May 9, 2012 by Amie M
Day 4, the climax of the Inca Trail, and oh what a climax it was!
We woke up at 3:30 a.m. and rushed to get packed and out of the tent. The boys had to take everything down and be at the base of the mountain to catch their train back to Ollantaytambo at 5:30 a.m. We didn’t want to hold them up.
After a quick goodbye and thank you to the crew, we headed down with Carlos to the checkpoint. This was at 4 a.m. The line-up for the checkpoint was already forming. The gate opens at 5, and these people were all waiting to be the first ones through and onto the final stretch to Machu Picchu. Carlos figured our place in line was about halfway. That was good enough for me. So we stood around for awhile, turned off our headlamps and listened to the early morning. I got a bit tired from standing, so I took out my poncho and sat on it.
Down the line, I heard some exclamations “Oh, what a cute puppy!” I turned to look.
“Lady?” and she heard my voice. She came running to me and started sniffing me. Then she got comfortable behind me on my poncho and lay down.
She napped behind me, with her head on my walking poles until the gate opened and we stood up. It was nice to see her again. But we had to wonder, where was she from? Was she going to go home afterwards? Would they let her through the gate? But the thoughts passed after I stood up and got myself arranged again, and she took off back down the line.
When we got closer to the gate, Paul was getting antsy, and kept looking askance at me. So I gave him the go ahead to rush to the Sun Gate, I would be fine with Carlos. Once we were through, he gave me a quick kiss and bolted. He says he got in behind two Swedish girls who were all business as they walked. When they would push around people to pass them, he would follow in their wake and smile, very Canadian of him.
Carlos and I kept a good pace. We were passed a couple times at the beginning, then I started doing the passing. It felt good to not be the slow one! The trek to the Sun Gate was just a meagre 2 hours. Easy peasy. The trail was up and down, but slowly up and down. And I got a good clip going.
The hardest part, the 52 step vertical staircase that the guides all warn you about, wasn’t that bad. It could have been the rush of being almost done, and the group mentality of those behind me and in front of me, but it was simple. It actually felt good to have Carlos take my walking sticks as I used my hands and feet to climb that staircase. When we reached the top my heart was pounding out of excitement, not exhaustion, was I there? Then I remembered how Sarah (my friend who did the Trail two weeks before me) did warn me about more stairs after the big one.
Those stairs weren’t bad. But again, it could have been the adrenaline of being almost done. But we got to the Sun Gate, and we were in the middle of the pack getting there. Not the last. We looked around for Paul, then Carlos ushered us off to the lower path to “Get better photos.”
Carlos was getting used to us and our cutesy photos, but this one was the best.
While he was waiting for us, Paul did get a couple shots of the ruins, but was grumbling that they weren’t at the right angle.
So down we went to the “National Geographic” spot. The rest of the horde was waiting at the Sun Gate. The groups wait there for the perfect moment when the sun hits the ruins and it all starts to glow. Paul wanted to be at the perfect angle when that glow happened. So off he ran after Carlos pointed where to go. And he really did run.
It was a half hour down (walking) to the overlook onto Machu Picchu. And in that time, other groups had arrived and started to take photos. But the amount of people were nothing compared to those that would be swarming here later in the day. The Park lets in 2 000 people everyday, no more. But 2 000 people is a lot of people when they are all wearing colourful outfits and vying for the same shots. We were lucky. We got to the ruins around 8 a.m. and the Park was only open for two hours by then. So there weren’t many tourists in “The Shot.”
Paul was down there for some time before Carlos and I caught up. But we couldn’t find him. Carlos had me stay put while he went looking for Paul. He seemed a bit annoyed that Paul wasn’t right there. But he did tell Paul to wait at the little hut ontop of the overlook, and there he was. Or rather Paul found me and said this before Carlos found him.
Paul took a lot of photos from this point. At many difference exposures and other camera jargon that I pretend to understand.
But he got the perfect photo. This one will be blown up onto an extra large canvas. We worked to get to here to take this photo, and I want a large reminder of this trip, and how we learned and saw so much in our time in the Andes.
I feel that we learned a lot about each other, and how we can work through a really strenuous time. Before we left, Kate was telling me that she thought the trip and Trek would be good for us. That having this time away from everything and being together would strengthen us and our resolve. It did.
Paul now knows that I can handle things that he once thought I could never do. He also knows even more about how stubborn I am and I will not give up on things once I put my mind to it. He also knows that my pride is very important to me, and no matter how much I am hurting I will keep going to save my pride, even if the only one who cares about whether I finish something is myself. I learned that Paul can be wonderfully patient and understanding, and his wonder and amazement at the world around us makes me appreciate it all the more. His eye for detail with his photography has me looking for the little things too, and smiling at the pieces that make up a tapestry. His imagination is inspiring, and his excitement is catching.
This goofy man that forgets to pack pants on a camping trip in the mountains loves me, and will do anything to make me smile. And I love him too.
Happy Birthday, Paul. This was the best Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary present ever.