Part of the problem with the second campsite was the impeccable view of the very steep uphill trail that we would need to climb at the start of Day 3 of the Trek. All accounts of Day 2’s hike describe it as the hardest. Day 3, with about a 3000 ft net elevation loss, was categorically described as the “most beautiful” day, which was misleading since although it was beautiful, it was also really hard, especially the climb to the second pass (Abra de Runkuracay at 13,123 feet), then the third pass (11,975 feet).
When we woke up on Day 3 it was cold and pouring rain. I looked up that steep path and did not feel happy about life. When we started walking up, water poured down the trail so that it felt like we were walking up a waterfall. Despite the pouring rain, John and I were perfectly “kitted out” (as James noted–that’s Irish for “you have nice gear”). Our feet stayed dry in our new boots, 0ur new rain pants kept our legs dry, our coats kept our tops dry, our new backpacks stayed dry thanks to built-in rain covers, and our trekking poles helped keep us steady on those slick downhills. We were happy with the choices we made.
After reaching the top of second pass, we had a mighty steep descent down a series of steps that were slick, though not as harrowing as I had imagined they would be. Soon we arrived at Sayacamarca, an “Inaccessible Town” protected on 3 sides by sheer cliffs. From there, we descended to a camp area where we were all grateful to get into the tent for some tea. The porters had rushed ahead, but since we were cold and wet we had hiked fast too. We arrived while they were still preparing the cooking tent, dining tent, and the lunch. We waited for about 45 minutes, downing as much hot coffee and tea as we could while Jesus and his crew cooked in the tent next door. Finally, when the “waiter porter” arrived with a steaming heaping plate of pasta, the tent erupted in clapping and cheering.
After lunch we bundled up again and headed through the rain and clouds to the third pass of the trip. We took a group photo, and many shots of the beautiful vegetation, and then we continued towards Winay Wayna, the last campsite before Machu Picchu. At this campsite there was a “bar” with a bit of a college atmosphere–lots of young trekkers in alpaca sweaters chatting and drinking beer. John and I cleaned up a bit, and that’s when our guide Freddy took John aside and asked him, as the eldest trekker, to be the one to collect and present the tips to the porters.
Jesus had a special surprise for us at dinner that night–a cake! We enjoyed our dinner, celebrated our last night with the porters, and went to bed early in anticipation of our 3:30 am wake-up call. We were looking forward to getting our first view of Machu Picchu on the next day, Christmas.