deviating off course too far.

Eventually we arrived at Aquas Calientas about 6:30 pm, in the dark, completely exhausted, but looking forward to a good nights sleep in a normal bed.

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