Inca Trail – Day 2

Our second day on the trail started much the same as the first day ended. We were up by 5:30, had a light breakfast, and headed out into the driving rain on a path nearly straight uphill along a rocky mountain ridge. But this time it was only for an hour, until we reached the Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on our trek. After stopping for a snack we continued down the other side of the mountain. Thankfully the rain soon stopped, and as the sun came out it turned into a beautiful day. We were now descending quickly, and as we did the temperature rose and the vegetation thickened, until we were hiking through a warm green jungle with beautiful views of the surrounding peaks. After 2 hours we stopped for brunch and finished drying off.

After brunch we continued onward, now back up into the mountains. As always the scenery was stunning, and whenever I realized I had only been watching the incline in front of me, I would stop to look around in awe at the massive peaks surrounding me on all sides. We paused at a small Inca ruin, which would have been fascinating on its own had we not been en route to the mother of all ruins. The Incas had built way stations all along the trail. At each one a messenger was posted. When information needed to be sent hundreds of miles across the empire, messengers would run from one station to the next, passing off the news to the next messenger like a giant relay race, shifting forward one station with each message sent. Not quite as good as e-mail, but it got the job done.

We had a late lunch around 3pm, but just before we got there we came across another Inca ruin, this one as large as two city blocks, and containing what were homes for a few dozen families. Most of our group was tired from the uphill trek and skipped this ruin to get to lunch faster, but 3 of us climbed the extra distance to explore it. At each of the larger ruins, it is obvious that lots of careful thought and planning went into these stone-walled villages, from terraces and aquaducts to allow farming on steep mountain sides, to central common areas for rituals and recreation. I lingered for  bit to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the ruin.

After lunch we had our final hike of the day, further up into the mountains along yet another beautiful trail with amazing views of mountains, valleys, rivers, and jungle. But if the trail was scenic, it was nothing next to the place we would camp for the night. Situated at the top of a cliff, we had 360 degree views of all of the surrounding mountains. In the distance we could see Machu Picchu Mountain, which hid the namesake city on the other side. Breathtaking does not begin to describe the views. Unlike the previous evening, it was warm and clear skied heading into nightfall, and we were able to sit out and enjoy our surroundings.

After dinner I stayed up for a bit to look at the stars. One of New York’s major shortcomings is its complete lack of a star field, due to the inescapable light pollution. Out in the middle of the Andes, the stars were innumerable, forming beautiful constellations I had never seen before. Orion’s Belt and Orion’s Sword were clearly visible, as was the bright light of Jupiter. The occasional slow passing of a satellite was the only reminder of the world outside.

Eventually it was too cold to continue star gazing, and I crawled into my tent to rest before another early start.

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~ by kilbasar on February 3, 2013.

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