On a beautiful Saturday morning Nicki, Rosie, Taylor, Donata and I hiked our way up to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate (so named because the sun sets through its open doorway during the summer solstice). Hiking to the gate gives you spectacular views of two glacier-topped peaks, Apu Veronica and Apu Salcantay, and along the way you can stop at Cachicata, the Incan canteras (rock quarries) where the Incas carved and shaped the giant granite boulders used to construct the fortress at Ollantaytambo. While the hike is completely breathtaking, you gain about 1,000 meters in elevation from the valley floor to the Gate, and so unless you are a marathon runner (or Kelsey Wenger), this is a hard freakin hike. A long hard freakin hike. We made it there and back in about 8 hours, and in the aftermath all I can really say is that the Sun Gate dominated me and I bow down to it in submission. Here’s how it went down…
9 am: Everything starts off fine. We get some great views of Ollanta and the valley.
on the right side of the mountain, you can see Ollanta’s fortress and the ramp built to bring the large stones up the hillside.
11 am: we arrive at the first of the Inca quarries. We take a short rest while Rosie pretends she is queen of the world.
the way we have come…
12 pm: We arrive at the second, much larger Incan quarry, and take a break and have a snack. At this point we have walked about 14 km, climbed about 600 vertical meters, and I am pooped. Also at this point I have drunk all of the water I had brought, thinking that the Sun Gate is less than a half hour away, but no. I was wrong.
See that little red dot I have circled? That’s the Sun Gate. Not even close!
On we go, taking time to admire the elegance of the quarries, and the paths that have been laid out with stones in the grass.
Donata gets her second wind!
upward we climb!
and there the Sun Gate sits in the distance, taunting me.
taking a breath in a grassy field…
slowly getting closer.
while getting glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Urubamba…
and the valley below.
2pm: finally…. we are HERE!!!
a thousand vertical meters, 20 km later, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and sunburnt, we have arrived!
the gate itself may not look like much, but look at what is waiting beyond…..
Apu Veronica! Usually shrouded in mist, but the clouds part just long enough for us to catch a glimpse and snap a few photos.
totally worth it.
and since the Sun Gate dominated me, now I must dominate it.
taylor attempts a handstand….
Rosie, Nicki, and Taylor relaxing before our 1,000 meter descent.
3 pm: we begin our descent. As we head back down the mountain, I turn back for one last glimpse….
And the clouds cover Apu Veronica once again.
6 pm: We arrive home, chug 2 gallons of water, eat a ton of ice cream, shower, and then have to go salsa dancing for Jesus’ birthday. FML.