Our 6 mile day hike on the Inka Express Trail took us from 6,000-8,900 feet, starting at KM 104, after a short train ride from Ollantaytambo.
Two hours into our trek we had reached the Winaywayna ruins at 8,700 feet, built into a steep hillside, consisting of the vestiges of housing complexes connected by staircase structures, with tiers of grass being grazed upon by a small congregation of llamas. Once we were espied, we noted one llama’s disdain for us by turning his rear end our way, a couple of tiers up the hillside and expelling his excrement our way. We had a hilarious time trying to get around them and had questions like, What do you do if one were to charge? Do you stand your ground? Do you run? Stare them down? Use negotiating skills? Sweet pleading? When our guide finally caught up with us we learned that the worst fallout would have been being spit on.
From there on, the trail leveled off and we were able to stop and snap pictures of the flora: orchids, begonias, tree limbs sporting wispy, light green moss drifting with the breezes. There still were rocks and short-lived steep descents and ascents, nothing like the long continual ascent at the beginning. The Vilcanota River continued to be in view, as was a hydroelectric dam 2,000 feet below, seemingly out of place in this setting. At one point we were able to look back and bear witness to the ruins, which looked miniscule in retrospect, a measure of how far we had come since lunch. We intersected with the full four day hikers’ campgrounds as we neared the Sun Gate at 8,900 feet, the point at which we would walk through, gaining a view of Machu Picchu some 900 feet below and half a mile away. Our last hurdle was a wall of stones, 20 feet high, scaling them on all fours to gain this grand exit from the trail