The third day began under a literal and figurative deluge. Santiago had expressed serious doubts about our group’s ability to continue the hike but thankfully Lara kept her head about her and persuaded me to not cop out and take the bus like the other two were planning to do. As she put it, “Theresa, we did not come all this way to take a bus. We came to challenge ourselves!” Thank goodness for her reason!
It rained all night. When I say rain, I mean water pounded on the tin roof we slept under so loudly that it kept waking us up. All. Night. Long. Then it began to hail. Then the wind picked up. God help those poor souls who were camped in the field. By our 5AM wake up call the rain had shrank back into the mist, but muddy water poured down every trail on the hill, making hiking a treacherous experience. However, Lara, Santiago, and I strapped on our day packs and headed out on an 8 mile hike to the next town, Playa.
Part of the original trail had been washed away by the rain so we took a detour that got us into Playa faster than anticipated. Buoyed by the beauty of the lush rain forest around us, Lara and I easily managed to keep up with Santiago (his surprise was rather gratifying actually).
We also found it a good opportunity to get to know our guide a little better. Raised in the Andean mountains, Santiago does this hike twice a month, for the past 10 years. I cannot even imagine. He is a true mountain man, clearly more at home out on the trail than in a crowd. Hearing about his life and work was very interesting, especially his impressions of all the foreigners who come traipsing through his country (Americans = Flexible and easy-going. Finally, a complimentary observation of my fellow countrymen!)
Enjoying some fresh-brewed coffee while waiting for lunch to be served in Playa.
After taking another bumpy bus ride to the Hidroelectra station we set off on the last leg of the journey to Machu Picchu. Five flat miles along the railroad tracks brought us deep into the jungle and face to face with families descended directly from the Incas who had built the site we were going to visit.
Reaching the town of Aguas Calientes was a huge relief! We would spend the night in a hotel and eat dinner in a restaurant (SHOWER! RUG! TOILET PAPER!!) before heading up to the summit in the morning. Words cannot express the excitement at having reached this point! On a side note, I found the hills around us breathtaking and uniquely reminiscent of California’s own Yosemite National Park.